Bibi left rudderless as Herzog tie-up collapses

November 24, 2016 23:22

Everything had been in place for the announcement of the new coalition deal. Trusted go-betweens shuttled drafts of the agreement between Likud and the Zionist Union, lists of ministries to be allocated to the new partner had been drawn up and the handful of politicians in the know were already planning how to try to sell the controversial pact - which had been in the works for a year - to their party members.

It may not have worked - Benjamin Netanyahu could have balked at the last minute and Isaac Herzog may have failed to convince his colleagues to go along with it. The more right-wing elements in the coalition, certain members of Likud and Jewish Home, could have protested. All of that is immaterial now, however: the allegations that Mr Herzog received illegal funding during Labour's leadership primaries in 2013 surfaced just in time to freeze the coalition negotiations. This week, it was reported that what began as a police "probe" into Mr Herzog's affairs is about to evolve into a full-blown criminal investigation.

Labour, Zionist Union's main component, is in disarray. Mr Herzog is trying to put on a show of business-as-usual but his leadership, which has taken a battering over the last year, is in danger. So far, his potential challengers in the party, Shelly Yachimovich, Amir Peretz and Erel Segal, are holding fire and have not called for his resignation, but the investigation is bound to take months, sapping the last shreds of Mr Herzog's authority and dooming any hope of the party joining the government in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu is stuck with a paper-thin majority. Last week, two Likud MKs who refused to attend Knesset votes managed to extract from the prime minister a major change in policy over the emigration of Falashmura from Ethiopia. Soon it will be time to begin work on a new two-year budget, and every one of the other 60 members of the coalition will be in a position to demand concessions related to their special interests worth hundreds of millions of shekels.

Mr Netanyahu not only hoped for the numerical stability that Zionist Union could add to his government; the centre-left party was also supposed to add some ideological balance. Likud is currently gripped by a wave of populist anger from the right targeting Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, who insists that the soldier who shot a wounded Palestinian attacker in Hebron should be tried. Having Foreign Minister Herzog and his colleagues around the cabinet table would have presented a more moderate administration, both at home and abroad. Instead, both Bibi and Buzhi have to deal with their increasingly fractious parties.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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