Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader explained why they agreed to form a national unity government and avoid an early election at a joint news conference in Jerusalem Tuesday, May 8. Netanyahu said the new lineup would provide a solid basis for addressing key issues: Legislation to replace the Tal Law with a more equitable distribution of national burdens; approval of a responsible state budget; reform of the electoral system and government structure for greater political stability; promotion of a responsible peace process.
Netanyahu extended a warm welcome to the outgoing leader of the opposition and his Kadima party.
Mofaz: A government backed by 94 members of the 120-member parliament is strong enough for the right decisions and better able to rise to hard challenges than the present administration. Unity is therefore a major historic step. It will lead to a reformed ruling system that will not be prey to extortion.
Netanyahu in reply to a question about differences with Mofaz over the High Court’s order to evacuate five houses built on Palestinian-owned land in Bethel, on the West Bank, said: ‘We are law-abiding adults and are holding quiet consultations for an acceptable solution.”
Read earlier debkafile story.
In a startling about turn, Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu let the bill for dissolving parliament (the Knesset) for an election on Sept. 4 go through first reading Monday night. The proceedings were interrupted by his announcement that he was co-opting the leading opposition party Kadima to a national unity government naming its leader Shaul Mofaz, who recently displaced Tzipi Livni, deputy prime minister. The government now commands a huge majority of 92 members of the 120-strong Knesset.
From the start, Netanyahu’s bow to pressure for a general election a year before it was due puzzled political watchers, including debkafile. His government coalition was exceptionally stable for an Israeli government which has rarely survived more than half a term and he topped opinion polls as the most popular politician in the country. Labor leader Shelley Yacimovitch was the only opposition leader pushing hard for an early election which no other party seemed to want.
The new lineup awarding Kadima ministerial posts has already been confirmed by Likud’s fellow coalition partners, Israel Beitenu and the ultra-Orthodox Shas. They obtained the prime minister’s commitment to table two controversial bills: the Law for Equality in Sharing the National Burden (universal mobilization for military or community service for all sectors including ultra-Orthodox and Arab citizens) by the end July, and the Reform of Government by the end of December, 2012.
The Kadima leader pledged not to quit the government before end of term in September 2012.
Netanyahu must have pretended to go along with steps for an early election almost up to the end to disarm and mislead his political enemies who had been pushing hard through the media to arrest his rising popularity and bring his government down. In back rooms meanwhile a new, stronger government was in the making in dead secrecy.
Labor remains on the opposition benches after the prime minister turned the tables on its leader’s fairly amateurish campaign to unseat him. Yacimovitch’s obvious next step might be to reignite the “Social Justice” protest movement which took the streets last summer. However efforts to rally large numbers in the last few days, with the help of financial contributions from foreign sources, have fallen flat.
The new face on Israel’s political block Yair Lapid will be left in limbo after the fanfare of launching his new party (There is a Future), the main article of whose charter is the long-term guarantee of his unelected position as party chief.