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After Election Day: Degrees of treif

March 17th, 2015, 10:07am by Sam Wang

If pre-election polls hold up – and there is some question now, since Israeli law prohibited publication of polls over the weekend – Labor/Hatnuah (also known as the Zionist Camp) may well get the first chance to form a ruling coalition of a majority of the newly-elected 120 Knesset members. On the face of it, it would not seem that Likud-plus (Likud plus natural allies on the right) can get to 61 seats easily. However, Labor’s difficulties are quite substantial, a problem which has become quite apparent upon further analysis. For this reason, Netanyahu’s chances of retaining at least some power are probably better than I thought before.

The last few days of the Israeli campaign have been quite a spectacle…Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) has said she wouldn’t hold Labor to a deal in which they rotate the Prime Minister position. Her goal seems to be to assure voters that she won’t get in the way of a national-unity government, which is the backup plan in case Labor/Hatnuah is given the first shot at forming a ruling coalition without Likud, but neither side can collect 61 votes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a blitz of appearances and statements, perhaps to capture votes from the minor right-wing parties. Notably, he stated flatly that he’s long been against a two-state solution on Israel/Palestine, which puts him in direct contradiction with U.S. policy. Today he’s warning his supporters that Arabs are being bused to the polls by leftists. Over the weekend he was confronted by Labor leader Isaac Herzog on TV, who stated that the world knows that Netanyahu is weak. Even in a free-for-all with around a dozen political parties, this election is still a referendum on the incumbent.

Some difficulties, which are not apparent when parties are in opposition, are described here by Josh Marshall. Yesh Atid is a secular party that wants to modernize Israel, and might be part of a Labor-led coalition. Yet Labor could also use the votes of ultra-orthodox party Shas. That seems like a contradiction. Likewise, Labor may need to get supporting votes from the Arab parties, who seem likely to get a dozen seats or more. However, getting a Likud-offshoot (but Netanyahu-hating) party like Kulanu to get on board with Arabs…that seems hard.

It all reminds me of the word treif, which is used to refer to foods that aren’t allowed under Jewish law. Serving meat and milk together is treif. Yesh Atid+Shas is treif. Kulanu+Arabs, again treif. But these combinations might not be 100% treif. Surely this is enough to make a person want to bang his head on a desk!

In summary, Herzog has to squeeze a water balloon from all sides, yet keep it perfectly spherical. The difficulty of doing that is Netanyahu’s best chance for retaining at least some power, once the dust clears in the weeks of jockeying that lie ahead. In this light, what Tzipi Livni, a professional negotiator, is trying to do is make Labor+Hatnuah a little less treif to the other parties.

Tags: Politics

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