Israel is going to the Polls – But not yet!

Nothing is certain in Israel until it is certain, and even then it is not necessarily so.

We went to bed with the expectation that elections would take place in September only to awake this morning to a national unity government including the Kadima party and comprising no less than three-quarters of the members of the Knesset.

All the political commentators without exception have been caught wrong footed and the low esteem in which most Israelis hold politicians has been re-enforced by a crafty manoeuvre, or what we call a kombina, which Prime Minister Netanyahu must have been devising while he was still sitting shiva for his father.

Without holding elections, Netanyahu has broadened his coalition. This will enable him to pass legislation to replace the Tal Law dealing with the drafting of the ultra orthodox charedim without fear of the collapse of his government.

As the price for joining the coalition, Kadima’s leader, Shaul Mofaz, has demanded that the charedim undertake military or national service, that progress be made in negotiations with the Palestinians and that Israel’s convoluted electoral system be reformed. Few believe that all of these clauses in the coalition agreement will be honoured.

The real winners of this kombina are Netanyahu and Mofaz, whose Kadima party would have lost many of its Knesset seats in the forthcoming elections.

It is hard to believe that Mofaz wrote on Facebook just two months ago: “Listen carefully. I won’t join Bibi’s government – not today, not tomorrow and not after I become the leader of Kadima on March 28. This is a bad government…. Kadima under my leadership will replace it at the next elections. Is that clear enough?”

For the time being, at least, Netanyahu can relax and enjoy a level of political stability that must be the envy of his counterparts in democracies around the world.

Whether it is good for Israeli politics and democracy is quite another matter.

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