Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 5/8/2012: The Media And Netanyahu's New Coalition

From DG:
The new coalition 

Ha'aretz reports In surprise move, Netanyahu, Mofaz agree to form unity government, cancel early elections (via memeorandum):
Under the agreement, Kadima will join Netanyahu's government and commit to supporting its policies through the end of its term in late 2013. Mofaz is expected to be appointed deputy prime minister, as well as minister without portfolio. 
Mofaz will also serve as a member of the security cabinet, and Kadima members will serve as chairmen of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committees, the economics committee, and any others that are agreed upon by both sides. 
Chairwoman of the Israel Labor Party, Shelly Yacimovich, will become opposition leader instead of Mofaz. The process is also likely to affect Yair Lapid's new party, Yesh Atid – it will have to wait another year and a half for elections to the 19th Knesset.
In the Times of Israel Gerald Steinberg writes:

Finally, the fact that this political move took most Israeli pundits by “surprise” demonstrates the degree to which Netanyahu’s strategic and political skills are underestimated and misrepresented. Ideological and personal factors have blinded analysts and foreign political leaders, including heads of state, to the caution and deliberation with which Netanyahu has governed in the past three years. There are also important lessons to be learned from this dimension.
Perhaps illustrative of this point comes from the New York Times, Leader of Israel Centrist Party Kadima Agrees to Join Netanyahu’s Coalition:
In a brief statement issued Tuesday morning, Mr. Netanyahu, who moved closer to the center as a result of the accord, said: “A broad national unity government is good for the security, for the economy, for the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu did not move "closer to the center" as a result of this agreement. The agreement demonstrates that Netanyahu is closer to the center of Israeli politics than the New York Times usually acknowledges.

In Israel’s centrist Kadima party to join government; early elections averted the Washington Post reports:
In a statement issued after the deal was struck, Netanyahu said, “Unity restores stability. A broad national unity government is good for security, good for the economy and good for the people of Israel.” 
Opinion surveys had indicated that Likud would win early elections handily, and Netanyahu had pledged to use that likely victory to form what he called a “broad coalition,” one that at least some of the nation’s weak opposition parties would expected to join eagerly. The deal forged early Tuesday, which gives the governing coalition 94 of 120 seats in parliament, allowed Netanyahu to quickly deliver on that promise without campaigning. 
“The new Netanyahu government is made of one hundred tons of solid concrete,” political analyst Yossi Verter wrote for the Haaretz newspaper, adding that the prime minister was “certainly worthy of the title ‘king of the political system.’ ”
The Muqata lists winners and losers resulting from this agreement. This one was especially amusing.
Yuval Zellner: Winner Yuval Who? We asked the same thing. Zellner just replaced Livni in the Knesset. Until this morning, he was going to go down in history as one of the shortest serving MKs (who would never get a second chance at it either). Now he gets a chance to serve.
Lenny Ben David tweeted a series of observations:
Bibi's brilliant pol gambit Reason 5. We thought elections b4 US polls would protect Bibi from Obama pressure. This serves same purpose.
Bibi's brilliant pol gambit Reason 4. Earns pts from Barak & pals and 60% of Kadima MKs who would be out on butts after new elections
Bibi's brilliant pol gambit Reason 3: Neutralizes Liebrman's threats. Puts settlers & Haredim in the corner. Will they do nat'l service?
Bibi's brilliant pol gambit Reason 2. Puts into govt another ex-general, a Persian no less, who counters Iran doubters like Diskin $ Dagan
Bibi's brilliant pol gambit for these reasons: 1. Saves a huge sum for economy maybe 1b shekel. $ better spend on social, defense uses.
Israel Matzav observes:
Don't bet on the election system being changed - something that comes up every time there is a large coalition. Likud - or a Likud merged with Kadima - are the only parties with any incentive to do that right now. No one else is strong enough. The only way we will change to direct election of Knesset members is if we get a single party winning a majority, or two parties that can form a coalition by themselves. That's not the case now.
JoshuaPundit observes:
Where Netanyahu gains the most is on freedom of action with Iran. President Obama isn't going to be able to do much to impede Netanyahu before November 6th if a strong coalition 90 plus MK's out of 120 votes for an attack.
In a similar vein, Elder of Ziyon observes:
A number of people were trying to figure out why Netanyahu was calling for early elections, and a consensus of sorts was that it would give him more flexibility in deciding on a military option for Iran since Likud was well ahead in the polls. If that is true, this unity government is even more effective than any election results could have been in giving Israel internal political strength should it make that decision.

Jonathan Spyer observes:
The adding of former IDF chief of staff Mofaz to the cabinet confirms another emergent Netanyahu pattern – namely, his preference for gathering around himself former military men whose undoubted professional skills are accompanied by a notable lack of political ones.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is the senior representative of this type. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon also exemplifies it. Mofaz is the third addition to the list.
...
But though accurately seen in Israel as a mediocre politician, the Iranian-born Mofaz was a highly competent soldier and officer, and a relatively successful IDF chief of staff.
Jonathan Tobin observes:
Though most foreign observers will jump to the conclusion that the Tehran-born Mofaz will provide Netanyahu with the internal backing needed to attack Iranian nuclear targets sometime in the next year, most Israelis are thinking more about the possibility of the largest secular parties now being able to unite to deal with question of military service for the ultra-Orthodox. This ought to make clear to even the dimmest of American observers of the Middle East — especially those so-called “liberal Zionists” who harbor unrealistic ambitions to remake the Jewish state in the image of American Jewry —not only the strength of Netanyahu’s ascendancy but how little the left counts in Israeli politics anymore.
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