After weeks of roller coaster negotiations Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today will seal the deal on a coalition government which unites the center-right and right wings of Israeli politics and brings together the parties which along with Likud won the largest share of Israeli votes in the Jan. 22 national elections.
The results of the Jan. 22 election were unexpected in that two new right wing parties surged out of nowhere to claim a combined 28 seats in the Israeli Knesset; picking off two seats from Likud and devastating the centrist Kadima Party formerly headed by Tzipi Livni reducing it from 28 seats to a mere two.
The new coalition government will hold 62 of the current 120 Knesset seats with the remaining 58 divided amongst six fringe parties, not one of which holds more than 11 seats and Israeli Labor holding 15 seats.
The Kadima Party had long been viewed as the heirs to the Labor Party crown as leader of Israel’s political Left, despite having many from the Likud Party join its ranks including national security ‘hawk’ Aerial Sharon. However, successive 'land for peace' deals led many Israelis over the years to view Kadima as placing Israel in grave danger.
A belief reinforced by recurring rocket campaigns against Israel from the Gaza Strip; the last two outbreaks resulting in major Israeli air campaigns to eliminate the threat. Israel gave up control of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority's Fatah ruled government which was then itself violently pushed out of power in Gaza by the terrorist group Hamas in 2007.
Adding to Kadima’s problems were the numerous corruption scandals surrounding former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as what was viewed to be half hearted leadership and lack of direction during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Despite Kadima’s fall from grace among Israeli voters, Israeli Labor never recovered from the voter backlash of agreeing to the Oslo Accords 'land for peace' plan. Instead, rising up through that power vacuum have been far right and ultra nationalist Israeli political parties which Likud has now been forced to form a coalition with and in some regard actually placed Likud 'left' of center in the Israeli political landscape.
The two most telling signs of this new political landscape is the agreed upon choices of Naftali Bennett for Deputy Prime Minister and Moshe Ya’alom for Defense Minister.
Bennett is head of Bayit Yehudi or ‘Jewish Home Party’ which firmly advocates Israel to forever be a ‘Jewish State’ as well as the outright annexation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank by Israel.
Moshe Ya’alom is of the Likud Party, a decorated war veteran and former General Staff Chief known for publicly describing Palestinians as a ‘cancer’ and advocated a direct confrontation with Iran and consideration of eliminating Iran’s top leadership. Ya’alom has also referred to the idea of ‘land for peace’ as a kind of 'virus'.
Swept from the political stage are the 'peaceniks' of Oslo Accord fame who had been dominate in Israeli politics first among Labor Party ranks and then among Kadima after Labor's image became that of appeasement and weakness. That image followed on to Kadima and like Labor before it, proved to be it's undoing.