Israel’s Netanyahu, Mofaz said to form coalition, cancel early elections

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In a surprise move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz have reportedly agreed to form a coalition government, cancelling plans for early elections that had been expected to take place on September 4.

A spokeswoman for Netanyahu’s Likud party said that Netanyahu and Mofaz would formally announce the unity government deal at a press conference Tuesday at 10:30 am in the Knesset, the Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman wrote on Twitter.

The Times of Israel’s David Horovitz reports on the political calculations that may have made such a unity government deal attractive for Netanyahu:

…At the eleventh hour, just before his colleagues were set to vote the 18th Knesset into history, Netanyahu achieved a whole slew of tactical victories. He widened his coalition to include the largest party in parliament, signing the deal with Mofaz that he and the former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni could not bring themselves to ratify, no matter how beneficial each might have believed it to be for their parties and the nation. He now heads a vast coalition, in which the minor parties immediately muster less influence, and have consequently less capacity to try to manipulate the national agenda for their narrower needs. […]

 

In Mofaz, he has a partner who demonstrably wants to sit in government, and with whom he quite plainly can find a common and expedient language. … The last thing Mofaz wanted was to face the voters with Kadima heading for only 12 or so seats. […]

The deal also shows that Netanyahu “hates taking chances,” writes Haaretz editor in chief Aluf Benn:

He’ll always prefer playing it safe and avoiding uncertain situations. As far as he’s concerned, the results speak to his favor. Fact is, he’s still in power, and will stay there for a long time heading an unbreakable coalition, with Tzipi Livni who used to assault him in her Knesset speeches for his “survival policy,” sitting at her Tel Aviv home.

Now, Netanyahu is at his most comfortable. ….

The deal also throws a lifeline to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Harriet Sherwood reports at the Guardian:

A side-effect of the cancellation of September’s election and the reinstatement of the October 2013 election is to extend Barak’s political life for another year and a half. As I wrote earlier in an analysis of Tuesday’s developments, Barak was facing potential political elimination in four months. Now his position at Netanyahu’s side is assured for the timeframe of a possible military strike.

 

Regarding the Israeli domestic political scene, the deal signals the beginning of the end for the Likud-breakaway Kadima party, veteran American Israel observer Joann Mort tells me:

“This is the end of Kadima,” Mort said by email. “It won’t survive this coalition, but it wouldn’t have survived anyway. This does give life to the left for the next year to become an actual opposition, though-which is not a bad thing. There was nothing good that would have come from elections.”