Monday, January 21, 2013

A Centrist Government in Israel?

Here's my most recent at Open Zion. I argue that a far-right government in Israel isn't necessarily a done deal after the election--depending on how Benjamin Netanyahu calculates his interests, and the way coalition bargaining is carried out, the possibility of a center-leaning government is a possibility:

The last Israeli polls are in before the election on January 22, and there’s a glimmer of hope for those concerned about a pro-settlement far-right government. Likud-Beiteinu is still the largest list, and Benjamin Netanyahu will probably be prime minister again, but the gap between the right-religious and center-left-Arab blocs is the smallest it’s been since the beginning of the campaign: 63 to 57 seats according to a Dahaf poll (other polls suggest a slightly bigger gap). This gives the center/center-left parties increased leverage in coalition bargaining, and weakens Jewish Home’s own negotiating position. In turn, this means the peace process with the Palestinians can be credibly revived.

I know this sounds panglossian, and others have made strong arguments against such a scenario. Michael Cohen and Larry Derfner both contend there really isn’t a viable left-wing party that could offset rightist trends in government. But rather than expect a change in direction, it might be more realistic to expect mitigation of the worst excesses of illiberalism and settlement-building that would otherwise dominate policymaking in a far-rightist government. This would create a foundation for parties like Labor and Meretz to build on, to strengthen their internal organization and expand their appeal to the population for the next election.

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