7 Possible Explanations for the Israeli Political Revolution


The largest opposition party in Israel, Kadima, just joined Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's coalition, obviating the need for elections in September, and turning Bibi into something akin to what only Iran has previously had: a Supreme Leader. (Granted, one supreme leader came to power democratically, and the other did not.)  Bibi now stands to be the strongest prime minister of Israel in recent history. The newly-elected leader of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, recently said he would never in a million years join a coalition with Netanyahu, so this was inevitable, I guess. Speculation is rampant about why Bibi brought in Mofaz. Here are some scenarios:

1) Bibi is forming the closest thing he can to a national unity government in order to strike Iran if he feels the upcoming P5 + 1 talks about Iran's nuclear program have failed. Mofaz is on record against a raid, but his support would be important, and no doubt Netanyahu (and his sidekick, Ehud Barak, the defense minister) could convince him that it is necessary, if they come to the conclusion that they have to act.

2) Bibi wanted to reduce the power of his party's right-wing by diluting it with the centrists of Kadima; this he has now done. This gives him slightly more flexibility to reopen negotiations with the Palestinians. Do not, however, hold your breath waiting for meaningful negotiations. I wish he would go forward, of course, because Netanyahu is the only Israeli politician who could deliver 75 percent of Israel's Jewish population to a compromise deal.

3) Bibi wanted to kill the Left, in particular a new party, Yesh Atid ("There is a Future"), and the Labor party, whose apoplectic leader, Shelly Yacimovich, just accused Bibi and Mofaz of being very "masculine," which is not the most effective insult in Israel. The "There is a Future" Party has a dubious future, and Yacimovich, though now the head of the opposition, is, at best, a speed bump.

4) Bibi wanted as broad a coalition as possible so that he could reform the way ultra-Orthodox men are drafted into the army without fearing the loss of his ultra-Orthodox coallition partners.

5) Bibi wants  to euthanize Kadima -- a Likud offshoot -- and bring its members back to the party. Mofaz knew he would get slaughtered in upcoming elections, so is more than happy to subcontract out his future to Bibi.

6) Bibi wants to be able to say to President Obama: More than three-quarters of the Knesset is with me. I am Israel. 

7) All of these things, with a special emphasis on numbers 1 and 6.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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