Well, So Much for That 'King of Israel' Business

Shaul Mofaz comes, and Shaul Mofaz goes. That was fun while it lasted.

 I'm moving around a bit -- the temperature here in Jordan is a comfortable 230 degrees Celsius, so moving around isn't the most enjoyable thing -- and I won't have a lot of time to post, but I would point you to Aluf Benn's analysis of Mofaz's decision to bolt the coalition over the question of just how many ultra-Orthodox yeshiva boys should be drafted into the Israel army. Mofaz, the leader of what is still Israel's largest political party (but one that will shrink dramatically in the next election), could have had great influence over a more important issue -- the disposition of the West Bank -- but secular hardliners within his ranks thought it important to draw a line in the sand on Orthodox draft exemptions. Aluf:

Mofaz... did not succeed in distancing Netanyahu from his natural partners or his right-wing ideology. Even with Kadima, the government continued to make strengthening the settlements its top priority, and invested its political energy in the report issued by the Levy Committee declaring that Israel is not an occupying force in the West Bank, as well as in getting the Ariel academic center recognized as a full-fledged university.

But there was one thing Mofaz did accomplish with his overnight maneuver on May 8: He managed to delay elections by a few months. Netanyahu's rivals thus gained some precious time to organize and gather strength. The social protest and draft demands are getting more play in the streets. And while right now there doesn't seem to be anyone who could challenge Netanyahu for the national leadership, the prime minister is a lot more vulnerable.

Mofaz has never looked like a serious replacement for Netanyahu, not as opposition head and not as vice prime minister. His career as a political leader was a lost cause, and his short stint in the government couldn't rescue it.

So Bibi loses his grand coalition, but he's not in much trouble politically -- no challenger has yet risen who could threaten his hold on the prime ministership.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly 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.

Goldberg's 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. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. 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.

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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