A month ago, Shaul Mofaz, the then newly-elected leader of Israel’s Kadima party said, “I intend to replace Netanyahu,” and insisted, “I will not join his government.” Some time between then and now, he changed his mind.
The New York Times reports: The chairman of the opposition in the Israeli Parliament agreed early Tuesday morning to join the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a surprise move that staves off early elections and creates a new unity coalition with a huge legislative majority, according to a spokesman for the chairman.
The spokesman, Yuval Harel, said that Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected head of the centrist Kadima Party, would become a special minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s cabinet “in charge of the process with the Palestinians.” Two other conditions of the agreement, which Mr. Harel said would be announced at a 10:30 a.m. news conference on Tuesday, were that the Parliament would pass legislation to require national or military service of all Israeli citizens, including ultra-Orthodox Jews, and to overhaul the electoral process itself. The agreement is scheduled to run until late next year.
Mr. Harel said that Mr. Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief who ousted Tzipi Livni in last month’s Kadima primary, met with Mr. Netanyahu “at midnight at the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem and they signed a contract.”
“It was at the initiation of both sides,” Mr. Harel added. “This is the best way to get influence.”
Mr. Netanyahu had said in a speech to the convention of his right-leaning Likud Party on Sunday night that he wanted early elections to avoid the instability of a campaign season stretching more than a year. With his coalition divided over how to replace a law expiring Aug. 1 that exempted many religious Jews from military service, it seemed that the current government had decided to disband. Elections were scheduled for Sept. 4 rather than when the government’s term expires, in October 2013.
The deal, which was first reported online by The Jerusalem Post, came after the Israeli Parliament took the first steps Monday to dissolve itself. “Moments before the dissolution of the Knesset, a hasty meeting to establish a national unity government,” Carmel Shama-Cohen, a Likud member of Parliament, wrote on his Facebook wall.
With Kadima’s 28 seats in Parliament, Mr. Netanyahu will have a government that includes 96 of the 120 lawmakers, covering a broad section of the political spectrum.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said he could not confirm the online reports of the deal. But Mr. Harel said that Mr. Mofaz met in the early hours with the members of his faction and that they had all approved it, though the chairman is the only Kadima member who will get a minister’s portfolio and join in Mr. Netanyahu’s closed cabinet forums.
If taking over a peace process that has been hopelessly stalled seems a dubious prize, Mr. Harel said it would soon be proven otherwise. “That’s part of the deal,” he said. “To turn on the process.”
Larry Derfner writes: Why does a national leader decide to scrap new elections that he and everyone else knows he’s going to win by a landslide, which is what Bibi did last night? Because he’s got important work to do and he wants what’s called “industrial peace” – or, as Netanyahu himself put it, “stability.” Our national leader wants to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities and he’s waiting for the right opportunity to do so – when the Obama administration is hard put to stop him, meaning sometime between now and the November 2 U.S. presidential elections. Starting such a war is going to require every gram of attention and effort Bibi can call forth, and he doesn’t want the pressure of elections and forming a new government as (huge) distractions, which he would have had from now into October if he’d gone ahead with elections in September. Now, without those elections and with an absolutely unshakable coalition, he can give his full concentration to saving Israel from annihilation, as he sees it.