Jamal Zahalka, a member of Israel’s Knesset, writes: Ahead of the Israeli elections next January, a merger between the parties of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has been announced. They are to contest the elections on a joint list, intending to become the largest bloc in the Knesset.
The move is seen as an achievement for both men. Netanyahu was shaken by the recent decline in the popularity of his Likud party at the rate of one seat per week. More specifically, his apprehension revolved around the possible return of Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, as leader of an opposition alliance consisting of Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister; Shaul Mofaz, leader of Kadima; and Yair Labed, a rising political star.
Netanyahu’s avowed objective is to assemble a major political force that would guarantee his re-election and ensure his dominance of the Israeli right. Lieberman is the main beneficiary of this alliance: it guarantees power for his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and under the agreement, Lieberman can choose to run whatever ministry he desires, including the important ministry of defence. He will gain political legitimacy and be transformed from a mere participant in a coalition government to a key player. If in recent years the government has been a construct of Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the defence minister, the next government will be a Netanyahu-Lieberman one. Lieberman can also contest Likud’s leadership after Netanyahu.
The alliance reflects a lunge to the right, at a time of greater extremism in Israeli politics. [Continue reading…]