In a previous posting, Post-Election Game Theory, I laid out my predictions for how the coalition would look. With the new government finally having been sworn in, after way more haggling than anyone expected, let's go back now and see how I did, only mentioning areas where I specifically went out on a limb.
- Tachlis: I predicted a government composed of Likud, Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi and Kadima. I was out by one: the Tzipi Livni Movement instead of Kadima. (Or is that in addition to Kadima? Nobody in the media seems to know - or care - whether Kadima is in or out of the coalition. Me neither.)
- Labor: despite Netanyahu's sincere efforts to woo Yecimovich into the coalition, she stuck by her guns, as I predicted.
- Bayit Yehudi: despite some very bad blood between them (apparently worse than I thought originally), Bibi finally had to bring Bennett into the government. He really didn't want to, but like I said, the numbers just didn't work otherwise.
- Shas: could conceivably have overcome their incompatibility issues with Yesh Atid by looking for compromises, but instead chose to dig in to their trenches, and now find themselves with no say in how the "sharing the burden" debate plays out. Merubeh tafasta, lo tafasta - try get too much, and you end up with nothing. I wish I had been wrong about that prediction, but I wasn't.
- UTJ, while less strident in their rhetoric than Shas, also chose the route of conflict. Pity, but also a clear call.
- Tzippi Livni: this is the only one that completely blindsided me. I was totally gobsmacked when Netanyahu cut the first deal with Livni, especially with her as lead negotiator with the Palestinians. I think he thinks putting her into that position is going to teach her some stark lessons in reality, as in "Good luck with that!" - but frankly I'm quite afraid that she will be able to do Israel a lot of damage from that position. But given that she was included, it makes Kadima's piddly 2 mandates completely inconsequential, and therefore wasteful to include them in the coalition.
So it wasn't a 100% score, but still not too bad. And from that position, I'm going to make a few more predictions.
- Tzippi Livni won't last long in the government. She can't. Her pet issue is making a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and she will be unable to do so, for any number of reasons. Either the Palestinians will continue to refuse flat-out to return to negotiations and continue on the unilateral track, or they will only come back to that table on condition that Israel in principle agrees to roll over and die as a precondition for restarting talks. Livni will probably accept any preconditions they want, but she will be overruled by the rest of the coalition - or at least, I hope so. Furthermore, with Bayit Yehudi controlling the Construction Ministry, and Moshe Yaalon as Minister of Defense, sooner or later Livni is going to proclaim that peace is just not achievable while we continue to "provoke" the Palestinians by allowing the residents of Efrat to enclose their verandas and instructing the army to actually defend themselves against Molotov cocktails rather than running away, and she will resign in a huff, doing as much damage as possible in the international arena on her way out, and try her hand (again) at Opposition politics. I don't think we'll have to wait a year for that to happen, maybe as little as six months.
- The burden will be shared, and it will be done intelligently and fairly. (Now that's going out on a limb!) Shas and UTJ are spoiling for a fight; they will threaten that all the Haredim will go to jail rather than serve in the army; and they will be disappointed. There will be no imprisonments, no arrests, not even skirmishes. The government will simply enact a set of financial rules that will give attractive economic benefits to people who complete the army or other national service, not much for people who are officially exempted (e.g. new immigrants), and an extra tax on people who refuse to serve. The Haredim will not be given the option of being public heroes and dramatically going to jail; instead they will have the much harder choice between doing national service and getting the concomitant economic benefits, or refusing and quietly going the long haul with an onerous tax burden. Faced with this dilemma, I believe the rank and file will vote with their feet, and despite the pashkevillin that will be plastered over every vertical surface in Mea Shearim and Bnei Brak, screaming about how this is a milchemes mitzva and a chillul Hashem to do any kind of national service, a very large number of Haredim will go along with the new system. It will certainly beat the indentured poverty into which the old system forces them.
- The government can fall in one of two ways: either Yesh Atid falls off the Left flank, or Bayit Yehudi falls off the Right. The only way I can think of that Yair Lapid will be sufficiently outraged as to walk out of the government would be if the government fails to implement a "sharing the burden" plan. If he ever does quit the government, it won't hurt Bibi, because the Haredi parties will be lined up to take his place - and that might result in the undoing of said plan. Lapid is in this coalition for the long haul, and his negotiating power is weak, because 19 mandates notwithstanding, he is replaceable.
- Bennett, on the other hand, is less constrained by such considerations, because he truly is irreplaceable If Bibi ventures too far Left, Bennett can threaten to bring down the government. The Haredim will not replace them in a coalition with Lapid. And around 75% of the Likud MKs themselves will agree with Bennett. Unlike the 2005 Disengagement government, the vast majority of the Likud MKs are now strong ideologues who will themselves vote no-confidence in the government if Bibi tries to do a Sharon on us. Even if Bibi tries to get Labor involved, it just can't work out. Result: no more insane concessions to the Palestinians, and Tzippi Livni will quit the coalition (see above). So Bennett really is sitting pretty.
- As a result of the above considerations, absent any "black swan" events, I'm calling that this coalition will see out its full term of office. That will be a first!
All told, I'm pretty optimistic about this government. The common thread between the major coalition parties is that they're security wise, free market supporters with a non-coercive approach. I think on the whole things are looking up for Israel.