A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 7, 2012

Last-Minute Netanyahu-Mofaz Deal Scuttles Elections, Upends Israeli Political Scene

In the early hours of Tuesday (tomorrow) morning, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz reportedly agreed on a government of national unity, canceling September elections after the Knesset had already passed the first reading of a motion to disperse (dissolve itself). Reports from Haaretz here and The Jerusalem Post here.

The immediate deal appears to give Kadima the right to work on modification of the Tal law, which involves exemption of haredi Yeshiva students from military service, and which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. 

If, as initial reports indicate, Mofaz may become a Minister without Portfolio, which may seem odd since Kadima actually has more seats than Likud; on the other hand, Kadima was expected to lose heavily if elections were held.

How this may affect the threat of military action against Iran, which Mofaz opposes, remains to be seen. It also may lead to a moderation of the government's policies overall. One interesting issue will be the role of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party, which has been the second largest in the government.

There is some political sense, however, in avoiding elections for now, as both Kadima and Likud might have stood to lose seats; in any event Netanyahu avoids having to campaign this year. But the eleventh-hour deal on the brink of Knesset dissolution came as a surprise, and if it holds — uncertain at this point I suspect — and doesn't unravel, it will transform the political scene.

If more details emerge tomorrow, I may have more to say,

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