A Different Kind of Coalition?

The news out of Israel: in recent weeks Tzipi Livni had been trying to form a new coalition but has now decided to call for new elections after refusing to bow to the Shas party’s preconditions (which included a demand to never divide Jerusalem). Much to say about all of this of course. Those of us in the peace camp can at least take heart that Livni seems to be edging ahead of Likud’s Benyamin Netanyahu in recent polls.

I can’t help but wonder how things would have turned out if Livni had pursued a completely different approach to building her government. I commend to you this recent editorial from Ha’aretz, which encouraged Livni to include the Arab parties in coalition talks – something that Israeli Prime Ministers have historically avoided like the plague. As the editorial correctly points out:

When Arab citizens’ loyalty to the state is questioned, one must also examine the state’s loyalty to its Arab citizens. Someone ought to remind Livni, who stands at the head of a centrist party, once again: Arab factions represent a vital, legitimate portion of the public that cannot be ignored. They can be partners in the government if they agree to the government’s guidelines; they can support the government from the opposition; or they can oppose the government. But they must be treated exactly like the other factions in the legislature.

What an incredible political message Livni could have sent she had created such a coalition! Ah well, what else is there to do now but look on in horrified fascination as Israel gears up for another grueling election process when what it should be doing is hammering out a peace accord before it’s too late…

4 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Coalition?

  1. Israel has too many parties. Even if she does win, little will change.

    I just wrote in my blog that it is time for the Israelis to think about reforming their electoral system rather than rooting for political parties.

    Winning elections in Israel does not mean that you will be able to govern the country. You are only chosen to lead torturing negotiations with small parties and individuals.

    http://ruben2008.wordpress.com/

  2. I don’t disagree, Ruben, but be realistic: it ain’t gonna happen. Or at least it ain’t gonna happen any time soon, that’s for sure. We’ve seen attempts at electoral reform before and for the most part they’ve crashed and burned. There doesn’t seem to be much momentum in this direction at the moment – as nice as it would be to shake up the multi-party system, for better or worse I think we need to engage with the political reality such as it is.

  3. I have a question Rabbi,

    Moral issues aside, in terms of numbers: what percentage of votes would Livni take by opening to the Arabs and what percentage would she lose?

    Maybe staying away from the Arabs would eventually serve them in the long term. I mean if she got closer to them but then lost the elections wouldn’t be a worse scenario than let’s say winning them and THEN implement friendlier policies to the minorities?

  4. Ruben:

    Your question is based on one faulty assumption. In Israel they don’t vote for coalitions; they vote for individual parties. Coalitions are put together by the victorious party in a given election. This particular case was somewhat different as Livni was asked to put a new coalition together for Kadima following the resignation of Olmert. If she did manage to create such a coalition successfully, the electorate would not have needed to vote on it.

    As such, it presented a unique opportunity for her. If she brought in several of the ten Arab parties, she could have created a coalition that wasn’t dependent upon far right or ultra-religious parties (and more likely, I believe, to agree on terms for an eventual peace accord).

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