Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

March 24, 2009--Labor Votes to Join Netanyahu Government

Today the Labor party voted to join the new government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. It was simultaneously stunning and expected. On one hand, it is hard to believe that the Labor party, the party that use to lead Israel's peace camp, would enter a right wing government led by Netanyahu, especially after all of the statements made by Barak and other leaders after the elections. On the other hand, it was clear from even before the elections that Barak and Netanyahu have always had a good relationship and Netanyahu has always wanted Barak as his Minister of Defense.

Barak was unable to find a way to maneuver his way into the coalition, especially after Kadima refused to join. Finally finding no indirect way of maneuvering in, Barak decided to simply storm forward, made no real pretenses, and negotiated a deal with Netanyahu and gained five cabinet posts including two senior ones and the chairmanship of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset. A Knesset faction of just 13 members, seven of whom have stated that they were opposed to joining the coalition and see themselves as free actors in the Knesset, received all this.

Barak got his way, and the Labor central committee supported him 680 to 570. The operation may have been successful, and I imagine most Israelis are happy that Barak will be the Minister of Defense as he is certainly a better pick than the alternatives. On20the other hand, this outcome may result in the death of the patient - the Labor party.

Netanyahu has his coalition, but he will now have an almost impossible task in governing. His own party, Likud, will be a minority in his cabinet and even within the smaller security cabinet. H e has given away a record 6.5 billion shekels to the different parties in order to get them to agree to join the government. This is on top of the 45 billion shekel budget deficit that Netanyahu is inheriting.