Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Far-right 'Jewish Home' party enters Israeli government

Today Likud and the far-right Jewish Home party (which has three Knesset seats) signed a coalition deal. Jewish Home leader Daniel Herschkowitz is set to become Minister of Science, according to the deal. Herschkowitz himself is a professor in Mathematics.

By now, Netanyahu's prospective cabinet has five constituent parties (Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, Shas and Jewish Home). The four rightist parties has a combined Knesset strength of 56 seats (61 needed to form majority). Labor has 13 seats, but some of their Knesset members might not support the new government.

Let's make one thing clear though, regarding the Labor entering the coalition. Barak might have wanted to go down in the history books as the guy who solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At this point it seems more likely that he'll go down as the guy who would be willing to lease off his mother's grave for a cabinet post. This is not a 'national unity government'. It will be a government of 4-6 hardline rightwing parties, with one centrist party as a junior coalition partner. However, Barak's presence will certainly be used, time and again, to show a facade of dovishness towards the international community. One might expect that there has been hours of phone calls from Washington D.C. pressuring Netanyahu to include Labor in the cabinet. Netanyahu, in a bid to ease the pressure on Obama, has also now stated that his government will be a partner for peace. In reality, actions will count louder than words. If the siege on Gaza, house demolitions in East Jerusalem and settlement expansions in West Bank continue, then Netanyahu's partnership is worthless.

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