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Apparent Right Wing – Haredi Coalition?

28 January 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

According to the latest polls the Likud should be able to form either a right wing – ultra orthodox – haredi coalition or be able to build a secular coalition with the Labor party and Shinui once the elections are over.

Not including the Arab or ultra – orthodox populations by far the majority of Israelis prefer the second option.  But apparently it will not be since Labor steadfastly refuses to be in a secular national unity government.  Even spokesmen like Shimon Peres declare that PM Sharon only wants a right wing haredi coalition.  It may be a lot of politics since everyone knows wants to grab the middle and stay far away from the extremes.  Party chairman Amram Mitzna and Labor will be paralyzed immediately after the elections as there will be demands for new party primaries.  Until a new leader is chosen, no one will be joining any government.

It looks like Sharon will be forced into a coalition he does not want.  The National Unity – Yisrael Beitainu led by Avigdor Leiberman represents right wing settler interests and is expected to gain eight seats.  The ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism are seen to take 15 – 16 together, the National Religious Party four, Natan Sharansky’s Aliyah party three and added to the Likud 32 there is a coalition.

Sharon would prefer to bring in Shinui in place of Leiberman’s party but the Shinui secularists led by Tommy Lapid refuse to sit with the ultra orthodox.  In short, Israel may end up with a government the majority do not want.  Overfunding will still flow into yeshivas and developments across the 1967 borders and a clash with the US can be expected over the Bush ‘Road Map’ so rejected by the right wing.

Many expect the government to fall quickly if it is ever established and either a new one will replace it or there will once again be elections.  Sharon is willing to make far reaching concessions for Labor to join, but the party is so wrapped up in its own internal struggles that it has forgotten there is also a country in need of leadership and they can provide the third leg in an essentially secular, centrist alliance.

If Labor obstinacy continues after the elections, everyone is going to pay the price, especially on the diplomatic and economic front.