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No NUG, But Only on Condition

17 October 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Labor candidate Amram Mitzna’s serious guffaws (see article Jan. 15) are being widely criticized in the party even if not directly to the media.  In particular, former minister Ephraim Sneh is furious a national unity government is being ruled out at the outset.  So as usual Shimon Peres has come to the rescue by announcing he too is firmly against a NUG with PM Sharon since according to his latest statement the Likud is only interested in a coalition of right wing and religious parties and Labor will not join a government of this type.

Peres was the greatest advocate of the NUG which collapsed in late October and this supposed rejection is anything but that.  He is simply making Labor conditions clear and raising the ante.

But Sharon has his own problems as Shas and the far right parties are nibbling away at his support forcing him to declare there will not be a government without the religious.  Yet he contradicts himself by demanding a NUG.

In politics, especially in the middle there is always a compromise, at least in theory.  In Israel such theories often become practice.  Should the Likud link up with Labor and Shinui one could certainly leave out the religious and right wing parties without eliminating religious individuals from participating in the government.  Labor’s Rabbi Michael Malchior could serve as a minister or even Knesset speaker Avraham Borg (who most likely would decline the honor, being that he detests Sharon). 

Many also forget Natan Sharansky’s Yisrael B’Aliyah party where orthodox MK Yuri Edelstein could get a cabinet post.  The Russian immigrant party will get three to four seats and being right of center could certainly join the coalition and play an important role by augmenting numbers.

Should the Likud get 30 seats, Labor 20 and Shinui 15, that could be a coalition.  But the possibility of a third or more of Labor breaking off and heading to Meretz exists, leaving a minority coalition where no government could be formed at the outset.  Three to four seats could put Sharon over the top and Sharansky could possibly demand two cabinet posts as a prize while fulfilling both Peres’ and Sharon’s promises.