Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Stoking Fear of the “Extreme Right”

Critics are already accusing the yet-to-be-formed Israeli government of “right wing extremism.” These charges range from the preposterous – such as the pronouncement by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, that a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that also included Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman would be a “bad combination for American interests” — to the predictable – like Tzipi Livni’s disappointed utterance today over the fact that she will not be the next prime minister: “They didn’t vote for us in order to provide authorization for a right-wing government and we need to provide an alternative of hope from the opposition.”

But here’s the problem: no one is arguing with Livni that an “extreme right government” would not be a recipe for success. By the way, Netanyahu would be the first one to second her, and Israel Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman announced today that he prefers a unity government headed by Netanyahu. Most Israelis – according to polls – want a unity government. The rest of the world seems to want a unity government. A narrow right-wing coalition would be bad for morale, bad for stability, bad for Netanyahu’s chances of success, and bad for Israel’s image.

In fact, there’s only one thing worse than this scary “extreme right wing government” scenario, and that would be not having a government at all. If Livni chooses not to join the coalition and Labor remains in the opposition (left-wing Meretz, with its meager three mandates, has little bearing on the viability of a coalition) – who else would there be for Netanyahu to work with? Do these doomsday-prophets want Israel to vote again because they didn’t like the initial outcome? Do they want the interim government to stay in power indefinitely?

Of course, Netanyahu could always give Livni what she really wants: the prime ministership. She is hankering after the position, varnishing her ambition with the neutral pretense of “rotation.” But there’s a more proper term for what she is trying to do: not rotation – rather, extortion.