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Whither Unity?

Recent polls indicate that Israelis want unity.

The most widely backed preference, at 36 percent, would be a coalition made up of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima and Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s left-of-centre Labour, the Tel Aviv University pollsters said. Another 16 percent favour a centre-right alliance of Likud, Kadima and the far-right Yisrael Beitenu, a party that emerged third largest in February 10 parliamentary elections. In contrast, 22 percent expressed a preference for a coalition of Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and other right-wing parties.

An Israeli Radio poll published today is even more specific: 85% of Kadima voters want their party to join Netanyahu’s government; only 11% of them prefer that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her political allies join the opposition.

Netanyahu, scheduled to meet Livni tomorrow for the second time this week, is willing to reach across the aisle — personally and ideologically — to make his coalition more palatable to her, and to allow her to save face. “Sources close to the Likud chairman said that while he is unlikely to accept guidelines pertaining to the two-state solution, he would be willing to continue the negotiations with the Palestinian [sic]“.

Yet Livni sounds quite adamant about maintaining her adversarial stance. There are three possible reasons behind this attitude:

1.      Ego: many people, even within Kadima, are hinting that Livni can’t conceive of serving under Netanyahu. She can’t come to terms with the fact that even though she nominally won the election — she actually lost.

2.      Ideology: Livni really believes that Netanyahu is too hawkish and she cannot countenance working with him.

3.      Political calculation: Livni’s advisors tell her a right-wing government will not survive for long, and that by staying in the opposition she’ll be able to solidify her stance as the only center-left alternative leader.

The problem with all three reasons: it’s all about Livni and Kadima. The implicit assumption seems to be that what’s good for Kadima is also good for Israel. At least for the time being, Israeli voters don’t seem to agree.


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