As the Israeli media continue to generate reports about the behind the scenes hectic negotiations between Likud and the Zionist Camp (Labor) over the latter’s joining Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, Habayit Hayehudi—which stands to lose some of its key portfolios in the shuffle—is threatening to leave the coalition in six months should the threatened move take place.
But Labor is not moving in so fast, for a number of reasons: first, about a third to a half of their MKs, as well as many activists, object to joining with the very political enemy they have sworn to topple; second, Labor is leery of coming in as little more than a rubber stamp for the Netanyahu policies they oppose, without the ability to change said policies. Which is why on Friday Labor chairman Itzhak Herzog posted an ad on his Facebook page listing his conditions for joining:
Lowering the cost of living; involvement in the offshore natural gas outline; authority to act to block international boycotts (presumably by pushing the Jewish settlements under the bus); guarding the Supreme Court’s integrity (from the assaults of Habayit Hayehudi Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who is pushing to tame the hyper-activist court; eliminating “racist legislation”; starting negotiations with the countries of the region (is Syria available?); and implementing the plan to disengage from the “Palestinians.”
The ad was deleted shortly after it had been posted, probably because it was an open admission that Labor is indeed in negotiations with Netanyahu. But the content signaled a strong break to the left as the price for their joining, essentially wiping off most of Habayit Hayehudi’s chairman Naftali Bennett’s achievements so far.
According to NRG, Bennett plans to crash the Netanyahu coalition in six months, with or without Labor taking up residence in the cabinet. This is because Bennett must differentiate his party from the Likud. Last elections, Netanyahu’s message to the rightwing voter, which Bennett tacitly supported, was that it made no difference which of the two equally pro-settlements party you voted for, in the end both parties would be in government.
That generous gesture cost Habayit Hayehudi a whopping four seats, and pushed Likud up to 30 seats. This time around Bennett is determined to get those seats back, and he’d like to be able to tell his voters, simply: a vote for Netanyahu is a vote for Labor.
On Saturday night, dozens of Labor activists demonstrated outside Herzog’s home, demanding that he abandon his cabinet aspirations. The Labor youth is not enamored with the chairman, although he has brought in the highest number of Labor seats in recent memory. Herzog cannot risk a rift with the very people on whom he would later have to count to canvas voters and man local election offices for him. Or as young activist Ne’ama lazimi told NRG Saturday night, “You don’t serve Bibi, you replace him.”