Monday, November 04, 2002
My read on the latest maneuvering between Bibi and Sharon:
* Bibi knows that if he joins the government, he cannot run against Sharon for party leader and win. Therefore, he will not join the government.
* Bibi also knows that if he topples the government in a show of personal ambition, he cannot run against Sharon for party leader and win. Therefore, he will not vote to topple the government.
* Sharon knows that if he kowtows to the far-right, he will anger the United States. This will not only damage Sharon's position in elections but will damage Israel's national interests. Therefore, he will do next to nothing to placate the far-right.
* Bibi and Sharon both know that war is pending with Iraq, and that nothing of consequence is going to happen vis-a-vis the Palestinians prior to the war - unless the Palestinians pull off such a massive terrorist attack that it forces Israel's hand.
* All that being the case, Sharon is going to head a minority government until after the Iraq war. After that the hard-right leaders Netanyahu and Liberman will attack Sharon and topple the government. Why? Because if they attack sooner, they will have no pretext, and Sharon will have the upper hand in Likud primaries, arguing that his opponents acted from pure ambition and not national interest. And if they wait until October 2003, then Sharon will coast to victory as the first Prime Minister since who, Begin?, to serve until the next scheduled election date. (I'm not sure I've got that right, actually, but think about it: Barak was toppled by Sharon, Netanyahu was toppled by Barak, Peres was toppled by Netanyahu, Peres replaced Rabin after Rabin's assassination, and here's where I get a little murky - did Rabin win election after a no-confidence vote, or at a scheduled election date? I'm not sure. Anyhow, before Rabin I believe we're back into the period of the Peres-Shamir national unity governments, where Labor and Likud took turns in the Prime Minister's chair And before that we're in the Begin government. Well, maybe I'm skipping one thing or another, but still the pattern is clear: Israel hasn't had a very stable government for two decades, and it will be hard to vote against Sharon in a primary if he can claim to have steered his rickety coalition and the nation successfully to the sceduled election date.) So no one will join the government, Liberman (as Netanyahu's proxy) will support the government from the outside, and everyone will wait for the appropriate pretext to topple the government.
* Who wins in this analysis? I would normally say, "Shas," except that Shas knows they will lose seats in the next election, so they also have a strong incentive not to be blamed for toppling the government.
Anyhow, we'll see if this prediction is any better than my other, worthless predictions have been.