At the annual Herzliya Conference on Mon night, two major Government Coalition partners, Yair Lapid, Head of the Yesh Atid party, and Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi party, gave contradictory opinions in speeches on policy towards the Palestinians. Lapid threatened that if the Government annexes any West Bank land he will bolt the coalition, but Bennett said that if the Government does not annex land he will bolt the coalition. The irony is that these two relative newcomers to Israeli politics once forged an alliance in order to get mutually beneficial conditions from Netanyahu when the Coalition was formed. In response, Netanyahu issued a statement criticizing “inexperienced” politicians who push their own foreign policy solutions, without any previous familiarity in the area of international relations and have no idea of the consequences of their hastily proposed plans.
Since the talks between Israel and the PA have broken down, and no party is willing to talk to a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, the question is what to do next. Now their different political interests have come to the fore, with Lapid on the left and Bennett on the right of the Coalition. In addition, the presence of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in the Coalition has become an embarrassment, since she was in charge of the talks with the Palestinians and now effectively she has no political commonality with Netanyahu. Her unauthorized “private” meeting with Pres. Abbas in London after the United PA government was formed almost led to her dismissal from the Coalition. She and her Hatnuah party are hanging by a thread. Will the Coalition unravel?
Probably not, since none of these small parties want to subject themselves to a future election, especially if they are forced into the opposition. But, this leaves Netanyahu paralysed, unable to act to either annex some territory, that would become part of Israel in any future peace agreement, or respond in any other way. So either Netanyahu will do nothing and keep his Coalition in place, or he will decide to act and perhaps lose the left wing of his Coalition, Livni and Lapid, but maybe in their place he will gain partners on the right, namely the religious and ultra-orthodox parties. It’s in the balance.