Is Netanyahu On the Way Out?

At the beginning of February, Israeli President Shimon Peres asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government based on the recent election results. However, with only one week remaining to accomplish the task, there are indications Netanyahu will fail. The task will then be given to Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid Party finished a close second. Some are even calling for new elections. If elections were held, polls are showing Lapin and Yesh Atid would win outright.

Given the election results, many thought Netanyahu would look towards the center even though his existing coalition of right and religious parties won 61 seats, enough to govern. But instead of uniting, this partnership started unraveling due to internal differences. At the same time, Lapin and Naftali Bennett, head of the religious Jewish Home Party have agreed to only join a Netanyahu government should each of them be included.

In what appears to be a desperate move to appease, Netanyahu reached out to former foreign minister and peace advocate Tzipi Livni, asking her to join the government as justice minister and chief Palestinian negotiator. Her Movement Party won only six seats in the election, so she accepted, believing this was the best way for her to advance the cause of peace. The development was met by strong opposition from the right, as expected.

However, there is also opposition from the left and the Palestinians, accusing Livni of giving in by joining with Netanyahu. This criticism may be valid. Under the agreement with Livni, Netanyahu would still have complete control of the conditions of all negotiations, and a representative from his office must be present at all meetings conducted by Livni.

If Netanyahu fails to form a government by March 2 he can ask Peres for an additional 14 days. Peres does not have to grant the extra time  and it is difficult to speculate if he will, given the difficulties Netanyahu is having. When the prime minister called for early elections last year he expected an easy win. Not only was the win not easy, it now looks like it has turned into a loss.