Knesset Math

Observations from the final Israeli election results:

  • A pure left coalition is impossible. Kadima, Labor, and Meretz combine to 44 seats, 16 short of a coalition. Adding the Arab parties – which Tzipi would never do on account of the taboo against including them in government – only gets to 55. The only way for a Likud-less or Yisrael-less Kadima coalition to get to 61 is to include Shas, which showed no interest in forming a coalition with Livni before the elections.
  • A pure right coalition is possible, but would be fragile. Likud, Yisrael, and the conventional far-right parties (United Torah Judaism, National Union, Jewish Home) add up to only 52 seats, meaning that Likud will need Shas – and will thus need to make concessions on economic policy if they don’t want to serve with Kadima. Adding Shas into that equation makes 63 seats, a majority but one that could be broken by the defection of Yisrael, Shas, or UTJ, or by some combination of the other parties.
  • This seems to leave a Kadima-Likud unity government as the most promising option. But there are still questions. Kadima and Likud alone equal 55 seats, meaning another party will need to be added. Shas is the logical choice, but they may opt out if not given economic concessions I don’t think Livni or Netanyahu is eager to make. Labor would work as well, but would Netanyahu accept that? Yisrael would work mathematically, but I can’t imagine Livni accepting that. Most critical, though, is the question of who’d be PM in a Kadima-Likud government. Kadima has one more seat, yes, but only one, and Netanyahu can make a decent case that Likud’s doubling of its share of the Knesset means that he has a mandate to lead.

    So I’m willing to predict a Kadima-Likud unity government. I’m less sure on who’ll be PM, but if I had to bet I’d say Livni will stay on as Foreign Minister and Netanyahu will get the top gig. This is not ideal, certainly, but I can also see a situation where it leads to peace.

    First, assume the necessary preconditions for a peace deal: a Palestinian unity government, a lifting of the blockade on Gaza, and ongoing negotiations between the PA and Tel Aviv. These are big assumptions, of course, but they would be necessary for a deal regardless of election results. Now, suppose Tzipi Livni, as FM, works out a deal with Abbas (or his successor) along the familiar Arab Intiative/Geneva lines. Presumably, this will involve things – giving East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, compensation to refugees, settlement evacuation – that Netanyahu won’t abide by. However, Livni holds a trump card. She can withdraw from the government, endangering Netanyahu’s hold on the premiership. He could conceivably keep it through the conservative coalition outlined above, sure, but he’s rather not go through the trouble. So he agrees to back Livni’s deal to keep the government together. Now, you have a peace deal with the backing of the nation’s most prominent conservative, whose clout would be invaluable in selling the deal to the Israeli public. In short, you get a good deal with widespread popular support.

    Now, this is probably just a crazy scenario that will never come to pass, but it seems at least possible. And possible is a lot better than what I was assuming we’d have: a strong Likud/Yisrael government with no intention of even starting negotiations.

  • The Break’s Over

    So Ben Nelson and Arlen Specter are so confident of the virtues of their economically groundless stimulus amendment that they’re willing to throw their compromise fetish out the window and oppose any further changes to the bill in conference committee. Awesome. It’s good to know that Obama has good, honest partners in the middle of the aisle.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: there’s a right lesson to learn from this. It’s the lesson the public has learned, given polling that shows the public approves of Obama’s handling of the stimulus and detests the Republicans’ tactics. It’s the lesson Nancy Pelosi seems to have learned, given her determination to get education spending back into the bill, Nelson and Specter be damned. And it’s high time Obama learned it to: screw these guys over. They had their chance to be responsible governing partners, but they blew it. From hereon out, consider them enemies and work to destroy them.

    Repeal PAYGO. Abolish the filibuster with the nuclear option. Use the budget reconciliation process like Rush uses OxyContin. Ram through health care and energy legislation with absolute no grace or subtlety. And for good measure, raise millions and millions of dollars to make sure John Thune, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint are out of jobs come 2010.

    Livni Wins

    That’s what the exit polls are saying, and thank God. That said, the exits are also saying that Labor is finished and Yisrael is in third, which is all kinds of depressing. I guess Israel is having its own version of the 2002 French presidential election, with Barak as Jospin, and Lieberman as a far more menacing version of Le Pen.

    I think the conventional wisdom that a Livni-headed Kadima/Likud coalition would be best is largely right, assuming Likud plays fair and is willing to help sell a Livni-negotiated peace deal to the Israeli public. Even if they’re unwilling to help forge peace, anything led by Livni would be better than a Likud/Yisrael/Shas/National Union coalition, the mere prospect of which gives me nightmares.

    Not Looking At You Dudes, I’m Looking Past You

    The phrase “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” gets thrown around a lot, but Kenneth Harbaugh’s op-ed in the NYT, which despite being about ROTC on Ivy League campuses only manages to mention Don’t Ask Don’t Tell one time, is pretty high up there. And what an intellectually honest DADT mention it is:

    Whenever I encounter animus toward the military at Yale, it is almost always born of ignorance. Students often cite the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military as a justification for the ban on R.O.T.C. They are far more sympathetic when I explain that such policies are enacted by Congress, and that the military has no choice but to comply.

    Yes, because it’s not like there was a concerted effort on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prevent Clinton’s efforts to overturn the ban. A majority of active duty servicemembers don’t support DADT and the military certainly doesn’t have a culture of homophobia that the ban acts to codify. This is something that Congress did to them.

    But that isn’t even what bothers me the most about this. What really irks me is that he never seems to entertain the possibility that one – just one – of his students at Yale might be gay, that one of these people he’s proselytizing to about the virtues of ROTC might be barred from participating. And assuming the class he taught was of average size (20-40 students), that’s almost certainly the case, especially in institutions like Yale or Harvard where a disproportionate number of students are gay. I wish he could appreciate how insulting this attempt to dress up the military as some kind of martyr is to those who are systematically rejected by it. I wish he would acknowledge that for a non-trivial number of students, DADT is not an ideological basis for objection to ROTC, but a personal one.

    Obviously, the US military, like any other employer with discriminatory hiring practices, should be banned by universities from recruiting. That shouldn’t even be a question. But if people like Harbaugh are going to make the case for allowing bigoted employers on campus, they should at least acknowledge that gays and lesbians are part of the conversation.

    Juan Way

    I don’t miss much about New Hampshire. The weather’s better in Massachusetts, there’s more to do, restaurants stay open past 11 pm, etc. But I do miss roads. Interstates. Highways. The real ones, not the clogged, frustrated ones that run through Cambridge and Boston. The ones you can drive the speed limit on, or more. The ones you can drive on for hours and see maybe one or two other cars. The ones that make driving an experience, rather than a means of transportation.

    I’ve always felt somewhat guilty about this. Environmentally, of course, highways suck compared to mass transit, and joyriding sucks even more. The idea of trekking around for the heck of it, just to look around and see what you find, just seems decadent with the planet on the brink. But the open road’s a seductive thing, and given some of the places it takes you in rural NH, it’s even more seductive where I grew up.

    So I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for what Ned Resnikoff and co. are doing here. Basically, Ned (an official Friend of the Blog) and friends are driving cross-country on an old school bus this summer. It’s being converted to run on veggie oil, so the carbon impact is lower than a typical road trip of this type. And they need your help. They need parking, hygienic assistance (showers, laundry, and the like), sustenance, the works. So help them out, and learn more about the project. In a culture where summers are expected to be spent working, interning, or on fellowship, there’s something admirable about eschewing that to better know one’s country.

    “And It Breaks My Heart.”

    Anyone who knows me knows I’m not easily moved to tears. But I’ll be damned if I weren’t sobbing at the end of this:

    http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3089746&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1
    “Fidelity”: Don’t Divorce… from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

    The real tragedy, as Julian says, is that this wasn’t showing in every California home from May until November last year.