Israelis are additcted to the news, and usually put on the radio at the beginning of the hour to hear what is happening, since things change very fast in this country.
Last night was a good example of why they do this. The Knessest was just about to disolve itself and go to elections, and last night Bibi Netanyahu forged a new coalition agreement with the Kadima party to form a more expanded government, putting off the elections until 2013.
There are many reasons for this. The most obvious, but not mentioned, is the fact that Israel will probably attack Iran in the very near future, and doing so without a solid government is not ideal. The best time to attack will be during the summer or early fall months, when the weather is agreeable and the American elections have not happened yet. Even Obama, who is hostile to Israel, will not openly attack Israel in an election season.
There are many internal political reasons for expanding the government now. Bibi Netanyahu is very popular now, but there are many “political bombshells” coming up which would erode his standing. Bringing in Kadima, and having them take part in the upcoming decisions, will deflect some of the ire away from the Likud and Bibi himself. The Tal law, which affects army deferrments for yeshiva students, is set to expire in July, and a new decision needs to be made about it. The left wing parties are making a lot of noise about it (Yair Lapid’s new party is particulary focussed on it) and want to use it for their own campaign. Kadima is now supposed to come up with some sort of compromise.
The new budget needs to be settled. This issue has toppled governments in the past, and is always contentious. Bringing in another party and expanding the government gives Bibi a better chance to pass the budget with the minimum of fuss.
Bringing in Kadima specifically was a good move on Bibi’s part. Right now the left is split up into a number of different parties, which is always good for the leading right wing party. The weakest of the left wing parties (although they like to claim that they are centrist) is Kadima. Bringing Kadima in now will keep this party from dying altogether, and in the long term helps the Likud. The next election will probably see three left/central parties (Kadima, Labor, and Yair Lapids “Future” party)competing for the same voters.
Avigdor Leiberman will probably be indicted soon, which is a huge question mark for his party, Israel Beitenu. If the elections were held right around the time of his indictment, there could have been a backlash vote in his favor. At this point, if the elections are put off for a long time, this backlash effect would wear off, and weaken the party.
The big question is what the smaller right wing parties will do with the time now given them. They have been dragging their feet about opening up their Knesset lists to primary voting, and have recently claimed that they will do this, in addition to uniting, which the national religious public has been pushing for. Now they can either actually unite, or sink into the same pit of infighting.
In any case, there is never a dull moment here in Israel, especially for those of us who follow politics…