There is a fundamental paradox hovering over the pre-coalition negotiations which have been all over the headlines since the general election last week. On the one hand, there is the Iranian threat and the crises in Syria and Egypt, and on the other hand, there is a petty insistence to cross every "t" and dot every "i" on issues that no one will even remember on the day after the coalition is finalized.
No one is accusing anyone of staging political election stunts at any public mention of the security threats along the problematic Syrian/Lebanon border. The outgoing government has the authority to take action to the best of its understanding to protect our national interests, but obviously it would be best to leave the security decisions up to the next government — the one that will be in power in coming years.
Despite the full knowledge that the situation could easily deteriorate due to instability in Syria, and even in Egypt, Israel's political system refuses to let go of the terrible habit of prolonging negotiations, and discussing, discussing and once again discussing everything only to reach the precise outcome that everyone had predicted in advance.
All the sides involved in the coalition negotiations know the parameters of the painful budget cuts that will have to be made by the next government. This is already making many politicians recoil from the possibility of accepting the finance minister's portfolio, normally considered a prestigious appointment. They also know how to specifically word their diplomatic views in a way that allows parties with diverse outlooks to sit together in one coalition government. The assumption that the Palestinians are not interested in a peace agreement allows the parties that support the establishment of a Palestinian state to cooperate with the parties who reject that idea.
Israel's diplomatic conduct, as well as the economic remedies that are in order, are issues that will be addressed in the long run. The issues that impact the coalition negotiations are the immediate issues, like the issue of equality in sharing the burden, or the size of the government and its makeup. The politicians and their representatives are now going to invest up to 42 days discussing these issues. Why?
In practice, there is no need for all this. The sides are well aware of everyone else's positions. They all know where they draw the line, below which they will not be willing to go. Everything is very clear to veteran negotiators like Yitzhak Molcho, David Shimron, Uri Shani and Hillel Kobrinsky, and, truth be told, the negotiations can feasibly be completed in a very short time.
The real problem is manning the various ministerial positions. Yesh Atid has demanded that the government limit itself to a total of 18 ministers. It is safe to assume that after wasting a lot of time in negotiations, the party will agree to 21 ministers in addition to the prime minister. Therefore, it would be wise to begin negotiating now which portfolio goes to whom.
Likud will have some serious problems. There are many big fish in the party, swimming in a pond that is growing ever smaller. Furthermore, if Likud wants to preserve its long-term power, the party has to appoint some fresh faces to ministerial posts. It will be a painful operation, but if it is done courageously it doesn't have to take too long. The security threats with which everyone is familiar justify a speedy negotiation process.