Friday October 31, 2014
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31.10.2014
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Dan Margalit

Cut to the chase

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given 28 days to form the next government. If needed, he could be granted a further 14 days’ extension by President Shimon Peres. Given that 82 MKs have recommended that Netanyahu form the next government, there is no reason for coalition negotiations to drag on until the final moment, as they have in recent decades. Netanyahu will notch an achievement for himself if he finishes the work of forming the next government in the first 28 days; and he will need the help of his potential coalition partners to accomplish this.

How can this be done? By managing the intricate coalition talks from the first moment as if the final deadline was already approaching. Things get done when time is running out.

With experienced negotiators like Yitzhak Molcho and David Shimron managing the coalition talks on behalf of Likud, it would be wise to consider a tactic not yet used in the history of Knesset coalition talks: creating a chart with four or five different coalition structures, based on having 64 to 73 MKs, with another seven MKs from United Torah Judaism supporting the government from the outside. At the ratio of one minister for every three coalition MKs, there would be 21 to 24 ministers in such a government.

At this point, all potential coalition members should be presented with the outline and be asked to hold internal discussions to decide which ministerial positions they would want in each of the possible coalition structures.

From the moment that the identities of the future ministers and deputy ministers are determined, the personal components of the various possible coalition structures would be clearly known. If coalition negotiators have four to five possible coalition structures in front of them, talks will be conducted at lightning speed, even if the names of the future ministers are not publicized.

This is because there is no real debate about what the basic guidelines of the next coalition will be. Everyone assumes there will be a certain amount of tangible progress toward equalizing the distribution of the national service burden. Everyone understands that there won't be ministers without portfolios and that Yesh Atid will present a plan for reforming the structure of government. Everyone knows that the economy will require a period of painful healing. And everyone realizes that the international reality (including the position of the American government and the anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.) will dictate that Netanyahu show more flexibility (at least verbally) regarding the peace process with the Palestinians. It is clear that Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party won't leave the government as long as peace talks deal with trivial matters and the establishment of a Palestinian state isn't offered.

Given this consensus on basic guidelines, and with the ministerial positions conditionally agreed on, coalition negotiations could be completed in the blink of an eye.

Likud wants a coalition large enough that it won't be toppled (causing an early election) if Yesh Atid pulls out. This is an understandable desire for Likud to have, but there is a small chance it will be fulfilled. This is because if Hatnuah and Kadima are the parties giving the coalition a parliamentary majority, it is unlikely that either would want to remain in the coalition as the sole representative of the Center-Left. It is not worth wasting time on arithmetic like this.

It's now time for Netanyahu and his representatives to use military language and tell potential coalition partners: "Move, move."

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