The first coalition agreement, signed on Tuesday with Hatnuah, bears significant consequence when it comes to Netanyahu's third term agenda and priorities.
By going ahead with the deal even before securing the participation of any other party in the coalition, Netanyahu has signaled that his government will be based on the support of 57 MKs. Namely, Hatnuah, Kadima and the haredim (on top of Likud-Yisrael Beytenu).
The move is designed to pressure Habayit Hayehudi's Naftali Bennett, Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid and Labor's Shelly Yachimovich, as well as their respective faction members, some of whom have a vested interest in averting another election in the near future.
The second thing we can learn form the Livni-Netanyahu deal is that when it comes to the issue of how to distribute the burden of national service more equally, Netanyahu has effectively decided to adopt the contours laid out by National Economic Council head Prof. Eugene Kandel. If Lapid ultimately enters the government, he will have almost zero influence on that issue.
The third thing to take note of is that by signing the agreement with Livni, Netanyahu sets the formula according to which ministerial portfolios will be distributed: one ministry for every three MKs.
Finally, by transferring the Environmental Protection portfolio to Hatnuah's Amir Peretz, Netanyahu made it clear that the Likud minister who would likely get the biggest promotion in the next government is the current holder of that position, Gilad Erdan.
Partnering with a rival party will forever entail flip-flops and broken promises. But it seems that the number of illegal U-turns, on all sides, has seldom been so big. It is well known that prior to the elections Netanyahu took pains to communicate that regardless of the results, Livni would not be in charge of the peace process. It is also a known fact that for the past four years, Livni has been attacking Netanyahu anywhere she could, both at home and abroad for his foreign policy and economic agenda. She has now done an about-face. And of course, let's not forget MK Amir Peretz (Hatnuah), whose only rationale for defecting from Labor was Yachimovich's refusal to declare Netanyahu's government off-bounds for the party. Now, as Environmental Protection minister, he can at least clear the polluted atmosphere of that government.
Immediately after the agreement was signed, Habayit Hayehudi put on a tough face. But it seems the party has finally begun to come around to the understanding (and if not, it soon will) that Netanyahu's decision to move forward with Livni, Kadima's Shaul Mofaz and the haredim will create an impossible environment for those who have aligned themselves with Lapid (i.e., Habayit Hayehudi).
Despite the strong bond between Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi, they are not cut from the same cloth. If Netanyahu ends up with only 57 MKs in his coalition, he would have to tell President Shimon Peres that he had failed to form a government; Lapid's followers and supporters would not have a problem with that and may even laud their party leader. But as for Bennett, he would face a problem. There is no way around that.
At the National Religious Party's convention on Wednesday, its members will divvy up their yet-to-be-promised coalition candy [the National Religious Party is a force within Habayit Hayehudi and essentially controls its party apparatus]. It is very likely that when all is said and done, they will announce that they will not let Lapid decide for them whether they should enter the government.