Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett said he would not enter a coalition if Hatnuah head MK Tzipi Livni is not stripped of her title as the next justice minister and the top diplomat in the peace process with the Palestinians. He also said he would not join a coalition that does not include centrist party Yesh Atid.
These two pledges make it increasingly likely that he will find himself, along with his faction members, in the opposition, where he will make his case for more settlement construction and champion Israel's national honor. The third Netanyahu government may not resemble the one projected before the election or immediately afterward: Likud-Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Hatnuah and another party that will give it a majority. The question is, which party is it going to be?
I admit that I didn't like it that Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich was initially open to the idea of partnering with the Right, and I was very happy that she ultimately decided to reject that prospect later in the campaign. Immediately following the election, I believed that Benjamin Netanyahu would assemble a coalition of 61 MKs from his core supporters on the Right and the ultra-Orthodox parties, hoping the parties from my end of the political spectrum would stay out of such a government. But circumstances have changed.
Out of all parties, it was Livni's party that struck the first agreement with Likud-Beytenu. Kadima leader MK Shaul Mofaz will most surely join as well. If Habayit Hayehudi makes good on its threat not to enter the government, Yachimovich will have to rethink her categorical rejection of serving in a government that would likely have her as finance minister and a member of the inner cabinet; she would also be an influential figure that shapes the path the government pursues.
There is no doubt that she spoke from her heart when she ruled out sitting in a right-wing government, and if she makes an about-face, no one is going to say that she was cynical. It is no easy feat to join a coalition that includes radical right-wing members such as MK Moshe Feiglin, but he is unlikely to call the shots in such a government.
If Labor is offered veto power over the participation of other parties in the coalition, it would be hard to explain a decision to stay out of such a government (particularly if that government commits to a meaningful peace process).
Israel would be ill-served by a radical right-wing government ruling it for the next several years. If Habayit Hayehudi ends up joining the coalition, Livni's portfolios would be rendered meaningless because the coalition would torpedo any move she might make. If Labor were to follow suit and join the government, thus blocking the radical Right's path to the government, that would be a wise move, both politically and diplomatically.
Labor's joining should not be considered a Catholic wedding. If the center-left members in the coalition realize they lack the influence they deserve, they should make an honorable exit to the opposition benches. The prime minister should be made well aware of the fact that Labor would not stay under all circumstances, and he has to keep in mind that it might bolt if he pursues policies that are not in line with the party's ideology.
As I have traditionally opposed national unity governments, it is hard for me to write this column. But I do believe that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Yossi Beilin is a former Knesset member from the Labor and Meretz parties and a former Labor party minister.