In one of his poems from "The Seventh Column," Nathan Alterman described a man caught amidst high waves of a stormy sea. Someone tossed him a life preserver, but he was still far from the shore. His survival was not yet assured, but he yelled thanks to the person who threw him the life preserver.
The coalition negotiations appeared on Sunday like a man struggling in raging waters who had been thrown a life preserver. There is no certainty that Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett will be able to finalize a coalition deal. Conflicting interests and bad blood cloud the ties between these men. There are also internal party difficulties that could block a deal. The distribution of ministerial positions among Likud-Beytenu MKs will be traumatic, as there will be a painful and dramatic need for the faction to undergo a facelift to remove the wrinkles of old politics.
Shas and United Torah Judaism are trying to sow fear in Netanyahu. They won't vote in favor of evacuating settlements? They won't support a construction freeze outside the main settlement blocs? Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. Even after his Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu did not remove a single settlement. If the need should arise for another settlement construction freeze, it would be best if this is done with the consent of Habayit Heyehudi, which under then-Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz did not leave the previous government over the ten-month settlement freeze implemented in late 2009. Sometimes there is a necessity for such things. Considering there was settlement construction during three of the four years of the last government's term, was the freeze really a national disaster for our settler brothers?
On Sunday, the coalition negotiations moved in a practical direction for the first time. If Netanyahu establishes a government with Lapid and Bennett, it won't collapse in a year and a half. It will last for three years, under two conditions. First, the terms of the coalition deal must be honored. Secondly, the coalition will only last if no concrete proposal is made to establish a Palestinian state.
The coalition negotiations between Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett reached an important juncture on Sunday. It is natural that Labor's Shelly Yachimovich and Meretz's Zehava Gal-On would view a government led by these three as bad and unstable. But from a right-wing point of view, this is the best government that could be established.
This government would last for two or three years. No coalition partners would be in a rush to topple it. All coalition partners would know what they would stand to lose if the government doesn't make a number of innovative and unprecedented reforms. Such reforms require time. It doesn't matter who called who what name. When steering the same locomotive together, no coalition partners would be in a hurry to stop the train.
On Sunday, the situation became clearer. But there is still a long way to go before the next government is established. Several days more will pass, out of the 12 that remain for Netanyahu to form a government. A life preserver has been thrown, but the fate of the coalition negotiations is not yet determined.