Israeli Election: Kingmaker Ultimatum to Netanyahu – Accept Unity Gov or Replacement on Ticket
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose decade in office has been marked by tight control often called “micromanagement,” is being seen as losing his famed control to former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, the man seen as the kingmaker in the upcoming election. Rather than casting a ballot for the man or woman favored by the voter to lead the nation, Israelis vote for a party, each of which [30 in the last election] receives parliamentary seats according to the percentage of votes earned. The head of the party with the greatest number of seats – providing the president believes he/she has a reasonable shot at forming the coalition of 61 or more seats (“mandates”) – is given the opportunity to do so. Liberman, although far below any chance to seek the prime ministry himself, is nevertheless able to affect the outcome by threatening to withhold his bloc of seats thus denying Netanyahu, the presumed leading vote-getter, of attracting enough seats to form the coalition. Liberman is now threatening to withhold his seats unless Netanyahu agrees to form a unity government by including his rivals in his cabinet. Otherwise, he warns, he will work to use his seats to replace the incumbent with an alternative candidate from Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Liberman is specific regarding his unity plans. He wants Netanyahu to bring former general Benny Gantz – a political newbie with no experience but a surprising degree of popularity – into the government. To many expatriate Americans who vote in the Israeli election, the ability to seat an election’s loser in the victor’s cabinet is, at best, strange.