ELECTION ARITHMETIC PUTS
NETANYAHU IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT
Feb 11/09. For all the
confusion prompted by the near parity of Kadima and the Likud in Tuesday's
and even before the final adjustments necessitated by Thursday's tally of
soldiers' votes and the complex surplus-vote distribution system,
one of the most critical pieces of arithmetic is straightforward.
And it shows that
notwithstanding Kadima's victory claims, and its leader Tzipi Livni's
insistence that the people of Israel have given her their backing, Likud
leader Binyamin Netanyahu can reasonably hope to build a narrow coalition
majority with "natural" allies, and she cannot.
This puts Netanyahu
firmly in the driver's seat on the road
to becoming prime minister. And it places Livni - though she led her party
to far greater success than some of its own optimists had anticipated and
thus cemented her leadership hold - in the back seat. He can probably block
her; she probably can't block him.
That is not to say that
Netanyahu has a smooth ride ahead. It may yet be eased a little when those
last votes are calculated. Precedent suggests that the soldiers' votes are
unlikely to boost the center-Left; they might well lift the Right, and
perhaps Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu, which had stressed a shared
burden of national service.
Netanyahu was speaking
from the heart during the election campaign when he said
he wanted to lead a broad government, with a range of Zionist parties from
across the political spectrum. He doesn't want to have to rely on a narrow
coalition, vulnerable to internal pressures and perceived both domestically
and abroad as intransigent as regards progress with the Palestinians.
Chiefly, a narrow Likud-led
coalition requires the fiercely secularist Lieberman and the Torah-driven
Shas to put aside fundamental differences that go to the root of Jewish