Daphna Liel, Senior political analyst and anchor for Channel 12 News
Photo: Sharon Gabay
What are the prospects of the future negotiations between the two rival camps for an agreed compromise under the auspices of the President? Can you estimate which parts of the original reform will any kind of compromise include?
Both sides arrive to the negotiation talks with very low expectations, due to several reasons: First, there is a major lack of trust between both sides, which stems from the bitter experience Benny Gantz had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and this is also true in the case of Yair Lapid.
Another reason is that in the preliminary talks that were held in the past weeks, behind the scenes, when the two opposing camps tried to check if there is a serious basis to reach an agreement – they weren’t even close to each other’s demands, especially regarding the Judicial Selection Committee. The Opposition rejected the possibility of full control of the coalition with regards to nominating judges, and this is exactly the bill which is most important for the government. Therefore, it was very hard to reach any common ground, so far. The President’s proposal, for instance, was rejected by the coalition, and it was very hard to even launch any negotiations surrounding it.
On the other hand, we are now in a different place. It is already obvious that it will be hard to continue promoting all the existing legislation, and that all the Judicial Reform desired by the government will be partially blocked. Therefore, it is possible that the coalition will be more willing to compromise this time. Yet again, even today we saw how both sides fought over technicalities surrounding introductions of bills.
One also needs to understand the viewpoint of the Opposition, which called several times in the past week to conduct negotiations under the auspices of the President, and now actually has no political interest to save Netanyahu from the pit he threw himself into. The coalition started to show signs of friction this week following the disagreements about the reform, so in order for the negotiations to succeed – the Opposition would also have to agree to compromise, contrary to its narrow political interest.
Did the Coalition wait to finish this crisis only after it finished finalizing the process in the Law and Constitution Committee so it could pass the law about the nomination of Supreme Court Justices immediately if and whenever the negotiations fail?
I don’t think this was a plot, in which the government will first complete the legislation as much as possible, and then it will be able to continue it any moment it wants. Until the very last minute, Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin believed that this law would pass this week on the second and third readings. The reason this didn’t happen was the enormous spontaneous protests that erupted all around the country following the dismissal of the Minister of Defense, Yoav Galant, which were very stormy and temperamental. They forced Netanyahu to understand he must reconsider changing route and finding a solution to the current situation.
Even during the last day before the vote, the Coalition still debated how it should act – but the strikes and the decision of the local municipalities, together with the unions, to join the strike, tilted the equation. This means this wasn’t a pre-planned plot.
I can add, on the other hand, that even after the government decided it is going to halt the legislation, it did try to promote the law of nominating the judges to the most advances stage it could – which is approving it in the Law and Constitution Committee for a second and third readings. This means that the Coalition could, if it would want to renew the legislation process, to have only one more meeting of the Knesset Committee for determining the discussions arrangements in the Knesset’s floor. After that they will have the final debate in the plenum – which might be very long, even more than a day, yet this will be still just one debate. This is what generated tension and distrust vs. the Opposition, which claims the Coalition could abandon the negotiations any moment and move on with the current legislation.
Did Prime Minister Netanyahu manage to survive this crisis, and will he be able to stabilize his government for the near future? And is he going to finalize the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Galant?
As it looks at the moment, Netanyahu still hesitates about Galant’s dismissal – though it seems as if he won’t return to the government’s table right now. Therefore, we can say that Netanyahu is going to be a bit weaker after this crisis will be over. Galant already didn’t vote with the Coalition on the budget this week, and there was also a crisis with Yuli Edelstein – so it is very possible that once this crisis is over, Netanyahu’s coalition will in fact include 62 members of the Knesset when it comes to [voting over] sensitive issues, instead of 64. This is a very major development, which is bad for the prime minister.
On the other hand, one could see that when money time arrives, even less pragmatic figures, such as [Yariv] Levin and Itamar Ben-Gvir, preferred to keep the Coalition intact, and were willing to take fierce criticism from their base to prevent the fall of a right-wing government. This is something very encouraging for Netanyahu.
What are the chances that this whole episode might lead Israel to a steadier government, even a unity government, including parties from the Center, the Right and the Left?
There is not even the slightest chance for a unity government. The only possible client for such a move was supposed to be Gantz, but this week he made a huge leap in the polls, and even came very close to Netanyahu. At the moment he has no interest to save the Prime Minister and allow his government to survive for longer periods.
This actually has a double effect: Once Netanyahu can’t threaten his partners, he will replace them with Gantz, their bargaining power becomes larger, they have more demands – and managing the Coalition becomes more complicated.
If we think about the more distant future – can this crisis impact the way the Likud, and also how its leadership, will look like in the coming years?
The firing of Galant, only because he fulfilled his duty as the defense minister and warned of the reform’s implications, has no doubt shaken the Likud. Many members of the Knesset felt this move was too forceful, which was meant to deter other members of the Knesset from speaking their true minds.
This event won’t change the Likud, that for many years now is undergoing a process in which those loyal to Netanyahu are placed in key positions, and others fear publicly criticizing the party’s chairman. But this process might actually become more extreme now, after it was clear that Netanyahu is willing to take such measures to punish those who call against him from within the Likud.