Netanyahu Could Strengthen Coaltion by Ending Settlement Growth

Via Talking Points Memo comes polling out of Israel that tells an interesting and even surprising story: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might actually be able to strengthen his own coalition by agreeing to a settlement freeze.

Q: If the government decides to halt construction in the settlements, should
Yisrael Beiteinu leave the government?
Among the general public:
Yes -- 36%
No -- 41%
Among Yisrael Beiteinu voters:
Yes -- 23%
No -- 60%
Q: If it is decided to freeze all construction in the settlements, should
Kadima join the government?
Among the general public:
Yes -- 41%
No -- 43%
Among Kadima voters:
Yes -- 52%
No -- 41%

These numbers indicate that not only could Netanyahu keep the hard line, far right Yisrael Beiteinu and its 15 Knesset seats (out of 120 total) in his coalition even while agreeing to a settlement freeze (a position most would have expected to be repugnant to a party that has run on a pro-settler platform), he might also be able to cajole Kadima with its 28 Knesset seats into joining the governing coalition. Indeed, with those three parties in tow, Netanyahu would have more than enough support to ensure control over the Israeli government even if he ended up losing a few members on the fringe (Likud + Kadima + Labor + Yisrael Beiteinu = 73/120 seats, or 12 more than necessary for a majority, even without any minor parties joining in). Even if Netanyahu lost Yisrael Beiteinu while adding Kadima, he would need the support of just three more Members of the Knesset from minor parties to give him a governing coalition. (See more from Jeffrey Goldberg.)

Of course things are not as simple as this. First, I haven't gotten the sense, either from news reports or from conversations I had with Netanyahu advisors six months ago while in Israel, that he is particularly open to such a move. What's more, the issues keeping Kadima out of the governing coalition -- including a reasonable reluctance to join a coalition as a junior member but with more seats than the leading party (28, versus 27 for Likud) -- still exist today as much as they did at the time the government was formed.

That said, these numbers at least suggest that there is a potential political upside for Netanyahu to come to the table with the United States over a freeze of settlement growth in the West Bank.

Tags: Avigdor Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, settlements (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

Re: Netanyahu Could Strengthen Coaltion

I can't follow this argument.  Whether Yisrael Beiteinu leaves the government depends on whether Lieberman and the other elected members of the party want to leave, not on an opinion poll of the Israeli public in general.  I hardly see Lieberman following the thought process "hmm, a bunch of people who didn't vote for us are fine with us staying in the government, so we should stay."

What in these numbers suggests that Netanyahu could keep them in the government while agreeing to a settlement freeze?

by Steve M 2009-06-06 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Netanyahu Could Strengthen Coaltion

Per the poll, just 23 percent of Yisrael Beiteinu voters would want the party to leave the government in the event of a settlement freeze, while 60 percent would not want the party to stay in the government.

by Jonathan Singer 2009-06-06 08:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Netanyahu Could Strengthen Coaltion

60% of Lieberman's own voters are ok with YB staying in the coalition after a settlement freeze.

Lieberman gets to remain a fancy minister without alienating his constituency.  I'm guessing old Yvette stays put.

by YuedoTiko 2009-06-06 08:12AM | 0 recs

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