Netanyahu Closing In On Secular Coalition For Next Israel Government

Israel’s pundit class is increasingly converging on the opinion that, for the first time in several political cycles, Israel is heading for a coalition government without any religious parties. Channel 2 political correspondent Amit Segal went so far as to tell Army Radio [Hebrew] that a configuration of only secular parties was more or less inevitable.

Israeli coalitions have generally included representatives from religious parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ). In the last election, however, Shas secured 11 seats and UTJ won seven, while the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties — which subsequently formed an alliance to limit the influence of religious parties in any new government — claimed 19 and 12 seats respectively.

The coalition math is straightforward, and this morning the ultra-orthodox daily Kikar Shabbat declared “We’ll Fight from the Opposition Benches.”

Veteran Shas lawmaker Aryeh Deri also asserted that [Hebrew] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to see religious parties in the opposition as a result of Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid’s demands. Lapid and his ally in the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, will seek to push forward legislation integrating Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews further into the state’s institutions, including into the army.

The emerging consensus is that the next coalition will control 70 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, and be made up of Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu (31 seats), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (12), Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party (6), and Kadima (2). Livni has already brought her party into the government, in which she will be the justice minister and take control of peace process negotiations.

There are some scenarios under which Shas will also join the coalition, but UTJ is almost universally viewed as bound for the opposition.

[Photo: Euronews / YouTube]