In the absence of a clear-cut election winner, frantic deal-making has begun between parties that won seats in the Israeli Knesset.
For the centrist Kadima, its natural allies alone will not be enough for a coalition. It would have to bring in potentially volatile partners. Likud on the other hand already has the numbers to lead a right-wing coalition. It would not need to include Kadima, although if it did it would be on Likud’s terms. Silvan Shalom, a Likud Knesset member said: “We would like to see a big coalition but of course it takes two to tango. If they would like to join and they will accept the guidelines of our new government, they are more than welcome.” While Kadima won the most seats, with 28, the overall shift to the right hands the momentum to Likud, Ysrael Beiteinu and Shas. With 27, 15 and 11 seats respectively they make up a formidable right-wing bloc. Extreme-right Ysrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman is now a man in demand and has already been approached by both Kadima and Likud. However it is hard to see how his hardline stance on Palestinians can be reconciled with Kadima’s land-for-peace plan. A Kadima-Shas partnership also appears equally frought with obstacles. One possibility is a Likud-Kadima government where Livni and Netanyahu take it in turns as Prime Minister. A precedent for that outcome was set by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir in 1984. Meanwhile Ehud Barak’s Labour party looks likely to step into opposition, where it can lick its wounds after yesterday’s beating at the polls.