At the same time, though, the idea — again, prevalent in mass media coverage — that Netanyahu must “moderate” to form a government is not true. First, a very important lesson: ignore everything said by Israeli politicians and media during the coalition-forming period, because it is invariably misleading. This is what experience has shown virtually without exception.
Now, Netanyahu’s basic choice is to bring together at least two of the following three parties: the traditional liberal Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid; the Sephardic religious Shas, and the right-wing Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi, led by Naftali Bennett. This is like the story of how you get the fox, the chicken, and the grain across a river without something getting eaten. It is very difficult.
Yesh Atid has called for Netanyahu to work hard to get talks with the Palestinians going again. This has been treated as some major move of pressure. Of course not. That’s what Lapid is going to say and should say. And Netanyahu should also say — as he has done hundreds of times in the last four years — that he wants to get negotiations going.
That does not deal, however, with how many unilateral concessions Israel is willing to give to do so, and whether the Palestinian Authority — now believing it is victorious from having the UN recognize it as a state — would go along. Everyone knows this. So to say that Israel should try to get negotiations going again is equivalent to someone in America saying that it is important to improve the economy.
Yet the reality of coalition negotiations is this: Lapid doesn’t like Bennett and vice-versa; Lapid and Bennett don’t like Shas; Netanyahu doesn’t like Bennett and knows that adding him would create international costs. And by the way, would Bennett enter a government that started out by announcing a long freeze in construction?
So it isn’t as easy as mainstream conventional wisdom makes it seem.
It is also suggested the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas might actually give up something to get negotiations going. Like what? Perhaps giving up lawsuits against Israel — which is now supposedly occupying the territory of an internationally recognized Palestinian state, allegedly achieved without any agreement with Israel — in the international court.
Well, maybe. But Abbas faces massive political pressure in his society that far exceeds anything Netanyahu faces. What will he get for giving up what he has claimed as a trump card, a great victory? He certainly doesn’t fear pressure from Obama. Unlike Israel, the Palestinians can do anything they want and not face costs or even public criticism from the American president.