Unless Netanyahu is challenged and can win, his party is set to become the ruling party. But his primary critics are such that a still further pre-election shuffle, splitting the center-left between a new centrist party led by Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich and an anti-religious National Religious Party called United Torah Judaism, could lead to the fragmentation of the Democratic Israel Party (DJP) into several smaller parties.
This would create political instability, muddying prospects for a swift settlement in two key regional conflicts: a U.S.-led Middle East peace process led by Secretary of State John Kerry; and the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program that were an element of the White House’s May 2013 agreement with Netanyahu’s Likud Party. “What the prime minister needs to do now is increase the chances that he can establish a governing coalition in the next week and a half, and bring it over to the center-left sooner rather than later,” said Eli Cohen, a partner at the Har-David law firm who advised the centrist Kadima and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid parties on the composition of their current governing coalition. “That would make the question of civil partnership more broadly applicable to all families.”
Cohen added that a change of coalition in early June could affect negotiations over Israel’s U.S.-backed peace talks. “This is going to be a potential accelerator of the idea of a more peaceful settlement with the Palestinians in the next couple of months,” he said.
A key element of Netanyahu’s approach to the Likud primaries is the possibility of a change in coalition terms that could enable the creation of a more stable government — indeed, that could even result in more stability. This could occur in the days ahead, either by striking a deal between the coalition of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Benny Begin’s right-wing Israel Beitenu, an Orthodox party that is expected to focus on strengthening the country’s safety and security, or by negotiating with the two leftist parties who may form part of a new government: Kadima (led by Shaul Mofaz, the former foreign minister and defense minister who is now the party’s leader), and the still-undecided faction led by former Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.
“He has the possibility of forming the government, but there are some tests ahead of him to check whether he’s in control of his coalition and his party, and whether the primary divisions have actually ended up harming the chances of a good government,” Cohen said. In short, it is not a foregone conclusion that Netanyahu will soon have another shot at governing Israel after his Likud primaries defeat party elder Moshe Feiglin and pass a narrow field of challengers who are largely composed of younger Jewish voters; some 70 percent of Jewish primary voters were not over 45 years old.