3:21pm

Thu March 14, 2013
The Two-Way

After Weeks Of Wrangling, An Israeli Government Takes Shape

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 9:55 am

Israel appears to have a new government, nearly two months after parliamentary elections.

Since the voting in January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that just would not fit.

If he included traditional allies, such as the religious parties, he would close out a chance of forming a government with a popular political newcomer, Yair Lapid.

A former TV newsman, Lapid is secular and centrist. His party was the second largest in the balloting and has demanded that ultra-Orthodox Jews perform military service, rather than receiving an exemption.

Professor Reuven Hazan of Hebrew University says that in the end, Netanyahu had to make major concessions to Lapid's centrist movement. The prime minister also made room for the right-wing Jewish Home party, which is strongly supportive of West Bank settlers.

Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox parties are not included in the government coalition for the first time in more than three decades.

"He has formed a government that is not focused on the main issue of Israeli politics, which is security," Hazan said of Netanyahu.

The new government appears more concerned with domestic questions, such as mandatory military service and government reform. Attacking those problems is likely to make life harder for Netanyahu, as he will have to take things away from his traditional supporters.

The new coalition may allow Netanyahu to continue his hard-line approach toward the Palestinians.

Jewish Home is opposed to the two-state solution entirely. Yair Lapid supports negotiations, but has made clear he will not make major concessions.

Hazan says that means "we might get back to negotiating, but these negotiations will lead nowhere and they won't last for very long."

The new government is expected to be sworn in just in time for the arrival of President Obama next Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Israel appears to have a new government. It took nearly two months to form a ruling coalition following parliamentary elections. As NPR's Larry Abramson reports from Jerusalem, the divisions that made the coalition talks so difficult will continue to create problems for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: Since elections in mid-January, Netanyahu has been trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that just would not fit. If he included his traditional allies, such as the religious parties, he would close out any chance of forming a government with Yair Lapid. He is the former TV newsman whose platform focused on military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Netanyahu even courted his ideological opposite, the Labor Party, but the left would not deal with him.

Professor Reuven Hazan of Hebrew University says, in the end, Netanyahu had to make major concessions to the strong front created by Lapid and the right wing Jewish Home party.

REUVEN HAZAN: He has formed a government that is not focused on the main issue of Israeli politics, which is security.

ABRAMSON: Instead, the new government is aimed at domestic problems, such as the draft issue and government reform. Attacking those problems will make life harder for Netanyahu, as he will have to take things away from his traditional supporters. Netanyahu did manage to hold onto key ministerial posts. The foreign and defense ministries will stay with the Likud-Beiteinu alliance. And the new coalition may allow Netanyahu to continue his hard-line approach toward the Palestinians. Coalition member Jewish Home is opposed to the two-state solution entirely. Yair Lapid supports negotiations, but has made clear he will not make major concessions. Reuven Hazan says that means...

HAZAN: There is no strong advocate for the peace process in the current government. We might get back to negotiating, but these negotiations are going to lead nowhere, and they won't last for very long.

ABRAMSON: The new government should be sworn in just in time for the arrival of President Obama next Wednesday.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.