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My friend Barry Rubin Answers Questions about the Challenges Bibi Netanyahu will have in trying to form a government:

What will be the great challenges to Netanyahu in building his government?

The great challenge is to build a government at all.

Option A is a national unity coalition with Kadima and Labour. This might happen but Kadima are not going to agree easily and it would take six weeks to bring them only after persuading them that this is their best option. That means: Netanyahu doesn’t need them and that he can offer them a lot for joining him.

Option B is a center-right government but that is hard. He would have to pull together at least five of six parties: Likud, Israel Our Home, Shas, United Torah Judaism, National Union, and Jewish Home. There are huge problems. The two religious parties don’t like Israel Our Home and vice-versa. The two small right-wing parties don’t trust Netanyahu and would make his life miserable by threatening to walk out every day. It would be hard to form such a government and it probably wouldn’t last long.

Do you think that Lieberman would be more “problematic” than “helpful” to Netanyahu’s government? Why/ why not?

Lieberman would be very “helpful” because Netanyahu would need his votes to have a center-right government. But he would cause big problems. The two biggest are that Lieberman is now Netanyahu’s biggest rival for support on the center-right to far right. Empowering Lieberman undermines Netanyahu. In addition, Netanyahu knows there would be big international negatives to having him in the government.

Do you think that Livni will accept to join Netanyahu in his government?

The first question is whether it is “his” government. She will hold out for being prime minister half the time. So Netanyahu will have to spend perhaps five weeks, going down to the finish line, and she will know he can do it without her. At the same time, he must offer her big benefits for joining. She might conclude that if he were to form a government it would collapse and there would be elections within a year. Or he might conclude he has to offer her the prime ministership for the second two years. It is a complex game of bargaining and playing “chicken.”

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To subscribe to Gloria Center publications for free, write [email protected].

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