Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu: Master Of The (Political) Universe

Is Barack Obama watching this?  Probably not, he hates news that runs counter to his narrative, or to what he knows to be correct, facts be damned..

But even more so, he hates Benjamin Netanyahu.  On some three different occasions he's tried to take Bibi down a peg, and all three times the Israeli PM beat the living shit out of our leftist poseur-in-chief, making Obama his personal bitch and leaving him with just enough air to survive (albeit sullenly).

So to see Bibi call off the September elections he set in order to consolidate his power because...he was able to consolidate his power without them, would certainly be enough to drive our president mad with impotent rage.

But just in case he should cruise by this little roadside stand on the internet....here's a lesson in how a strong politician can bend a recalcitrant parliament to his will within the confines of a democratic system, and build a monster majority:

Netanyahu faced two critical issues his government couldn’t resolve in its existing composition. One was the need to pass new legislation on drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students by August 1, when the Supreme Court’s invalidation of a law exempting them from service takes effect.

The other issue is the 2013 budget, which must be passed by December 31. Though Israel is still doing well by Western standards, its export-driven economy has inevitably been hurt by the global crisis, and particularly the downturn in Europe, its largest export market. It therefore faces a larger-than-expected deficit that necessitates budget cuts.

But when elections seem imminent – as they did, due to the crisis over the draft issue – it’s impossible to get Knesset members to agree to cuts; in fact, it’s usually impossible even to keep them from legislating hefty new expenditures. Hence, the only solution was new elections: A new government, with years yet to serve, could afford to make the necessary cuts.

With Kadima on board, however, both these issues become solvable. Netanyahu now has a solid majority even without Shas, enabling him to tackle the draft exemptions issue. And the government is now stable enough to survive the remaining 18 months of its term, so passing a responsible budget becomes feasible.

Yet it was only the credible threat of new elections that persuaded Kadima to join him: With polls showing it would lose almost two-thirds of its Knesset seats if elections were held today, the party desperately needed more time to rehabilitate itself. New party chairman Shaul Mofaz had hoped to do so as leader of the opposition. But by announcing new elections, Netanyahu essentially gave him an ultimatum: If you want more time, you’ll have to join my government

Cunning, but farsighted too.  Bi-partisan while remaining transparent (especially for a back-room deal).

Four traits our current president sorely lacks. Which explains why the nation - as well as the man himself - founder in seas that grow ever more treacherous...

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