Built Bibi Tough

Why Netanyahu's Coalition Is More Durable Than You Think

Israelis carry flags during a march marking Jerusalem Day, May 17, 2015. Baz Ratner / Reuters

Israel’s Knesset is in business—at least for now. After weeks of negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has won the support of five parties, equal to 61 out of 120 members of the parliament, the minimum needed to form a government. Not surprisingly, many observers doubt the new administration’s durability. With the support of just over half of the Knesset, and given that the parties in the coalition have different legislative priorities, any party—or even any member of a party—could bring down the government over a minor policy dispute.

Still, although no one should expect this government to last its full four-year term—instabilities built into the political system itself preclude that—it may well limp along for longer than most assume. This is for two reasons: because a balance of fear exists between Netanyahu and his coalition partner-rivals, and because of the temptation for members of the opposition to join the coalition.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a group photo with ministers of the new Israeli government in Jerusalem, May 19, 2015.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a group photo with ministers of the new Israeli government in Jerusalem, May 19, 2015. Nir Elias / Reuters
First, although the coalition appears fragile, in reality its members do not want to take a chance on new elections. The 2015 vote took place only about two years after the previous one. Although voter turnout increased and a number of issues were deemed critical enough to draw out different segments of the population, there was already a general fatigue with the conduct of politics and with Netanyahu himself. A new election will not go over well with the public.

For his part, Netanyahu is well aware that his victory is qualified. Before the vote, polls and anecdotal evidence indicated that he and Likud could well lose. His subsequent win can be partially attributed to his scare-mongering in the week before the vote, but that served more to draw support from other right-wing parties than from the electorate itself. Moreover, Israelis have tended to view Netanyahu as the best among a roster of only tolerable candidates for prime minister. Another election is unlikely to consolidate more support for him.

The other party leaders in the

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