After the cordial reception he received at the White House, Netanyahu will return tomorrow to Israel and will turn his attention to political mechanisms for Kadima’s joining the coalition: The PMO Chief of Staff, Natan Eshel, met with senior members of the party a few days ago and through them submitted a detailed proposal for joining the government.
At this point, the proposal Eshel submitted includes a high number of ministerial posts, appointing Livni as the head of the negotiating team with the Palestinians, and a number of other incentives, but without any indication that either the coalition will be rebuilt from scratch, basic policy be redrawn, or an embarking on a wide-ranging diplomatic process.
In the thick of these contacts lay strategic advisor Shaya Segel and media advisor Nir Hefetz. Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni is aware of the contacts, but there is no change in her basic position and at this point, all that’s going on is perhaps a raise in the level of contacts, but not a serious breakthrough.
It needs to be emphasized: The chances of this initiative succeeding are still very low. There is no negotiation taking place between the two sides and as far as is known, Benjamin Netanyahu is far from the point of a coalition breakdown and building another in its place, which is an explicit condition of Livni’s for joining the government.
In parallel with the political developments, the Americans are reportedly willing to forego their demand for an extension of the settlement freeze in return for other confidence-building measures. This could be due to the fact that Netanyahu’s coalition may actually fall if the settlement freeze is extended. The three-man Jewish Home party has already said it will leave, and turmoil within the Prime Minister’s own Likud party would necessarily result if construction is not restarted by the end of September. Likud MK Danny Danon was quoted as saying that he would fight to bring down his own coalition rather than lose the Judean and Samarian territories, and the Lieberman faction has reiterated many times that construction will restart by the end of September.
On the other side, Labor is threatening to leave the coalition if the settlement freeze is not extended. The question remains as two what Kadima will do. Either join the coalition and stabilize it somehow, or watch it fall and go to early elections in an attempt to win this time around.
In such a case, Netanyahu’s own position is not guaranteed in his own party, since the Likud constitution stipulates that internal elections for party leader must be held before any new national elections. Potential challengers to the Likud throne include Danny Danon, Gideon Sa’ar, and Moshe Feiglin.