False UPI report on instability of Netanyahu coalition

Posted On January 6 , 2011
Category - Opinion
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‘Media Distortion about Israel – One Example’

Daniel Pipes

Mark Lavie, a long-time Associated Press reporter in Israel, should know a thing or two about the politics in that country. But he writes today at “Israel’s Labor: We’ll quit if no progress to peace” about tensions in the ruling coalition:

An exit by Labor, a moderate party sitting uncomfortably alongside hawks in the ruling coalition, could undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s parliamentary majority and force an election. That would sideline Mideast peace efforts for months.

These two sentences contain much loaded language (“moderate,” “peace efforts”) but what’s really noteworthy is that Lavie writes later in the same article that:

Even if Netanyahu loses Labor’s 13 seats, his parliamentary majority would remain intact, though barely. Counting Netanyahu’s own Likud Party, the five hawkish parties in his coalition have 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a tiny majority even if Labor leaves.

Not only does Lavie contradict himself here – would the government fall or not? – but he makes multiple other errors. For starters, he fails to mention that:

* Netanyahu could invite the National Union, a right-wing party with four seats, into the coalition.

* Narrow coalitions are the rule in Israeli politics and large coalitions like Netanyahu’s are the exception.

* Coaltions of 61 have been stable for years in the past.

* Yitzhak Rabin passed the Oslo Accords in 1993 with just 61 votes.

* Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, broke from Likud; Netanyahu could potentially split Kadima and pick up another 10 seats.

* Were new elections to take place, polling strongly suggests that Likud and affiliated parties would gain seats. Here is a sample poll, from Dec. 5, 2010, with current parliamentary seats in brackets:

32 [27] Likud

26 [28] Kadima

18 [15] Yisrael Beiteinu

08 [13] Labor

09 [11] Shas

05 [05] Yahadut Hatorah

03 [03] Jewish Home/NRP

02 [03] Meretz

04 [04] National Union

03 [00] Centrist party headed by Yair Lapid

10 [11] Arab parties

Doing the arithmetic, the coalition parties that now control 61 seats would, if these figures come true, control 67 seats in a new Knesset.

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