Netanyahu and the art of coalition formation

When President Reuven Rivlin officially tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a government last week, Netanyahu said he wanted to get started as soon as possible on building a coalition with the same partners he had for the past four years.

Of course, there was an unavoidable obstacle in the way of that goal: Passover. Only the nonreligious parties were willing to start this week – meaning Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu – so not much progress was made.

If you’ve ever done a logic puzzle involving building a seating chart, you can understand what Netanyahu is going through right now. This one can only sit in this seat, but won’t sit next to that one or the other, etc., and now Netanyahu has to find room for them all around one cabinet table.

Except that in those puzzles, the rules are solid and can’t be broken, while in coalition negotiations the bombastic demands we’ve been hearing for the past week-plus are really opening gambits. Only the parties making modest requests will get everything they want, while the others will have to prioritize. Continue reading

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