Israel’s largest political coalition in history disintegrated yesterday, a mere 70 days after its formation. Kadima party chairman Shaul Mofaz announced his party’s break from the Likud government over the issue of universal enlistment to the IDF. In a letter penned to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mofaz charged that the premier “opted for a pact with the ultra-Orthodox instead of an agreement with the Zionist majority.” Netanyahu retorted saying the Kadima party had “passed up an opportunity to make historic change.”
The Israeli press tries to make sense of where things stand for the Netanyahu government and the Kadima party, and how things will progress from here.
Matti Tuchfeld writes in Israel Hayom that Mofaz’s political wheelings and dealings in entering and exiting the coalition “will be taught in schools for strategic counseling and spoken of aplenty in murmurs among the political elite.” He argues that Mofaz never intended to pass systemic and draft reform legislation but rather was merely stalling for time to push off elections. He received his 15 days of praise for pushing for draft reform, but the question remains, Tuchfeld writes, whether he will get his 15 minutes of satisfaction for quitting the coalition, or whether he will be forgotten in 15 seconds.
Aluf Benn posits in Haaretz that Mofaz’s political career has ended with his break from the coalition. His attempts to recast his failures as refusal to compromise on principles will be as convincing as those of his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, he writes. Since his election to the head of Kadima, Ben charges, “Mofaz has not seemed a serious replacement for the Netanyahu regime. Not as leader of the opposition, not as vice premier, and not as the renewed leader of the opposition.”
Benn concurs that the one thing Mofaz succeeded in doing was to delay the impending fall elections to 2013. Netanyahu’s rivals gained precious time to muster their forces and prepare for national elections. Nonetheless, he says, “there is still no distinct rival who can compete with Netanyahu for leadership of the country.”
Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that the citizens of Israel are the biggest losers in this whole coalition affair. It was “a one-time opportunity” and it was passed up. “The bottom line is that there was a failed political endeavor. And the failure is both [Kadima and Likud’s], and it is also national, and it is also personal,” she says.
Now that the political marriage is over, Kadmon does not expect Netanyahu to rush into elections. “Netanyahu could have gone to elections in September without being publicly contaminated by his connection to the ultra-Orthodox,” but now he wants to put that as far in the rear-view as possible.
Mazal Mualem agrees that the last thing Netanyahu wants right now is elections on the issue of universal draft. He writes in Maariv that thanks to Netanyahu, Kadima finally has an agenda that it had lacked for three years in the opposition. Netanyahu, for his part, may blame Mofaz for ruining an opportunity for historic change because of his narrow political views, “but the bottom line — any way you look at it, he was worried about the revenge of the ultra-Orthodox.”
The Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria decided Tuesday to approve the Ariel University Center’s upgrade to full university status. Haaretz writes that it is “the first time the establishment of a university over the Green Line has been announced” and that Ariel University has become Israel’s eighth research institution.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that all that remains is a stamp of approval from GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, because the IDF is the governing authority in the territory in question. Israel Hayom offers statistics about the newly coined university. It was founded 30 years ago and has 13,000 students, only 15% of whom live in the West Bank. The university employs 275 full-time lecturers, and has 357 graduate students.
Maariv publishes a Globalpost article that claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad is ethnically cleansing the Syrian coast and pushing Sunni Muslims out in order to create an Alawite state.
“On the ground we’re seeing an increasing Balkanization of the conflict,” said a Western diplomat based in Damascus.
The article claims the Assad regime increasingly sees the Orontes plain as a buffer zone between the predominantly Alawite west and the two major Sunni cities of Homs and Hama.
Yedioth Ahronoth writes that should the Damascene regime feel threatened it might use its chemical weapons against its own people. Syrian rebels battled regime forces in the streets outside Assad’s palace on Tuesday and attempted to break into the central bank. They failed, but succeeded in torching a number of government buildings.
Haaretz reports that IDF Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that the Syrian Army is redeploying its forces from the Golan Heights to the area around Damascus to combat rebels. Assad “is not worried about conflict with Israel,” he said. Kochavi also said satellite images showed Syrian artillery batteries firing at population centers “in the most brutal fashion.”