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Netanyahu snatches defeat from jaws of victory

Instead of composing a large and stable coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself with only 61 coalition members and must try to persuade the Zionist Camp to join his government.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon (L), and Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom attend a session of parliament in Jerusalem May 4, 2015. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday he would not join the new coalition government being formed by Netanyahu, citing disputes over legislation. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun  - RTX1BHVV
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government came into being May 6, just an hour and a half before the legal deadline by which he was required to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he had formed a coalition. Right after Netanyahu swept the elections March 17, it seemed to everyone — but especially to him — that the impending coalition negotiations would be decisive, quick and short. As people surrounding the prime minister said, “We intend to form a government within two or three weeks.” In fact, the reality was totally different.

Drunk on his electoral victory, Netanyahu was gripped by typical hubris, made every possible mistake and was caught off guard by his former partner and current nemesis Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Liberman. Liberman waited until right before the deadline was up to announce that he was resigning from the Foreign Ministry and withdrawing from the coalition. A natural coalition of 67 Knesset members evaporated immediately, and a very narrow government came into being instead. It was a painful process that involved very serious concessions. With the absolute minimum of 61 seats, the new government that was born had a right-wing-nationalist-religious agenda. In other words, it could be characterized as diplomatic hell and economic adventurism, or in short, a political nightmare. Suddenly, Netanyahu's great victory in the last election turned into a defeat.

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