January 29, 2003
Prime Minister Sharon basically has three choices in forming the new government, none of them particularly smooth:
- A secular unity government with Shinui and Labor;
- A unity government as it was until last November, based on Labor and the religious parties, with or without National Union; and without Shinui;
- A right-wing coalition with the National Union and the religious parties.
The Prime Minister is very wary of the third option, lest he be constrained diplomatically by the right-wing parties. He clearly prefers the second option, as he has said many times, but he faces two major hurdles along this path. One is that the right-wing is the Likud’s traditional ally, and many in the Likud will object forcefully to a government that leans so far to the left.
In addition, Labor is steadfast in its opposition to joining a unity government with the Likud. “We will remind the public over and over again during this Knesset that there is an alternative!” said Labor’s Amram Mitzna at party headquarters last night. Sharon will attempt to take advantage of the “holes” in Labor’s opposition to a unity government. Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna began meeting with party leaders this morning, attempting to strengthen their opposition to joining a unity government. Mitzna feels that the only way to rebuild the party is to remain in the opposition. “A party that does not know how to be an opposition will not be able to rule,” he said. Ariel Sharon, Tommy Lapid, and others have called upon Labor to “consider the good of the country, not the Labor Party.” Oded Tira, President of the Manufacturers Association, also called on Labor to join a unity government, saying that this would be the only way to make the necessary cuts in the national budget.
Shinui party leader Tommy Lapid called upon Prime Minister Sharon to form a “secular unity government” of Likud, Labor, and Shinui – a coalition of 71 Knesset seats. Shinui and the hareidi parties do not go together, and Lapid said he would sit in the same government with Shas only in an emergency wartime government. “I will join with the first rocket, and quit with the last,” he said. Commentator Uri Orbach said last night, “The fact that Shinui won a full 15 seats only on the basis of its hatred for hareidim is a mark of disgrace for Israeli society.”
A full three-quarters of Jerusalemites voted for right-wing or religious parties: Almost 27.8% for Likud, slightly less than the national average; 18.1% for United Torah Judaism; 12.6% for Shas; NRP- 6.5%; National Union – 5.6%; and even 2.5% for Herut. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, gave less than 43% to these parties – less than in Amram Mitzna’s hometown of Haifa.