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Netanyahu’s next term: different parties, same priorities

Fresh off winning a third term, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to form a national unity government with the centrist Yesh Atid. At today’s cabinet meeting, he outlined his top four priorities:

  1. Preventing a nuclear Iran
  2. Passing a budget
  3. More equitably sharing the burden of Israeli military service
  4. Moving forward in diplomacy with the Palestinians

Last May, Netanyahu formed a short-lived unity government with the centrist Kadima. Back then, these were his top priorities:

  1. More equitably sharing the burden of Israeli military service
  2. Passing a budget
  3. Reforming the structure of government
  4. Moving forward in diplomacy with the Palestinians

So for all the conversation about how much has changed since the Jan. 22 election, the prime minister’s agenda looks nearly the same as it did last year. His unstated top priority last May was almost certainly stopping Iran from achieving nuclear capability; now, Yesh Atid says that reforming the structure of Israel’s government is near the top of its list. Two different governments, same five priorities.

Last year, Netanyahu faced setbacks in all five. Seven weeks after joining the unity government, Kadima split, virtually ending any hope of passing a military service law, and paving the way for early elections. In October, unable to pass a budget, Netanyahu dissolved the government and called for elections – without electoral reform. In November, despite the U.S. and Israel’s fierce opposition, the Palestinian Authority won non-member state status in the U.N. with an overwhelming majority. And as Netanyahu has continued to remind the world, Iran keeps developing its nuclear capability.

Judging from his statement today, Netanyahu sees his third term as a renewed mandate to pursue the same agenda – albeit with a weaker Likud party and a different set of partners. And the election results seem to say that that’s what voters want. Netanyahu got the most votes, and his runner up, Yesh Atid, was founded specifically to address most of those five issues: the budget, military service, electoral reform and a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

These priorities may very well change depending on whom Netanyahu brings into his coalition. In his statement today, he said, “Our goal is to unite the nation around these tasks and not divide it.” If he succeeds, Israel could be in for some major changes. If not, the next elections may be just around the corner.