Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coalition Government: Partner and Opponent

This BBC report of Israeli military action against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, points up an interesting aspect of coalition government in a parliamentary system.

The Israeli parties continue their campaign for the general election that is scheduled for February 10, 2009. But, in the meantime, two of the major parties, Kadima and Labor, are partners in a coalition government.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, of Kadima, is a caretaker prime minister who is not leading his party in the campaign. But that party's new leader, Tzipi Livni, is very much involved in this situation, as foreign minister. One of her rivals, although not her principal rival, is Ehud Barak, the defense minister, who is leader of the Labor Party.

Livni and Barak need to perform a delicate balancing act. They need to get the message across to Hamas that together they form a united front that will take all necessary action to protect Israel. Simultaneously, each leader's message to the Israeli electorate is that their party, and not any other, deserves their votes.

In theory that's a difficult passage to navigate. But, Israeli politicians have a lot of practice at it, because in the six-decade history of the State of Israeli, they have constantly had both security threats and coalition governments.

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