Israel's biggest news story of recent months happened in the early hours of May 8: the head of the opposition and new chairman of the centrist Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz, agreed to join Benjamin Netanyahu's government, thus postponing the early elections Netanyahu had announced just days before.
The new unity government has 94 members out of 120 members of the Knesset. In exchange for joining the government, Mofaz was promised the title of a Minister Without Portfolio for the (non-existent) peace process with the Palestinians.
The surprising news came as the Israeli public was gearing up for early elections on September 4. The unity government is designed to ensure that the Netanyahu government will remain in power for the next 15 months, and will make it the first government in decades in Israel to complete its full term. Mofaz, who had at first insisted he would never join Netanyahu's government, was apparently worried about taking part in elections since all the polls predicted his party would greatly diminish in power.
Israelis turned to Twitter, Facebook and blogs to comment on the surprising news. Many of them referred to Mofaz's harsh criticism of Netanyahu up until the moment he entered the government under Netanyahu's leadership. For example, on March 3, Mofaz's official Facebook page posted:
Israeli journalist Tal Schneider wrote on her blog about the winners and losers of this deal. Listing Mofaz as a loser, she explained:
Leading leftist blogger Yossi Gurvits commented on the implications of this move for the Kadima party:
Kadima, a party whose motto may well have been, “We took corruption out of Likud (and brought it to a new home),” also seems to be finished. Why would anyone vote for it again? During the 2009 elections, Livni managed to con the voters into believing she would prevent a Netanyahu government. Livni is out of office, but the party is now in Netanyahu’s lap. If Kadima was looking at 10 seats before Mofaz’s latest schtick, it has now sunk near the level of Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut party (which polls at zero seats).
Dr. Yuval Dror, a widely-read Israeli blogger, wrote:
ב-2 לפנות בוקר, כנחש מתחת לקש, חתם האפס הפוליטי המוחלט על עסקה עם אותו שקרן כדי לקבל משרת שר ללא תיק, כדי להציל את עורו ואת עור חבריו ולתת להם עוד שנה וחצי ממנעמי השלטון. כניסתו של מופז לממשלה הפכה את ממשלת ישראל לממשלה הכי צינית בתולדותיה…
At 2 AM, like a snake coming from under the hay, this complete political zero signed a deal with the same liar [Mofaz recently called Netanyahu a liar] to get the position of a Minister Without a Portfolio, to save his skin and the skin of his friends [Kadima members of the Knesset] and give them another year and a half of the benefits of government. The entry of Mofaz into the Government of Israel has made it the most cynical government in its history…
Amir Schiby posted this altered campaign banner for Mofaz, which in a few hours was shared on Facebook over 1,500 times:
The text reads:
Gil Osser posted an image of a chair, with the text:
Mofaz. Because everyone can piss from the springboard [Israeli saying that means showing complete disregard]. Shitting from it [on the public] is art.
An unprecedented sale for members of the Kadima party:
An orthopedic chair made of elephant skin, particularly suitable for the spineless. The chair moves forward [Kadima], backward, right and left and can be found in various colors.
Price: Principles | Payment method: 15 months [the length of time this government will remain in power thanks to the deal]
*The same model sold to members of HaAtzmaut Party in 2011.
Noy Alooshe, the Israeli musician behind Gaddafi's “Zenga Zenga” remix, produced a new remix of footage in which Mofaz proclaims Netanyahu is a liar:
While the overwhelming majority of reactions online were negative, blogger Tal Yaron disagreed. Yaron mentioned the agreement between Mofaz and Netanyahu, which stipulates that the new coalition will pass a law to draft the ultra-Orthodox to military/community service (which they're currently exempt from) and to institute changes in Israel's electoral system:
גם העברת חוק שינוי שיטת הבחירות יטיב עם מצבה של ישראל, בכך שיביא להקטנת כמות המפלגות המשתתפות במשחק הפוליטי ויגרום למירכוז השיח הפוליטי, להגברת המשילות ולהקטנת ההקצנה.
Changing Israel's electoral system will also improve Israel's situation, by reducing the number of political parties and centralizing the political discourse in Israel, increasing the ability to govern and reducing extremism.