In the never-a-dull-moment world of Middle East politics, an important drama is unfolding in yet another key location. Forget for a moment the Iranian nuclear program. Ignore just for now efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to meet face to face. Set aside the encounter between the Turkish prime minister and the leader of Hamas, speculation about how long the Egyptian president will live and who will succeed him, and the never-ending efforts to form a government in Iraq. It's time now to take a closer look at the tense events in the inner sanctum of Israeli politics, and the possibility that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition could either collapse or suddenly transform itself into something completely different from what it is today.
Netanyahu is trying to hold his coalition together in its current shape. But his efforts may fail, potentially transforming the Israeli government, Israeli policies and the political landscape of the region. Depending on the final outcome of this squabble, changes in the cabinet room in Jerusalem could alter decision-making in Washington, not to mention Ramallah, Riyadh and even Tehran.
Tensions inside Netanyahu's rightist coalition have been building for months. In fact, the coalition came to life amid great controversy and the internal contradictions among its members have never disappeared. The governing coalition is heavily tilted to the right of the political spectrum, but it also includes the left-of-center Labor party. It includes ultra-orthodox members, but also secular parties. Now, talk that Netanyahu's cabinet could come apart has become so pervasive that in the last few days both the prime minister and the foreign minister have found it necessary to vouch for their desire to see the government stay in place.