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Politics: Picking the winning teams?

Salesmen of Israel Bonds in North America have been saying for decades that Israel Bonds is a full sentence with both a subject and a predicate.

And now, it is also the key to the September 17 election.

The political bonds on both the Left and Right will go a long way toward determining who President Reuven Rivlin will ask to form a governing coalition in the days after the election.

Those bonds only have to be made by August 1, the final date when lists must be submitted to the Central Elections Committee.

That is what happened ahead of the last election, when Blue and White was formed in all-night meetings between its four leaders and their associates, and other possible political partners were left behind.

But this time, the bonds are expected to come as early as next week, because of artificial deadlines and because the election cannot really move into high gear until all the players pick sides.

Unlike Blue and White, Labor and Meretz both have party institutions that must approve any potential partnership, which will expedite decisions that must be made about potential bonds on the Left.

New Right leader Naftali Bennett said six weeks ago that he would not address his future until July 15, which is Monday. He set that artificial deadline in order to keep pressure off him, and to give his political ally Ayelet Shaked time to think.

Shaked had plenty of time to consider her future on a family vacation to the Canadian Rockies last weekend. She told her supporters in a meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday night that she would announce her decision “at the beginning of next week,” which coincides conveniently with Bennett’s deadline.

There are five parties to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu: Bayit Yehudi, National Union, New Right, Zehut and Otzma Yehudit. None of them can guarantee crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold.

There are five parties to the left of Benny Gantz’s and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White: Labor, Meretz, Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, and Orly Levy-Abecassis’s Gesher (though Gesher’s views on diplomatic issues are unclear). Some of those parties also cannot guarantee crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold.

That makes a total of 10 parties whose political future remains unclear and will be decided in the very near future.

There are those who endorse the simplest solution on paper: put these five in one room and those five in another, give them a couple of really good marriage counselors, and don’t let them out until they both have a deal.

Barak is apparently one of them. He has given many lengthy interviews and delivered many speeches since he announced his political comeback on June 26, but he expressed his view clearest where he feels most comfortable: on social media.

“Stav, I agree with every word” Barak wrote on Wednesday night, in response to a long tweet posted by Labor MK and leadership race runner-up Stav Shaffir, which started with her reaction to videos unscrewing bottle caps posted by Barak and Lapid.

“Friends, the bottle cap challenge videos were very nice,” Shaffir tweeted. “But we have one mission now: to unite. We have 22 days left, and one ballot would be best: Blue and White, Labor, Barak, Meretz. These parties agree that without democracy, there will be no Israel and that Bibi intends to destroy our democracy.”

Shaffir called it “no excuse” that Blue and White does not want to create any more political mergers.

“The public cannot find the ideological differences between the parties,” she said. “Whatever divides us is small compared to our larger goal: saving the country.”

SO WILL Barak and Shaffir’s dream to unite as many parties as possible on the Left come true? Unlikely.

The bad blood between Barak and new Labor leader Amir Peretz has not cooled since 12 years ago, when Barak angered Peretz by firing him from his post as defense minister by fax while Peretz was at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office planning an attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor.

Unlike meetings with Gantz and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz over the past week, Peretz noticeably did not release a picture following his meeting Wednesday night with Barak. Even the location of the meeting was kept a secret, perhaps because they did not want people to listen to them shout at each other.

The most likely scenario on the Left remains an alliance among Labor, Meretz, Hatnua and Gesher, which leaves Barak on the outside. If that happens and Barak’s party continues to languish in polls not paid for by Barak himself (as was the only poll that gave him six seats), Barak could still pull out of the race before the ballots are printed.

On the Right, it is looking like the same thing can happen. The bonds could be dictated not by whatever small ideological differences there are between the parties, but by long running personal disputes and personality problems.

The scorecard on the Right is no less complicated than the Left.

Bennett and Shaked were angry at each other following their failure to cross the threshold in the April 9 race, but they have made up and will run together again.

Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz and his predecessor Bennett have made up as well. Peretz and National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich fought over portfolios and positioning, but have gotten along since Smotrich became a cabinet minister.

Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin has recently become more modest and is willing to give up the top slot to either Bennett or Shaked if New Right and Zehut run together, and Bennett no longer has a problem with Feiglin.

So who is still fighting? Peretz and Shaked, who are contesting the top slot if their parties run together. Shaked is also fighting with Zehut, and unlike Bennett, does not want to run together with Feiglin’s party.

Otzma Yehudit is fighting with Bayit Yehudi over slots on a potential joint list, and the name Union of Right-Wing Parties. Otzma Yehudit is also still being vetoed by Bennett and Feiglin, but not by Shaked.

Could the leaders of all five parties listen to Shaffir and decide that “whatever divides us is small compared to our larger goal: saving the country?” Unlikely.

The most likely scenario on the Right remains a merger among Bayit Yehudi, the National Union and the New Right, leaving both Otzma Yehudi and Zehut outside and under pressure to quit the race.

Will those political deals end up helping those parties increase their power when the votes are counted on the night of September 17?

That depend on how Israel bonds with them.

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