23 january 2013, indelible

The opposite of risk-averse is putting on paper (or whatever this is) thoughts about the likely outcome of israeli coalition negotiations; but here we go. Whatever the instant consensus, this was not a defeat for netanyahu. Hardly a resounding victory, but at the end of the day he's still going to be prime minister and the most dominant figure in the country's history since ben gurion. Habayit hayehudi might not have won the "biggest surprise" award, but 12 seats was astounding, and allied to the likud it gives them a 42 seat starting point, making it the bedrock of the coalition. And stand together with his mentor bibi's former chief of staff surely will, no doubt merging with the likud just before the next election, a now tried and tested formula. The big decision then is whether they go with the traditional ultra orthodox (shas and utj bringing in 18 seats) or with the winner of aforementioned award tomi - sorry yair - lapid. This is a no brainer, both because secularism, the economy and the haredi-in-the-army issue has defined this election (much more so than the peace process), and because of arithmetic: lapid's 19 seats bring a majority, and will snag others to join too. The power then, as well as the zeitgeist, is all with lapid, but there is little doubt they will seal the deal and we can genuinely expect, for the first time, a shift in the balance on a fundamental israeli axis. Not alas from hawk to dove, but from religious to secular, which is big beans to most (secular, jewish) israelis, and who knows how one shift in the infinitely-fortified status quo may in time lead to another.