With his Yisrael Beytenu party controlling eight of the Knesset’s 120 seats, Avigdor Liberman could play a major role in determining which of the front runners in the last election will become prime minister. Last weekend he offered them an ultimatum: either the two form a unity government without the Arab parties, which Yisrael Beytenu will then join, or Lieberman will throw his support behind whichever party leader is willing to compromise. Lahav Harkov notes that this creates a version of the prisoner’s dilemma, where two prisoners, held separately, can obtain the most by refusing to cooperate with the police, but each can mitigate potential punishment by providing evidence against the other:
For Gantz to accept Liberman’s terms, he would likely have to break his campaign promise not to sit in a government led by a prime minister under indictment [as Netanyahu almost certainly will be].
For Netanyahu, accepting Liberman’s game plan could mean he ends up with nothing. If Netanyahu agrees to give up on the other right-wing parties in his bloc [in order to compromise with Blue and White], then some or all of them could give up on him. Which means that even if Gantz refuses to compromise and Netanyahu agrees, Gantz could still win [because Netanyahu will be left without sufficient support to form a government]. Netanyahu does not have that alternative possibility, because if he does not compromise, Liberman has said in that case he won’t join him, and the left-wing parties have promised not to be in any government with Netanyahu.
There’s a dilemma here for Liberman as well. If one side compromises and the other doesn’t, no matter which side it is, Liberman will have to renege blatantly on his own promises. Liberman pledged not to join a coalition with the ḥaredi parties unless they make major compromises that are anathema to them—which means that if he supports Netanyahu, the only path to a government involves his going back on his word. If Liberman ends up supporting Gantz, the only practical option at the moment is for the Blue and White leader to form a minority government [also] supported by the Arab Joint List, [which Liberman has consistently insisted should be left out of the government].