Negotiations to form a Unity Government between the two front-runners of the last three elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Benny Gantz (Kahol Lavan = Blue and White) came to an abrupt halt this afternoon, due to a disagreement regarding the Committee for the Appointment of Judges. Really!
One would think that after jumping over difficult hurdles and issues regarding sovereignty and security, the two politicians were well on their way to reaching agreement on the formation of a Unity Government that would be able to focus attention the national health crisis and the economic crisis. But, no! There was another bug that caused not only social, but political, distancing between the two men who were supposed to take turns being the shepherds of the sheep and return us once again to enjoy greener pastures.
They were close. It was almost a done deal. But, the Likud party wanted to re-negotiate the issue of being able to veto judicial appointments, an issue that the Blue and White party said it would not allow and then promptly announced the cessation of negotiations to set up an emergency government. According to Blue and White, “After reaching understanding in all matters, the Like requeste to re-open discussions regarding the activity of the Committee for the Appointment of Judges. As a result of that, negotiations were discontinued. We won’t allow any change in the function of the Committee for the Appointment of Judges and injury to democracy.”
It appears that the Likud had earlier waived a demand for a veto in the Committee appointing judges. This is no small matter, given the fact that the Ministry of Justice was conceded to the Blue and White party. What the Likud wanted is a mechanism that would allow the rightist bloc to cancel or approve judges. Blue and White refuses to permit this and contends that what is really in issue is a change in the constitution – an interesting contention given the fact that Israel does not have a written constitution, but a number of Basic Laws, which taken together are treated as a constitution. When the demand was made, the talking stopped. When I first heard the news, I thought for a moment that it was talking about the appointment of a judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, reality took resurfaced a moment later.
After reaching agreement on a major issue like Israel being able to impose sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (after redrawing borders in line with the Deal of the Century), are we going to regress to where we were a month ago following the third round of elections because of an inability to agree how a judicial appointment committee is to function? Amazing.
Like the rest of the world, Israel is dealing with a health crisis the likes of which we having seen since Biblical times and economy that is trying to stay afloat. It needs an injection is wisdom and courage, working together, to get us back on our feet, physically and economically. The last thing we need two days before the celebration of the Feast of Passover is the continuation of an interim government. Cautious optimism dwindled to renewed pessimism over the inability to agree how judges – who should be impartial in their decisions – are to be appointed.
Both parties should be ashamed of themselves. The apparent last-minute breakdown in negotiations leaves the country with neither an emergency government, nor a unity government. Gantz turned his back on those who ran the political gauntlet with him (except for former General Gabi Ashkenazi), purportedly for the very purpose of avoiding a fourth round of elections. If anything was clear following the elections, it was that he would not be able to form a majority government, because of defections from different parties, including from his own. Netanyahu, for his part, conducted negotiations for an emergency, unity government to the almost virtual exclusion of those individuals and smaller parties who made up the rightist bloc and who backed and supported him during the past year and a half through three difficult and very costly and less than honoring elections. In the process, he alienated many from within his own party and others over a number of disastrous concessions relating to not only Judea dn Samaria, but also the Jordan Valley.
Both men made promises to the nation. Both men reneged on their promises. Both ran on platforms supported by a coalition of parties, as political blocs. Both left their colleagues in the lurch. Both are back to playing politics. A fourth election looms large on the horizon. But, if we go that route, Gantz will not have the backing that he had for the last year and a half. Netanyahu’s trial will have begun and how that will end is still an open question.
Netanyahu just addressed the nation and announced a tightening of restrictions. A general lockdown will go into effect from tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. until 07:00 Friday morning, both Israel time. This Feast of Passover will not be like the Festival of Purim. When we ask: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The answer will be: “Because Elijah had to stay home due to the lockdown.” This is the first Passover since the Exodus from Egypt that the nation of Israel is commanded to stay in their homes!
Yes, there is a time for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including a time to embrace and a time to [practice social distancing – 3:5]; a time to open the gates (doors) – Isaiah 26:2) and a time to close them and not go outside (Exodus 12:2). It’s at times like these that we need to remember that we face temporary, physical confinement. But, spiritually, we are not confined.
“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in Whom I trust!’ For it is He Who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.” (Psalm 91:1-3)
“[You] shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11)
Celebrate, be well, bless, be blessed and be a blessing!