In last-minute haggling, a hodgepodge “coalition” was asserted to be formed a week and a half ago by Yair Lapid, the head of the second largest political party in Israel, that garnered 16 seats in the last election, the fourth held in the last two years. However, as I pen these words, the coalition that is in the process of being approved by the members of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), will not be headed up by him as the Prime Minister for at least another two years. Instead, Naftali Bennett, the head of the Yamina (meaning “right”, as in direction), which succeeded to gain 8 Knesset seats will become the Prime Minister for the first two years.
The dissonant voices, stretching across the highway of political opinion from far left to center right, had and will continue to have difficulty agreeing with one another … except with regard to their united efforts to remove Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israel’s present and longest-serving Prime Minister. In order to achieve that coalition, almost all of the party leaders had to compromise and back-track on promises made to their various constituencies. Bennett zig-zagged back and forth between joining forces with Lapid or with Netanyahu, ultimately ending up with Lapid. Such a move, and the compromises he made by becoming affiliated in a Lapid-led government, could effectively destroy any confidence that the voting public might have placed in him. Now, with Bennett poised to take over the reins of government, one would have to question whether his move in joining Lapid was meant to primarily topple Netanyahu, a seemingly altruistic move for the benefit of the nation, or to exalt himself as the king pin. According to Bennett, everything will be done for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Time will tell.
The coalition is in the process of being approved by the Knesset. The new “government”, if we can call it that, needs at least 61 Knesset members, who are prepared to support it. Last-minute threats from certain disgruntled members of two parties within the “coalition” raised concerns of potential failure to be approved. But, it appears that notwithstanding those threats, all seems to be well in lala-land. That means that Netanyahu will become part of the books of Israel’s history.
In order to establish the “coalition”, Lapid had to make various deals with the heads of different political parties, some of which are ultra-leftist in policy and in practice. At least one small Arab party, Ra’am, that will have 4 Knesset seats in the newly-formed coalition, has agreed to join the coalition and added its signature to an agreement. It is poised to become the first Arab party to be part of an Israeli government. Another potential deal, however remote it may seem today, could be with the UAL, which could abstain from voting, to allow the coalition to maintain its majority. Much has already been said over the concerns of bringing the Ra’am party into the government. Right-wing parties pulled out all the stops to try to convince some within Bennett’s party to “jump ship” and not vote for approval of the new government. The pressure applied was so intense that certain party members needed police protection from threats made against them.
As mentioned at the outset, even though Lapid received the mandate from the President of Israel to form a new government (after Netanyahu’s efforts to do so were unsuccessful within the time allotted him by law), the one actually being sworn in as Prime Minister is Bennett. This was a potential legal issue that could have ended up in Israel’s Supreme Court and delay the swearing in of a new government until a court decision is rendered. This option, however, was not pursued. There is actually a precedent for such a political “bait and switch”, that took place in 1961, when David Ben-Gurion led a government formed by Levi Eshkol. So, for the time being, the “coalition” is in the process of forming was has become designated as the “government of change”.
From the looks of things, before the end of the day, the “coalition” and “government of change” will receive approval and a new government will be established. Most of the coalition members have never spent a day being part of a ruling government. In other words, all they knew was that they needed to oppose the moves of the Netanyahu government, which went contrary to their political ideologies. In short, most of the new kids on the block lack the experience in making decisions, as those responsible for those decisions, that will affect the nation as a whole. On the other side of the political aisle will be members of the Likud and some members of the right-wing, religious parties, who will now challenge government policies and decisions, which may be a totally new experience for some of them. Both sides will have to learn how to function in their new capacities.
Adding to the difficulties of “newness” is the make-up of the coalition. The only thing they really had in common was their united goal of removing P.M. Netanyahu. Leftists and rightists will need to put aside their ideological differences in order to work together. This will be a formidable task, if not an impossible one, considering how far apart some of them are ideologically. Hawks and doves will have to sit around the same table and agree regarding a broad range of matters pertaining to the military. Expansionist needs to sit with the leaders of parties seeking and/or agreeing to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in the heartland of Israel. Gay and anti-gay leaders will face off at cabinet meetings. Anti-religious views will encroach on long-established policies, such as allowing commercial businesses and public transportation to operate on Shabbat, or civil marriages, including same-sex marriages, funding for religious institutions and the like. In short, the personal and political ideological differences and the lack of experience of leading, and of opposing, coupled with the long-entrenched habit of fighting and arguing with “the other side” will make for a very fragile, new government, with a short fuse that could be easily ignited and blow up in everyone’s faces.
How did we manage to get into such a situation? With a little (actually, more than a little) help from the media. In his well-written article in Israel Hayom of May 31st, Noam Fathi notes that deception of the public on a national scale requires the magical assistance of those referred to as analysts and news reporters. The conscience of the nation has been seared.
If ever there was a need for Divine intervention, guidance and wisdom, particularly in a predominantly secular government, this is the time. We should always remember that when everything was dark, formless and void, God, through Whom all things are possible, said, “Let there be light!”
Have a great week.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.