The obscenity known as the “change government” is likely to come into existence this Sunday when Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin calls for a vote. For it appears that the hodgepodge coalition put together by Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid, pictured) will in the end garner the necessary minimum of 61 votes. And Naftali Bennett will – Heaven help us – come forward as prime minister.
As this reality sinks in, the hopes for a turnaround nurtured by those of us who dread what’s coming have been – if not quite dashed yet – severely diminished. There had been a few within the coalition who had expressed reservations about supporting this government-in-formation; but (with the exception of Amichai Chikli of Yamina) they have decided they will vote with it after all and it appears the coalition is likely to have sufficient support to proceed.
The key figure here was Nir Orbach. Currently in Yamina, he had come from the Jewish Home Party and would have seemed a good bet to hold out. But he didn’t. And Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s second in Yamina. Is she at peace with her decision? It is beyond my comprehension.
But maybe I should not say that. What this tells us is simply that this is a coalition based on hate. The antipathy felt by many towards Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is huge. In spite of his major accomplishments, in spite of the ways in which he has served Israel well, his severe failings on an inter-personal level have brought him down. It is beyond sad. Some say this is a classic Greek tragedy.
But there is this: Once he has been removed from office, and the members of the new coalition feel they have “won,” what will hold them together? A government based on hate, rather than on strong common principles, will not stay united. It is simply a question of how long they can last.
I am not going to write in detail here about coalition agreements – insofar as they have been leaked – or what we might expect in the days ahead, because as much as it appears to be coming, the government is not yet a reality. And who knows? As I write, all coalition agreements have not yet been signed because of disagreements regarding management of road construction in Judea & Samaria.
There are, however, some observations that I would like to share.
What worries me the most now is the fact that we are not projecting strength.
Our enemies – be they in Iran, or Islamist Arabs in Hamas or in the Palestinian Authority or right here in Israel – can smell lack of national self-confidence kilometers away. And it emboldens them. When we are seen to hesitate, when we show unease about taking a stand, when we are exceedingly eager to make conciliatory moves, they don’t miss it for a moment. They understand power and the lack thereof.
The first question I would pose, then, is how this new government that’s about to be approved can possibly project strength when there is so much disparity. It is immediately obvious that there is very little they will come together on. In fact, I have read that the parties entering the coalition have agreed that there are issues they will not even attempt to take on, because they know they cannot. Shackled going in. This is bad.
Some commentators have actually said that having a government that is shackled with regard to contentious issues will be good for the country – it will bring us a time of domestic peace. I most strenuously disagree.
Naftali Bennett can babble on from now to the end of time about how he is “right wing.” Already ludicrous (and I’ll get to that), but how does he imagine he might take strong right wing stands when he heads a government that is frozen?
There are leftists in this new government, leftists who will be eager to look nice before the world, and disinclined to challenge the Biden administration. These are the sort of people who do not show strength: Most notably, Meretz and Labor, and to some degree, Blue & White and Yesh Atid as well.
Incredibly, within this group are those just itching to sit down with the Palestinian Authority and negotiate a “two-state solution.” As I understand it, some of them have already extended reassurances to the Biden administration in this regard (it wouldn’t be good to cross the Biden administration, would it?). If reports are accurate, Defense Minister Gantz (Blue & White), when he was in the US recently, was one of those who offered such reassurances, on behalf of his up-and- coming political coalition not his current one.
Now, I would be adamantly opposed — because I consider all of the Land of Israel to belong to the Jews by virtue of heritage and law – but I believe a cogent argument might be made by a leftist for negotiating a state for Palestinian Arabs on some portion of Judea & Samaria at some point in the future when they have demonstrated sincere intentions to live in peace with us.
What is totally incomprehensible is the notion that any such negotiation should take place now with Mahmoud Abbas, who is an inciter of terrorism and a supporter of terrorists. Abbas has just awarded $42,000 to the family of Muhammad Halabi, a terrorist who was shot dead after knifing two Israelis to death six years ago in the Old City. Halabi has been honored posthumously by the PA, and now Abbas was pleased to have the opportunity to help his family buy a house.
It damages Israeli honor and security to even suggest sitting at a table with this man. And yet there are those who do. I imagine they convince themselves that this inveterate terrorist would change his ways if given a good deal. What lala land are they in?
Our enemies are watching, and noting it all carefully, perhaps chuckling a bit. This is very bad.
Oh, but I’m not done yet. It gets much worse.
This coalition, as you all realize, includes the Islamist party Ra’am, headed by Mansour Abbas, which is connected to the Islamist Movement in Israel.
This is what Dr. Mordechai Kedar says so powerfully about the Islamist Movement (emphasis added):
“One should not be impressed by the suits and ties of the Islamic Movement’s MKs, their flawless Hebrew, their academic degrees, and the slogans they voice. The Islamic Movement in Israel has not relinquished its ultimate goal—the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state—and everything it has done since entering the Knesset has been geared toward the moment it will be rendered kosher by Zionist Jews whose personal ambitions and political disputes have paralyzed their ability to put the country first.”
Moti Kedar knows whereof he speaks. Parties left, right and center are culpable, he says:
“All the sugar-coated slogans that have been fed to the media over the last few months, such as ‘a deep internal change has occurred in the Arab sector,’…’they want to integrate into the society and the state,’ —every last one of them is meant to cover the nakedness of the politicians and their lack of interest in salvaging the political system from the crisis into which they have plunged it. If they wanted to, they could solve the problem very quickly: by renouncing the personal and sectorial considerations that guide them and acting on behalf of the national interest.”
Moti is correct in his concerns and his charges; I know this with certainty.
For the various elements in the coalition to hate Binyamin Netanyahu so much that they are prepared to get into bed with an Islamist in order to take him down. This is sick, and this is destructive. And I forgive not one of them. But especially do I not forgive those parties – Yamina and New Hope – that have the audacity to claim that are right-wing.
Already disconcerting concessions have been made to Ra’am in their coalition agreement with Yesh Atid: concessions regarding such things as legalizing illegal Arab villages in the Negev.
But, please, follow this train of thought with me. Ra’am was brought in by Lapid because without this party he would not have been able to achieve the 61 mandates necessary to form a government. Now he has just 61, with no margin to spare.
There had been talk about bringing in the two ultra-Orthodox parties – Shas and UTJ – after the government is established to provide a safety margin. But that is not going to happen: the parties have indicated they are not interested, and Avigdor Lieberman, who is in the coalition and very anti-Haredi, has indicated he will not sit with them.
This means Lapid and Bennett must work with the 61 mandates. This means if Mansour Abbas should decide to pull out, the government would fall. Which leads us to speculate that members of the coalition are likely to be accommodating to Abbas in an effort to ensure that he does not pull out.
And what would make Abbas most likely to pull out? I suggest to you, dear readers, that anything that would put Abbas at odds with fellow Islamists would move him in that direction. Otherwise the situation would be untenable for him.
Israel has a grave problem right now with regard to Israeli Arabs who are Islamists. Not all Israeli Arabs, by any means!! And I will come back to this. I refer to those who are insurrectionists – who acted violently in May in what can only be described as pogroms. It is an exceedingly painful situation that has been exposed now and must be dealt with. But can it be dealt at all with Mansour Abbas – who in truth sympathizes with and makes excuses for the insurrectionists!! — in the coalition?
We just completed a mini-war with Hamas, and our officials, including Benny Gantz, who is Defense Minister now and is projected to be again in the new government, warned Hamas that this is a new time. No minor aggression will tolerated. No drizzle of rockets. No incendiary balloons. Israel will respond in all instances.
But will Israel respond, if there is a party within the government that shares ideology with Hamas: An ideology that seeks the disappearance of a Zionist state. Of course, Hamas seeks its ends via violence and Ra’am prefers subversion from within, but….
All of these scenarios are hypothetical of course. We don’t yet know how matters will play out, even as we are on the cusp of a disastrous situation.
I am bewildered by the fact that I am hearing now that coalition agreements will not be made public until after Sunday’s vote. I had the distinct impression that they were supposed to be made public before. This suggests that certain agreements if known might undermine the votes for the coalition. Rumors continue to fly.
With it all, hope must not be abandoned. Without hope we become frozen in anger and fear, and I do not wish to go there. For a time, I could not take a deep breath, or sleep soundly. But I am holding my head high.
I will continue to write, and tell it as it is to the best of my ability.
And yes, I am very concerned that we are not projecting strength.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.