By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
What Binyamin Netanyahu sees as a threat many of us consider a promise. Friday’s front page of Yisrael Hayom – the daily freebee that his friend and massive supporter Sheldon Adelson, the American casino tycoon, created for his pal Bibi – quotes the latter saying, “If you don’t vote Likud – the government of the Right will fall.”
People some consider to be experts suggest that Netanyahu is panicking in the light of recent polls that put the Zionist Union, led by Herzog and Livni, in the lead. Even those who in the past said that Netanyahu would be a more suitable prime minister than Herzog seem to be having second thoughts.
People like to be on the winning side. The better Herzog’s party is doing in the polls the more acceptable he becomes as prime minister. So much for the maturity of public opinion. Rumours also have it that opposition to Netanyahu is growing stronger within his own party ranks. So much for the loyalty of the “faithful.”
Perhaps the subtext of the above cited headline should be, “If you don’t vote Likud – I will fall.” If Netanyahu falls, all those lawsuits against his wife and against him now pending will reach the courts. Think of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and where he’s today.
Of course, it’s not over until it’s over. The final result also depends on how the smaller parties will do and which side will offer them more goodies if they join its coalition. The Orthodox insist that they won’t sit in a government of which Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid is a member, but when push comes to shove we may find that they’ve been “quoted out of context” and prepared to join any government if the price is right. By all accounts, Herzog will need the Orthodox to form a government.
Ari Shavit, whom the world reads nowadays more than ever thanks to the deserved success of his book, “My Promised Land,” suggested in his Ha’aretz column earlier in the week that the very possibility of a Herzog government has restored hope to many Israelis. They’re hoping, it seems, that
- he’ll restore normal relations with the United States instead of siding with Republican extremists in Congress;
- he’ll see Israel’s security problems in the larger context than just Iran, something many experts in the field believe to be necessary;
- he’ll tackle the economic issues of the day, particularly the cost of housing which has soared because, according to one report, a third of all new homes have been bought by investors, not owner-tenants;
- he’ll stem the massive flow of funds and subsidies to the settlements;
- he’ll restart negotiations with the Palestinians and release the tax revenues which rightfully belong to the Palestinian Authority but that Israel is currently holding as retaliations for the Authority turning to the International Criminal Court.
The list above is by no means complete but it suggests why in the eyes of some of us what Netanyahu regards as a threat we see as a promise. Not that anybody is so naïve as to believe that all Israel’s problems will be solved with a change of government or that new problems won’t emerge, but it seems that the change itself will invigorate the country. And that’s worth a lot.