By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The official results of the election haven’t yet been published and the president hasn’t yet consulted with the leaders of the political parties, but the country is already speculating about who will get what tik (Hebrew for “portfolio”).
Because Netanyahu needs the smaller parties on the political right (Bennett’s pro-settler Habayit Hayehudi; Lieberman’s “Russian” Yisrael Beiteinu; Kahlon’s right-of-centre newcomer Kulanu; the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas under Arieh Deri and Yahadut Hatorah fronted by Ya’akov Litzman ) he’ll have to give each more than their fair share to entice them to be in his cabinet.
He has already promised the finance ministry to Kahlon, but no doubt Kahlon will want more, probably much more as he’s the king-maker. Bennett is said to want to be foreign minister and grab other tiks (the Hebrew plural is tikim, but I prefer the ungrammatical tiks because it sounds like “twitches” and “tricks,” both appropriate terms under the circumstances). Lieberman will demand to be minister of defense, for which he’s as unqualified as he was as foreign minister in the previous government and a persona non grata in many countries, plus, no doubt, portfolios that may help to protect him and his cronies in the ongoing police investigations.
In order to satisfy all these demands, Netanyahu will have to change the rule of only having 18 cabinet posts by adding others as occupational therapy for politicians. But that’s only a minor “adjustment” compared to the many other changes for the worse to follow: limiting the power of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court; greater control of the media; further hardships to be imposed on asylum seekers; more discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens; and, of course, no negotiations with the Palestinians.
Commentators rightly remind us that we shouldn’t blame the politicians who’ll govern Israel in the next four years but ourselves, the voters, for having elected them. This was a fair and clean election. Israelis have the government they’ve voted in and, therefore, deserve. The new cabinet is a true reflection of the wishes of its citizens.
All concerned have already made it clear that President Rivlin won’t get his way: there won’t be a unity government. Isaac Herzog has declared that his party will remain the opposition, this time strongly supported with the quartet of Arab parties that constitute their joint list, and Lapid’s Yesh Atid. (Even if Lapid would have wanted to join the coalition, others won’t have him there, particularly the two ultra-Orthodox parties often described as “religious” in contrast to his alleged anti-religion.)
The opposition may not be able to stop the extremism that Bennett and Lieberman have displayed during the election and that Netanyahu tried to emulate in the last few days of the campaign in order to take votes from them for his own Likud party, but it should be able to educate the public to vote more carefully next time and to persuade people abroad that there’s more to Israel than its reactionary politicians.
Though it’ll take weeks before a new government is in place, we can already see its shape and project its effect on the country as a whole; reflect on the apparent disappointment in the White House (as this is being written Obama hasn’t yet congratulated Netanyahu); fear the further deterioration in the relationship with the Palestinians. And that’s only for starters.