By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Tzipi Livni has appeared in the media in the last few days. Perhaps she needed to assure us that she’s not about to leave the Zionist Union to join the new Netanyahu government. This may be in response to rumours that the Prime Minister has been fishing among members of the parties in opposition to find potential defectors willing to join him and be rewarded with ministerial posts.
Although she had served in previous Netanyahu governments and started off as a member of his Likud party, she now seems to want to distance herself from him.
Her criticism made sense when she suggested that Netanyahu’s view is that Israel is in mortal danger and only a strong leader like himself can save it. His near-obsession with Iran would be consistent with this assessment.
Livni also suggested that Netanyahu views the ad hominem attacks on him and his family in a similar light. Mrs. Netanyahu echoed these sentiments in her testimony in the case brought by her former major domo now before the courts. She views his charges as baseless and part of the ongoing conspiracy against her family.
Now, as the saying goes, the fact that you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t after you. Indeed, Israel is surrounded by much hostility, both from neighbouring rulers and from governments in far away lands. And the Netanyahus aren’t popular in Israel. But to be imbued with a paranoid outlook on things may contribute to turning them into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union of which Tzipi Livni is second-in-command, projects a very different image. He appears more relaxed, is soft-spoken and by all accounts open to the world and to compromises with its leaders. But though he’s the titular Leader of the Opposition, several of its members seem to be of a different ilk.
Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beitieinu nearly joined the new Netanyahu government in a senior position but withdrew in the eleventh hour and is now outside. Neither ideologically nor personally does Herzog have much in common with him. Lieberman as a colleague may be more of an embarrassment than an asset.
Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, served with Lieberman in the previous Netanyahu government (Lieberman as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lapid as Minister of Finance). He seems to be better at making noise than implementing policy. Whereas Herzog cultivates a dignified yet firm presence, Lapid has come out attacking the composition and the announced policies of the new government.
The United Arab List which is the second largest opposition party after the Zionist Union has an agenda of its own and, therefore – like Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid – is more likely to pursue narrow sectarian interests than espousing national causes.
All this means that the new government, despite its narrow majority and contrary to the predictions of its slim chances of survival, will be able to woe the nation with the Prime Minister’s approach, because more people feel like Netanyahu than like Herzog.
Therefore, a substantial majority of ordinary folk – in contrast to the razor thin majority of the coalition – is likely to endorse the view that Israel is in danger and that it needs a strong man at the helm. But even if the people may be right, it’s by no means certain that Netanyahu or Herzog have the kind of strength that Israel needs at this hour.