By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Before the new government of Israel will be sworn in, the Knesset will pass a bill that’ll allow the prime minister to enlarge his cabinet to satisfy the disgruntled members of his own Likud party who’re dismayed at the way in which Mr. Netanyahu bestowed ministerial posts on his coalition partners in order to entice them to join him. Though the move to enlarge the government will be challenged in court, it’s not likely to be stopped.
There’s nothing to suggest that the additional cabinet posts given to Likud will improve the government or serve the country. They’ll be there only to massage the egos of the politicians. Of course, that’s not the way they put it. Their argument is that as the largest party, those who voted for it expect its representatives, not the small parties, to have the final say in the way the country is governed.
The superfluous and likely relatively idle ministers won’t lose sleep over the fact that the enlarged government will cost taxpayers a lot of money for salaries and perks as well as for support staff, security personnel, cars and drivers, etc.
But the larger cabinet may make it easier to divide and rule. Rumour has it that not all cabinet members are bosom pals, especially across party lines. Habayit Hayhudi ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked had been senior staffers in the prime minister’s office and are said to have a sour relationship with Mr. and – more important – Mrs. Netanyahu. And Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the Kulanu party, had served as a Likud minister in a previous government. “Renegades” turned coalition partners.
All that, plus its razor thin majority, has made pundits predict that the government won’t survive for long. However, as things stand at present, no party wants another election soon. The government may seem dysfunctional in the eyes of some, but it may survive because of lack of viable alternatives.
No bold measures should be expected from that kind of setup, especially in peace making. The issue didn’t seem to loom large during the election campaign and there’s nothing to suggest that it will now.
And the same is true on the Palestinian side. Observers suggest that any concessions to Israel by the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority and his government is likely to lead to Hamas taking over the West Bank in the way it has been doing in Gaza since Israel withdrew from there. Therefore, it seems more convenient for both sides to accuse the other of intransigence instead of negotiating in good faith.
The only possible shift in government policy may happen in the realm of housing and social welfare to ease the growing gap between rich and poor in Israel. That’ll depend, of course, if Bennett and his colleagues won’t push the government to making further concessions to the settlers by indulging them, allowing more building there and granting them more economic incentives at the expense of those who deserve it more.
The coalition agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties is bound to drain the nation’s coffers and fund their institutions as a way of keeping them in the government. Though Israel’s economy is rather good, especially for those who’re on the affluent side of the social gap, it may be too much to assume that there’ll be enough for everything.
I would be nice to conclude these reflections with some hopeful signs, but the only positive message I can offer is the hope that my observations are all wrong.
Jerusalem 9.5.15 (Motza’ei Shabbat)