By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
I’m not in a position to comment on the merits of the criticism that Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party and in that capacity a senior member of the government of Israel, expressed at the security conference in Tel Aviv the other day. Though, as expected from every Israeli public figure, he had only good things to say about the troops on the ground, he seems to be less enthusiastic about their leaders implicitly pointing an accusing finger at Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon.
One of the examples he cited doubt resonates with many Israelis: how come that Hamas could, and still can, dig tunnels deep into Israeli territory?
In any other government a minister who criticizes the cabinet outside its confines would have been fired by the prime minister. But in the present coalition constellation in Israel firing Bennett would result in the government falling. Netanyahu seems to prefer to eat humble pie in public to losing his job. That’s why his office confined itself to issuing a rebuttal. No doubt Bennett knew all that before he spoke out.
The only way that would allow Netanyahu to fire Bennett would be if he could find a more congenial partner for his coalition. The Zionist Union is the most obvious candidate. Its leader Isaac Herzog expressed views at the same conference that Bennett addressed which don’t seem to be very different from current government policy.
If Herzog joined the coalition he’d probably become foreign minister, a post now held by Netanyahu. No doubt Herzog would do well in presenting a more congenial image of Israel to the world. His second-in-command in the party Tzipi Livni could become minister of justice, which the present incumbent, a member of Bennett’s party, would have vacated. Livni who held that portfolio in the past would no doubt stop much of the anti-left legislation currently contemplated.
But it’s not likely that other Knesset members in the Zionist Union would tolerate strengthening Netanyahu and thus, in their books, prolong the agony that the country is suffering under his leadership. As it is, Herzog has been less than an effective opposition leader – to the dismay of many of us, perhaps also to his own people.
The man who seems to pretend that he and he alone is an effective alternative to Netanyahu is the leader of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid. Of late Lapid has been very vociferous and articulate in his criticism of Netanyahu. But the only way he could get back to the government, perhaps even as prime minister is if he could persuade at least one party in the current coalition to join him. The most obvious candidate is Kulanu led by Moshe Kahlon who is now the minister of finance. A Kahlon-Lapid government would be a little more in the centre than the current right-wing government, but it’s by no means certain that it would be more effective.
The above speculations are a way of suggesting that Netanyahu will continue to live with Bennett despite the discomfort it causes him, and the country will continue to suffer an administration devoid of original ideas and offering no hope of peace.
You don’t have to be a natural pessimist like me to worry about this country. But only if you’re morbidly pessimistic, which I am not, will you ignore the fact that, despite all its problems, including almost daily terror attacks, the country continues to function quite well – and better than most others.