By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The “Meet the Press” program on Israel’s TV Channel Two on Saturday evening reported on a poll it had commissioned to rate members of the government. I’m sure that those who didn’t do well will tell us that we must not rely on polls. Perhaps they’re right. Nevertheless, we may still be able to discern a trend in the results.
The minister with the highest score was Ya’akov Litzman. He represents an ultra-Orthodox party. For a long time he didn’t want to be a minister but only deputy minister because his party has problems with sitting in a Zionist government. In the end, however, the legal people made him join or get out. He joined.
Litzman is minister of health. More than 50 percent of those polled support him. Israelis seem to be relatively happy with their health service and they ascribe much of it to Litzman. They’re much less happy with the minister of finance, Moshe Kahlon.
Should you suspect a bias in favour of the ultra-Orthodox, please note that the other ultra-Orthodox member of the cabinet, Arieh Deri, was at the bottom of the list with only some 17 percent. (He’s the one with a criminal record.)
The prime minister didn’t score very much higher. We may speculate that this is because he has been too long in office, but another explanation offered by the panelists on the program is that he has always presented himself as Mr. Security. Israelis may now blame him for the current wave of terror.
By contrast, Israelis seem to retain their confidence in national defense. Thus the minister of defense and a former chief of staff, General Moshe Ya’alon, wasn’t far behind Litzman in the ranking. Israelis may sense that despite the threats and occasional forays by Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South, Israel is holding its own and they can sleep soundly. Also judging by his recent visit to Washington and the US defense secretary’s visit to Israel, Ya’alon has developed a close relationship with the American administration while Netanyahu and Obama seem to be at loggerheads.
Two ministers representing the National Religious party – its leader Naftali Bennett, who is minister of education, and justice minister Ayelet Shaked – scored much better than the prime minister, even though some of their steps have been highly controversial. Bennett’s ministry recently banned a novel to be used in schools because it includes a description of a love affair between an Arab man and a Jewish woman. (Incidentally, this, of course, turned the novel into a bestseller.)
Shaked – in addition to the almost perennial efforts by right-wing ministers to curb the independence of the courts (particularly the Supreme Court) – is currently conducting a campaign that may lead to legislation that’ll curtail foreign funding of left wing organizations that are openly critical of the government.
The TV panelists confirmed the impression that the opposition, though being led by good and responsible people (Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni), isn’t sufficiently effective to constitute a threat to the prime minister and his cabinet. This may be something of a windfall for Netanyahu.
Although the ranking may be unreliable, the trend is interesting. I bring it to your attention because I believe it gives something of the flavour of the political situation in Israel now: critical but not desperate.