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With A Heavy Heart and In Fervent Hope

The new government, due to have been sworn in last Thursday, was only sworn in this afternoon. In his speech in the Knesset, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated many of the platitudes expected on such an occasion, but doing it with skill and experience, he sounded almost convincing. However, telling us that among his sources of inspiration and guidance are his wife and his sons, no doubt made many Israelis uncomfortable.

His parliamentary critics attacked him on many grounds, mainly connected to his trial due to start next week. I also seemed to have discerned some accusations hinting at individuals and groups in his entourage trying to intimidate opponents, notably the attorney general, who is said to have told the police that he is being harassed.

Benny Gantz, his coalition sidekick and potential successor in 18 months, made – to my ears, at least – a mature speech in which he stressed his determination to help bring stability to Israel in order to enable it to face the corona pandemic and its devastating economic fallout. His former allies in the Blue and White party, now in opposition, were much less generous to him than he was to them.

It is difficult to ignore fears that the much more experienced politician Netanyahu will manipulate the rookie Gantz, who insists that he joined the prime minister for the good of the country, not for the good of Netanyahu or out of personal ambition. Many of us who support Gantz do not deny the validity of the criticism yet continue to hope that his integrity and good intentions will neutralize much of the expected manipulation. My last piece on the subject was called, “the new government of Israel, God help us.” The swearing in today reminded us of the need to pray fervently for God’s help.

Observers have rightly pointed out that the Likud party of which Binyamin Netanyahu is the head has become the Netanyahu Party. In forming his government, he has ignored seniority in the party in favor of fidelity to him personally. Those suspected of not doing Netanyahu’s bidding were sidelined. His arch-critic within Likud, Gideon Sa’ar, who challenged his leadership not long ago, has been kept out altogether.

Some of those who have been kept in should give us cause for concern. Amir Ohana, to mention but one, who has run the prime minister’s errands as minister of justice, may have had to vacate that office, but as the minister responsible for the police, he may continue to cause mischief. There are others of that ilk.

To reiterate: though I am among those who agree with most of the criticism of the opposition, I still believe that the alternative – more of this transition government and/or another general election – would be much worse. The future will tell if I am dangerously naïve or prudently realistic. This is being written with a heavy heart and in fervent hope.

Jerusalem 17.5.20                                                                                                        Dow Marmur

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