By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It’s possible that, for the first time in many years, there’s a credible alternative to Binyamin Netanyahu. No, it’s not Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Opposition. Though he did well in the last elections and is, by all accounts, a competent and decent man, he lacks that special quality that can capture the masses. Moshe Kahlon, the leader of Kulanu, the newest party in the Knesset, seems to have that something as well as many other good traits. He’s to become minister of finance in the next government.
Unlike the new parties that came from nowhere in previous elections and were gone soon thereafter, Kulanu looks like staying around at least until it merges with Likud to enable Kahlon to be elected as Netanyahu’s successor.
Kahlon was a member of Likud until recently and held significant cabinet portfolios. He left the party a couple of years ago and, after a relatively short cooling-off period, formed his new party ahead of another potential Netanyahu rival (Gideon Saar) who hasn’t yet emerged from self-imposed obscurity. Kahlon may have a plan.
His stated agenda is financial reform, social welfare and social justice. He has ambitious plans to lower the cost of buying a home and bringing in other reforms that’ll make life easier for those who can least afford it. In this he’ll get support from other small parties, not least the ultra-Orthodox who have a high percentage of poor people in their ranks.
The finance minister in-waiting may recoup some of what he intends to spend on welfare by introducing a tax for substantial inherited wealth to make sure that the well-to-do share their riches with the less fortunate. He’ll do it not as a Socialist but as a fiscally Conservative/centrist Liberal with plenty of common sense.
Kahlon has also committed himself to keep the Supreme Court intact. Right-wing parties all over the world, including Israel, are keen to curb the authority of the judiciary. But in Kahlon’s book, the Court is the best guarantor for the disadvantaged in society by maintaining their rights in the face of those in power.
This will be especially important in the next government when a senior minister (Arieh Deri) is a convicted criminal and another (Avigdor Lieberman) has many close party associates likely to be put on trial for corruption and related charges.
Kahlon is a man in his mid-fifties and comes from a poor immigrant family from Libya that has experienced much economic hardships. He comes across as attractive, intelligent, kind and compassionate; a person one could trust.
Israelis felt like that about Yair Lapid before the previous Knesset elections. He too became minister of finance. Many are now disappointed because his actions didn’t match his words. He lost a lot of votes this time around as well as much credibility. I think/hope that Kahlon will be different.
I never fell for Lapid but I’m prepared to be proven wrong about Kahlon. The way things look at present, he seems to be the only good news in the next government. If that’s enough to make it less dysfunctional than it appears to become remains to be seen.
Despondent as I’m about Israeli politics and politicians, I nevertheless hope that, with so much talent and potential in this country, Israel will produce a leader worthy of it. This is too good a country to be squandered by politicians and ideologues.
Jerusalem 2.5.15 (Motzaei Shabbat)
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By Rabbi Dow Marmur.