By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
In the course of the election campaign last January, Yair Lapid, the leader of the new party Yesh Atid, declared that he very much wanted to be part of the next Netanyahu government. Naftali Bennett, the head of the Zionist, settler-nationalist, largely Orthodox party Habayit Hayehudi had election posters printed with himself and Netanyahu as the future partners in government. It was also assumed that the two haredi parties Shas and Yahadut Hatorah would remain in the coalition, as they had been in most previous governments. Avigdor Lieberman, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu had joined forces with Netanyahu’s Likud, was certain that, despite his proven ineptitude – or perhaps because of it – he would continue as Israel’s foreign minister.
Sheli Yachimovitch, the leader of Labour, declared that she would not sit in a Netanyahu government. Tzipi Livni, who had now formed a party of her own (Hatenuah) had refused to join the previous Netanyahu government when she was the leader of Kadima that had then one more Knesset mandate than Netanyahu’s Likud. Shaul Mofaz, the leader of what was now left of Kadima, had served for a month or so in the previous Netanyahu government and left; it was assumed that he wouldn’t join it again.
Only weeks later, Tzipi Livni was the first to sign a coalition agreement with Netanyahu and Mofaz can’t wait to be asked. Lapid and Bennett have formed an unholy alliance to keep out the haredim. As a result, there’s an impasse and the haredim are already whining about the prospect of being outside.
In order to break the impasse and kept Lapid and Bennett out, Bibi Netanyahu is now trying to humor the haredim and virtually beg Sheli Yachimovitch to join him.
There’re only a couple of weeks left before a new government must be in place. If that doesn’t happen, new elections will be called, probably in the summer. The polls predict losses for Netanyahu and gains for Lapid. Not wanting to be too close to a loser, Lieberman may dissolve the agreement that created the joint list Likud Beiteinu; for all we know, if Lieberman is convicted in his trial now under way, he may be out altogether. AndIsrael will be paralyzed for months and thus all of us the real losers.
I hope the above is sufficiently confusing to reflect the present political comings and goings inIsrael, and to illustrate once again why it’s impossible to trust what politicians are saying when they want people to vote for them.
While all this is going on important matters of state lie fallow. While Netanyahu continues to make security the only issue to count – the Iranian threat marginalizes all other problems – and Lapid & Bennett focus on military service for haredim, Israel’s other challenges – e.g., the peace process, the economy, the ever growing social gap, the glaring shortcomings in the education system – seem to be off the agenda.
That’s enough reason for Labor with its consistent social program to respond to Netanyahu’s overtures and to join the government. Together with the haredim and Hatenuah, with or without Kadima, he’d have a comfortable majority. Keeping Lapid out may be unfortunate, but not having Bennett in the government, with his seemingly anti-Palestinian settler ideology, may turn out to be a blessing.
Hence the unexpected and reluctant conclusion that Sheli should say Yes to Bibi and, probably with the help of Shas, bring her social agenda into the marriage.