By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
There seems to be little excitement about Israel’s next government to be sworn in next week after protracted and convoluted coalition negotiations. Though the smoke from its chimney isn’t very white, there’s relief that we won’t have to go to elections again.
The public is said to be tired of being exposed to the rhetoric and the false promises of the politicians. Most of us seem to fear that neither the bombastic declarations nor the impressive plans will have much impact on what actually will happen. During the weeks in which Netanyahu tried to put together a government, everybody took it for granted that most, if not all, promises would be broken. Even the negotiators didn’t trust each other. Yet nobody wanted more elections.
Polls seem to indicate that the parties currently in the running for government, particularly Likud, would have done worse in a second round. Because all knew it, they held each other to ransom. Hence the protracted negotiations and an outcome that appears to have left many would-be candidates for high office frustrated and their rank-and-file supporters furious. We hear that there’s much bad blood around.
Of course, each leader will deny it, but the journalists who live on leaks from “reliable sources” tell us otherwise. Not unexpectedly, the activists in Likud are reported to be very angry with their leader for not giving them more clout in his new government and not providing more portfolios for his faithful supporters. Though they’ll probably not unseat him just yet, it has been clear since the election that Netanyahu’s dominance of Israeli politics, including his own party, is coming to an end.
The anger of Likud insiders is matched by the desperate frustration of the ultra-Orthodox, Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, whom the upstart leaders of Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi managed to keep out of the next government. Though Reform Jews may see it as good news, those who had hoped for a peace agreement with the Palestinians don’t, because Habayit Hayehudi speaks for settlers and radical nationalists in other parties will support it in this. Instead of peace, we’re likely to have settlement expansion. The money for yeshivot will be diverted to “Judea and Samaria” – not for the poor of Israel.
Though Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi seem to have been successful in the coalition negotiations, it’s not yet clear that once their leaders take their seats in the cabinet they’ll do what they say they will. Nor will they trust their prime minister.
The politician who fared best is Avigdor Lieberman. Though he cannot join the government as long as his law suit hasn’t been settled, Netanyahu will keep the foreign ministry for him. Yair Lapid wanted it badly but got the finance ministry instead. It’s a trap even for a seasoned politician, which Lapid is not.
But he may surprise us again, as he did in the negotiations, and at least appear to try to put forward an economic policy that cuts waste and bureaucracy. It’s also possible that the education system will be reformed and haredi schools will be made to teach basics such as Hebrew, mathematics and English if they’re to get state support. Attempts will be made to get more yeshiva-boys into the army, perhaps even with some success.
Peace with the Palestinians isn’t likely to happen. Much of it may be the fault of the Palestinians and the upheaval caused by the Arab Awakening, but the settlers, now in the driving seat, are bound to collude with and stimulate the nay-sayers with gusto.