Benyamin Netanyahu has been working at a government coalition since his party did the best in the March election.

 
It's still not done.
 
This reflects more than the details in current politics. It tells a story about Jewish history.
 
Here we are, 3,000 years or more after we came into existence from what sources no one is certain, mixed with inputs from countless others and affected by time spent in most counties of the world.
 
We differ from one another in skin tones and culture. Also in religiosity. Being Jews requires no affirmation of faith. Traditions of areligious Jews, outspoken atheists, disputes among rabbis, and those of us who don't toe the line demanded by any rabbi go back as far as recorded history. The Biblical Book of Ezra tells part of that story. Josephus updated it to the beginning of the Common Era. Israel's most recent election and the screeching heard from overseas Jews brings it up to now.
 
While Jews of the Diaspora may feel it necessary to affiliate with a congregation if they want to remain Jews along with their children, about half the Jews of Israel identify as secular, and seldom darken the doors of a synagogue. Most do participate in circumcision, religious marriage, and burial, but there are alternatives for those who refuse. Many of the secular enjoy family meals on Friday evening, mostly likely with wine but with or without a blessing, an annual Passover Seder. Some who never utter a prayer take pride in contributing to the ongoing record of the Jews. 
 
Israel's politics are as multi-faceted and as contentious as should be expected from a people who have elevated argument to an element of the sacred for more than two millennia. 
 
Using Israel's political parties as our guides to the current mosaic, we see:
  • One large cluster in Likud, reflecting a combination of Jews' adherence to free enterprise, as well as Jews' nationalism and feelings that much of the world is against us.
  • Another large cluster in Labor (renamed once again and perhaps temporarily for the convenience of current politics to Zionist Union) reflects Jews' inclination to socialism, and a desire to try time and again to get along with others
  • Three parties reflect the variety of religious identities among Israeli Jews. 
    • Jewish Home, the Orthodox, segued since 1967 to a preoccupation with control of the Promised Land. 
    • Torah Judaism, a combination of several Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox streams, among them the Hasidim and those opposed to the Hasidim.
    • SHAS represents the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox, along with Sephardim who are not ultra-Orthodox, but feel themselves disadvantaged in Israel. In this campaign it experienced a split between two figures claiming the endorsement of a dead rabbi, which contiributed to a drop in its Knesset representation from 11 to 7 Members.
  • Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu reflects the residual weight of a million migrants from the former Soviet Union, as well as a "tough Jew" attitude toward antagonists
  • Moshe Kahlon's Kulano (translated as Together, but mostly a play on Kahlon's name) and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid (There is a Future) reflect two individuals' pursuit of fame outside the established parties, each claiming a slightly different conception of the "Israeli middle," both likely to disappear sooner or later like similar efforts before them.
  • Meretz is the present moniker of a left wing party with roots going back to Mapam and its affection for Stalinism, which has changed its doctrines along with its names on several occasions. Currently it isn't doing well, barely getting past the cut-off with five MKs and no expectations of joining a government.
  • The most recent off-shoot of the Israel Communist Party was Hadash, the Democratic Movement for Peace and Equality. It participated in the most recent Knesset, with a Jew among its Arab MKs. For this election, it merged with other more completely Arab parties to form the United List. The United List won 13 seats, includes the Jew who had been prominent in Hadash, but has no governmental prospects
There are several slices of Jewish culture not apparent in these parties.


None represents the large number of religiously active Jews, mostly in the United States, associated with non-Orthodox congregations. 


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That reflects the absence in Israel of enough religious, but non-Orthodox Americans to create a party that would look after their religious needs. The vast majority of those Jews have decided to remain where they are. Rabbis and other activists complain from a distance--with some activists here--about the privileges that Israel has legislated for Orthodox Judaisms. 


Missing from this campaign was a major effort about making peace with the Palestinians. The issue that continues to bother Americans and Europeans has passed by Israelis who are tired, frustrated, and distrustful after decades of efforts. 


Also outside of the Knesset, but apparent in the minor parties that did not make the electoral cut-off, are a number of factions representing Jews' inclinations to follow political fashions considered by others to be extreme, or too narrow for a workable political party. They include parties committed to the legalization of marijuana, as well as greater concern for the environment, and those seeking representation for one or another of Israel's ethnic groups or religious splinters.


As this is being written, Prime Minister--and Prime Minister designate--Benyamin Netanyahu hasn't finalized a government coalition. Depending on the source, he may or may not be close. The clock is ticking, and he has to do it in the next few days if he is going to do it.


The betting is that he will succeed, but that the government formed is not likely to be any more free of frustrated ambitions, limited achievements, and perhaps no more long lasting than his previous government. Several parties and numerous individual MKs will begin the government's tenure jealous of more successful colleagues, and angry at not getting what they think they deserved. Several of the most upset will be members of Netanyahu's own party. 


It's not a good setting for stable government.


Frustrations aside, the Jews of Israel have not done all that badly. The politics may not work like a Swiss watch with all its finely meshed wheels, but electronics have outmoded that as a useful metaphor.


Political crises have been frequent, but not severe. The competition is fierce, but not physical. Government works, thanks mostly to professional bureaucracies and courts. Politicians don't stop quarreling and some of them go off the rails towards economic or sexual corruption, long sessions in criminal court, and prison.


That's us, warts and all. It ain't likely to change any time soon, given our histories.



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