When Kadima entered the Netanyahu coalition less than two months ago, it was
clear that it would make every conceivable effort to leave an imprint on the
government’s policy. After all, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz’s main motive in
joining the coalition was the very grim predictions of all the opinion polls
regarding Kadima’s performance if elections were held immediately.
positive record in office could only help.
For people like myself, who
have an aversion to governments in which the extreme Right and the
ultra-Orthodox can determine which policies are approved and which are rejected,
the entry of Kadima into the government was – short of new elections – a reason
for cautious optimism, since the move changed the basic balance within the
However, it was clear from the very start that whether this
optimism would justify itself would depend on Netanyahu’s intentions, and on
whether he really viewed Kadima’s entry into the government as an opportunity to
adopt some earth-shattering policy decisions, or just as a means of avoiding
early elections. We don’t really know whether Netanyahu is serious about issues
such as replacing the Tal Law, and confronting the problem of the foreign
workers and refugees in Israel, which are among the issues dealt with in his
coalition agreement with Mofaz.
SOON AFTER joining the government, Kadima
attacked these two issues (and several others) head-on. On the first issue it
formed a committee, headed by MK Yohanan Plesner, that is to propose an
alternative to the soonto- expire Tal Law, and with regard to the second it is
about submit a comprehensive immigration bill.
developments regarding the proposals being prepared by the Plesner Committee
suggest that at least Kadima’s initiative with regard to the haredim does not
have much of a chance to come to fruition, unless, of course, Netanyahu
surprises us and puts his foot down, as he did several weeks ago in the case of
the bills that sought to enable Jewish settlement construction on private
What happened with regard to the proposals the Plesner
Committee is to issue shortly is that Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi, who
were members of the Plesner Committee, decided to withdraw from it because the
proposals deal very thoroughly with the haredim, and only superficially with the
There is no argument about the fact that eventually the Arabs of
Israel will have to serve the state in the form of military service or civilian
national service. However, this cannot happen as long as all of Israel’s Arabs
are considered potential enemies, are discriminated against in almost every
conceivable sphere, and are rejected out of hand as potential coalition
The fact that the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local
Authorities has raised proposals of its own for a change in the current
situation (even if these proposals are unacceptable to most Jews and many Arabs)
is a positive development that will need time to mature.
The case of the
haredim is different. They are Jews in a Jewish state. They receive all the
benefits the state has to offer, but for historical reasons are absolved from
many of the duties it imposes. They are active members of the coalition, and
they control the Knesset Finance Committee. Their numbers are constantly
growing; from a few thousand in the early days of the state they have reached
several hundred thousand today. Their status is an anomaly that the majority of
the Jewish population refuses to continue to bear.
The Plesner Committee
is about to make proposals that this majority – including the supporters of
Yisrael Beytenu – is willing to adopt with both hands. But apparently Yisrael
Beytenu, which must be aware of the fact that a policy of “all or nothing” will
lead to nothing, prefers Arab-bashing to changing the status quo among the
We do not know what Netanyahu’s final position will be on this
issue. As things look at the moment, he will apparently let the proposals of the
Plesner Committee dissolve into thin air, rather than clash with both the
haredim and Yisrael Beytenu. But maybe he won’t.
As to Kadima’s
Immigration Bill, we do not yet know whether the Ministerial Committee on
Legislation will support it. We do not know whether those who consider the bill
to be too liberal (including Interior Minister Eli Yishai), or who simply do not
want Kadima to be able to take credit for an important piece of legislation,
will carry the day, or whether Netanyahu will intervene to ensure that a
majority in the committee will support the bill.
Before long we shall
know whether anything positive will come of Kadima’s entry into the government,
or whether plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more it changes, the
more it remains the same).
The writer teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel
Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.