I do not envy Binyamin Netanyahu on the morning of January 23.
most probably wake up as a reelected prime minister with a hangover from a
euphoric Netanyahu-style self-congratulatory victory speech. Gone is his chum
and guru Arthur Finkelstein, gone are the election slogans about “a strong prime
minister for a strong Israel.” It’s probably going to be a weak prime minister
for a weakening Israel.
Our political “master chef” has prepared quite a
meal for himself and the country – an economy in crisis with a tremendous
budgetary deficit of about NIS 15 billion; one of the biggest gaps between
“haves” and “have-nots” in the OECD club; a bruised society filled with mutual
hostility and hatred between religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazim
and Sephardim, new immigrants and old-timers, Right and Left. A tarnished
democracy filled with racist legislation and rhetoric and a dangerous onslaught
on the High Court of Justice and freedom of speech.
Netanyahu will also
face a world united in opposition to his policies of settlement expansion, which
have brought the peace process to a halt for the past four years; a Palestinian
Authority on the verge of economic collapse due to it and us holding back its
funds, with a stronger-than-ever Hamas as a result of Operation Pillar of
Defense, and a weaker Fatah; an Arab world in tumult and fragmented between
pragmatists and fundamentalists, only uniting in opposition to
Netanyahu/Liberman policies; an Iran continuing its drive to develop nuclear
weapons; a Europe that is showing a joint foreign policy front in strong
opposition to, if not fury at, settlements and E1; and lastly, and possibly most
importantly to Netanyahu, the new administration in Washington.
with a new foreign and security policy team in February will be pursuing ways to
create an international coalition vis-à-vis Iran and to stabilize the region in
the aftermath of the Arab Spring, as well as making a serious effort to renew a
viable peace process on the Palestinian track according to the Obama
This will happen while there is hardly any love lost between the
White House and Balfour Street in Jerusalem, after Netanyahu placed his bet on
the wrong candidate in his clumsy intervention in the American elections. So, at
the dawn of a new government, the re-elected prime minister faces the legacy of
his first term – a socio-economic earthquake at home, a region on fire and a
world in hostile opposition to his policies.
A sound, balanced and
rational governmental policy could face these challenges in favor of our
national interests. For that, we need sound, balanced and rational
If we were ever in need of a political leadership to break
its election promises, it is on January 23 and thereafter. Likud-Yisrael
Beytenu’s platform, values and policy expressions will endanger our very being
as a “Jewish democracy”; will lead us into a deep economic recession – burdening
mainly the middle class and the peripheries; will shake – if not destroy – our
democratic foundations; and will bring us toward violent confrontations in the
region and isolate us as a pariah state.
If Netanyahu has any
understanding of these looming dangers, he must uncharacteristically ask for
help from within the political system. It will not come from his ideological
allies – Bennett, Liberman, Feiglin, etc. This is a time of national emergency
and therefore he must opt for a national emergency government – for once put his
inflated pride and ego aside and opt for country before party, and national
interest before personal cult.
Our president, Shimon Peres, has several
times throughout the election campaign expressed deep concern at the dangers
facing the country. He emphasized the need to reach a two-state solution with an
existing peace partner, Mahmoud Abbas, in order to preserve – actually rescue –
the Jewish democratic nature of Israel.Peres, the eternal optimist, has never
sounded so worried and concerned. He is the elder statesman of Israel, to whom
leaders from the whole world come to seek advice. At this time of national
crisis, it is time for the prime minister to listen to the advice of the one
responsible grown-up and respected statesman.
IT IS also time for
Netanyahu to lay aside traditional party calculations, at which he generally
excels. Such considerations would lead him to create immediate alliances with
his ideological bedfellows on the religious Right, attempting to square the
circle between Shas and Liberman, Bennett and Likud, ultra-Orthodox and
ultra-nationalists, and then, with a coalition of “Jewish Brotherhood,” to look
for a fig leaf in the form of Yair Lapid. If indeed Netanyahu follows his basic
instincts and the conventional road, he will lead the country to the brink of
the abyss and catastrophe, if not further.
At this time of great national
crisis, a responsible prime minister must opt for a national emergency
government, with a national emergency policy platform. Such a platform should
deal with the main challenges facing us and be composed of the most suitable
people for carrying out the job.
The platform should be based on a few
fundamental policy principles: A new economic deal, which includes deep budget
cuts, except for education, health and social services. Necessary cuts in the
defense budget. Taxation on the wealthy and on companies. A balance between the
principles of a free-market economy and a welfare state, while strengthening the
The strengthening of our democratic institutions, including
the total independence of the High Court of Justice.
A fair share of
equal rights (also for minorities) and duties, including a gradual higher
participation of haredim in the workforce, as well as in the civil and military
A fundamental reform in the electoral system, with a 50 percent
regional representation and a 5% threshold.
An Israeli peace initiative
in order to immediately renew direct negotiations with the Palestinian
Authority, including a commitment to a moratorium on settlement expansion during
negotiations, on the basis of the Obama vision, as expressed in his Washington
speech from 2011.
Full coordination with the US administration on the
prevention of the Iranian military nuclear option and a Palestinian and regional
peace process, while strengthening the more moderate pragmatic forces and
weakening the extremist fundamentalist ones in the region. The cooperation must
include the strengthening of the Israeli security and technological
Such a policy program would constitute a new socio-economic and
political covenant that reflects the interests and the desires of most Israelis.
The platform should be coupled with the creation of an emergency cabinet
composed of the people best able to implement it, based on parity between Right
and Left. The security cabinet should be composed of 11 ministers, six from the
Right and five from the Left, including the prime minister. The cabinet should
be composed by the best people available in our political system, such as our
prime minister – the re-elected Binyamin Netanyahu. After a mediocre first term
and a catastrophic second, one should hope that in the third, he will divorce
hard-core ideology and partisan politics in favor of pragmatism and historical
Two deputy prime ministers, one from the Left and one from
the Right – Shelly Yacimovich in charge of all social welfare issues and Yair
Shamir in charge of economic growth and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
Shamir has experience in the technological private sector and Yacimovich in
social welfare – such a balance could serve an ailing economy, alongside a good
minister of finance.
Finance Minister: Stanley Fischer. Our brilliant
governor of the Bank of Israel is one of the world’s most skilled economists and
is highly respected by the international economic community.
Minister: Dan Meridor. It’s high time for a civilian to take over the defense
establishment, one who has the experience in national security considerations,
rather than only day-to-day operations. A critical requirement for the new
defense minister will be dialogue and full coordination with the Obama
administration, especially with the new US secretary of defense, Chuck
Foreign Affairs Minister: Tzipi Livni.
Given the urgent and
pivotal need to renew a realistic peace process with the Palestinians and
coordinate policies with Washington, Livni is the best-equipped person to
implement what she has preached, in a field in which she, probably alone among
existing candidates, is very experienced.
Justice Minister – Yair Lapid.
Following in the footsteps of his father, he would do well in protecting the
necessary separation of powers and independence of the High Court and in
orchestrating with the prime minister a change in the electoral
Education Minister: Moshe Kahlon. Our educational system is in
need of a fundamental reform in favor of more equal opportunity and Kahlon has
proven his ability to be a reformer. He is not a moderate, but speaks with
moderation, which may set a good example for our youth.
composition of the eight most important governmental functions would, according
to this scenario, represent the 55- 45% split in favor of the Right that exists
in the country, as well as the pragmatic outlook of most Israelis who are not on
the extreme fringes.
Will such a national compromise materialize? Most
probably not, as Netanyahu possibly understands the crisis that faces us, but by
nature is not inclined to take historical compromise decisions that could make
him less popular with the hard-core Right.
Yet the need and possibility
exists. Such a national emergency government could have the support of 80% of
Israelis and more importantly save the country from the catastrophe that would
be a result of a continuation of existing policies. Such an emergency government
is generally established in Israel after catastrophes, and unfortunately not in
order to prevent them.
The writer is president of the Peres Center for
Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.
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