On January 22, there was an election for the 19th Knesset. There were clear
winners and losers, reflecting the will of the 3,833,646 Israelis who voted
(almost 68 percent of those eligible).
Yet in a tactical move that is
highly problematic from both a democratic and an ethical perspective, Binyamin
Netanyahu, the Likud Beytenu leader charged with creating the next government
coalition, has chosen to shun the winners and court the losers.
process, he runs the risk of creating a government coalition that does not give
proper articulation to the will of the majority of the Israeli
Tzipi Livni’s party ran unsuccessfully on a campaign that
emphasized advancing the peace process with the Palestinians and attacking what
it termed the “extremist” and “fear-mongering” Likud Beytenu.
One of the
members of the party, MK Amir Peretz, declared publicly that he would not join a
government headed by Netanyahu. And he ostensibly left Labor because party head
Shelly Yacimovich had refused to make a similar declaration (thought she did so
shortly after Peretz left Labor).
Yet, somehow Livni’s party has ended up
becoming the first partner to join the proposed Likud Beytenu-led coalition this
Meanwhile, Labor under the leadership of Yacimovich ran – and lost
the election – on a platform that focused almost exclusively on domestic issues,
in particular a leftwing economic program.
Despite her hopes for a major
comeback, Yacimovich managed to increase the size of the party by just two
mandates compared to the 2009 election when Labor was led by Ehud Barak. Despite
the fact that the vast majority of the public rejected her social democratic
economic agenda, the prime minister, according to news reports, offered
Yacimovich the Treasury portfolio, which would give her tremendous influence
over economic policy.
To Yacimovich’s credit, she has stood by her
promise not to join Netanyahu’s government, despite three meetings with the
prime minister, thus remaining loyal to her voters.
Netanyahu has scorned and scolded the big winners of the election – Yesh Atid
and Bayit Yehudi.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid surprised both political pundits
and pollsters to become the second-largest political party.
Lapid ran on
a campaign that emphasized domestic issues, in particular the need to implement
a more egalitarian military draft policy vis-à-vis the fast-growing haredi
population. And the party’s platform also advocates remarkably capitalist
solutions to the ills of our economy such as fostering freer markets and more
competition and breaking up the large, powerful unions in the seaports and at
the electric company to lower the cost of food and consumer goods.
should come as no surprise that a disproportionate proportion of Yesh Atid
voters came from the upper middle classes. And Yesh Atid’s positions on domestic
issues are remarkably similar to those of Naftali Bennett’s Bayit
Both parties advocate reforms in state religious services, are
interested in equalizing the military burden, and are economically right-wing.
In short, both parties reflect particularly bourgeois sensibilities and their
positions are remarkably similar to those of Likud Beytenu.
others in Likud Beytenu have blamed Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi for their
intransigence when it comes to ending the exemptions from military service given
to haredi men. But it is Likud Beytenu that is to blame for acquiescing to the
demands of the haredi parties.
A clear majority of voters has made it
perfectly clear that they want a coalition that includes Likud Beytenu, Yesh
Atid and Bayit Yehudi – three parties which agree on domestic issues that matter
most to voters right now, particularly since talks with the Palestinians seem so
By including Livni’s party in the coalition and by offering
Yacimovich the Treasury portfolio (if news reports are true) while allowing Yesh
Atid and Bayit Yehudi to languish, Netanyahu is performing a disservice to the
voters who went to the polls on January 22.
They expressed their views at
the ballot box, and their voices should be heard and heeded.