Who knows what’s best for Israel?
Can Netanyahu fill this position? Will Lapid make certain that he does?
PM Binyamin Netanyahu accepts President Peres' invitation to form next government, February 2, 2013. Photo: Koby Gideon/GPO
Prior to the Israeli elections, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying
Israelis did not know what was in their best interests. It is not clear if he
meant the Israeli government or the Israeli public. If the latter, the Israeli
public in its voting pattern has demonstrated that the majority of Israelis do
indeed know what is good for Israel.
Consider what happened to the two
largest parties in the previous election, Kadima and Likud. Kadima was virtually
wiped off the map and Likud suffered a major loss of seats. In other words, a
majority of the Israeli public was saying in effect, “A pox on both your
Neither the government nor the opposition has proven itself
worthy over the past four years and we want something better.
what that something is differed among various sectors of the public, “different”
was the operative word in all cases. For the general public, it meant Yesh
For the national religious, it was Bayit Yehudi. In their outlook
concerning the Palestinian conflict, these two could not be further apart, but
on one item at least they were in agreement: there must be a change in the way
in which the ultra-Orthodox are permitted to avoid serving the country and are
subsidized so that they need not join the work force.
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, although there was little discussion of it during
the elections (except by the Tzipi Livni Party), the stand of Yesh Atid was made
very clear: there must be a return to the negotiating table. Labor kept its
position on the back burner, to put it generously, but their position was
stated: two states for two peoples.
While the Likud veered to the Right
and nominated many who are totally opposed to two states or to any territorial
compromise, the head of the party, Binyamin Netanyahu, stuck to his stated
position – two states.
Furthermore, the religious parties, Shas and
United Torah Judaism, are both moderate on this question as well. Thus the only
party now in the Knesset that officially opposes negotiations for the two state
solution and advocates immediate incorporation of territories into the State of
Israel is Bayit Yehudi. Even if you subtract Likud Beytenu from the supporters
of such negotiations, you still have a vast majority of the elected parties in
favor of such a position, at least in theory.
FINDING A way to return to
the negotiating table is vital for Israel on many counts. There is no other way
to stop the erosion of support from even those nations that have been our
friends and no way to counter the negative impression that Israel is a
conquering power, oppressing innocent people and attempting to steal land,
regardless of the facts.
The burden of policing millions of people who do
not want to be under our rule erodes Israel’s resources and finding a way to out
of this dilemma should be the number one priority of the next government. It may
or may not be possible, but we cannot afford to simply ignore the
As for Netanyahu, he may boast that he has a mandate from the
people, but the clear message of the voters was: “We are unhappy with what you
have done or not done. We are supporting you for prime minister only because
there was no one else really running for that position. But we want you to be
different this time.”
Whatever he says publicly, it is quite possible he
has understood that message. But if he has not, it is the task of Lapid to
remind him of it and not to simply take the ministerial positions and forget
what he has pledged: the government must enter into negotiations and the
government must act so that all will share the burden of service.
is a majority in the Knesset for both these matters. It may be a good sign that
in accepting the assignment of forming the government Netanyahu made mention of
renewing the peace process. The important thing, of course, will not be words
Netanyahu is indeed in a strange position. The voters have
indicated that they want a change but ironically they have put that change into
the hands of the man whose policies they reject. Can Netanyahu fill this
position? Will Lapid make certain that he does? The people of Israel know what
is best for Israel. The question to be answered is, “Will the new government
carry that out?” The future of the State of Israel depends on the answer to that
The writer, a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book
Award, is a long-time Jerusalem author,lecturer and educator. His most recent
books are The Torah Revolution and Entering Torah. His column, Tradition Today,
appears bi-weekly in the Jerusalem Post.