Last week, President Reuven Rivlin formally asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government. Likud received 30 Knesset seats and the most recommendations to from the next government. Negotiations began with the right wing parties, ultra-Orthodox religious parties that Netanyahu considers his natural partners and Kulanu, the new centrist party that was considered the kingmaker in this election.

Netanyahu is clearly trying to avoid a national unity government with the Zionist Union and his “natural partners” are clearly taking advantage of the situation.

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Naftali Bennet’s Bayit Yehudi party only won eight seats but the party believes that its supporters were instrumental in Likud’s win and they are bringing 39 demands to the negotiating table. These are above and beyond Bennett's demand to be named either defense or foreign minister.



Yisrael Beytenu’s Guidelines for the 20th Knesset is four pages long and goes far beyond demanding the Defense Ministry position for Avigdor Lieberman. One of the demands is to institute capital punishment for terrorists.

United Torah Judaism first requirement is that that the criminal sanctions clause be removed from the Haredi conscription bill, thus rendering it unenforceable. They want to see the status quo on religion and state preserved. They are also asking for an increase in child allotments and state paid yeshiva students.

Shas’s demands include the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Services portfolios. They also have several economic demands including no vat on food and to raise the minimum wage; campaign promises that their constituency strongly supports. I do not disagree with socioeconomic reforms but you cannot cut taxes and raise benefits at the same time.

Kulanu has not made an official list yet of what it wants to be part of the coalition but you can be sure that there will be many demands.

According to Globes: “Netanyahu’s natural partners are presenting demands that would cost the Israeli taxpayers Nis 4-5 billion.”

But the cost is so much more than just shekels. The laws that were enacted by the last government saw a sharp increase of Haredi men entering the workforce. This trend will be reversed if the child allotment and yeshiva student’s stipends are increased. The rest of the country cannot and will not continue to support a large population that does not serve in the army or do national service and does not contribute to the economy.

Another cost is that a return to the entrenchment of the status quo in religion and state could cause a further loss of support for Israel from diaspora Judaism. I know many Conservative and Reform Jews who view the Haredization of the holy places and the lack of support for non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel so negatively, that they will no longer visit Israel, or send their children on Israel programs.

If the new government does not honor its promises to the liberal movements and Women of the Wall to build the egalitarian section at the Kotel and does not honor its commitments to pay Masorti and Reform community rabbis, this schism between Israel and the diaspora will continue to grow. Can we afford that?

So, is this coalition really worth the price?

 

 


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