The Ethiopians have had their few days in the spotlight.

 
Now it's back to politics.
 
Frustration is the likely theme of Ethiopian activists and politicians..
 
The argument about the Ethiopians remains between those who accuse Israel of a racist failure, and those who assert that the country took the initiative to bring tens of thousands of Africans out of conditions much worse than they have here. Alongside accusations of failure, and shortfalls in the achievements of the numerous programs designed for them, the current picture is one of considerable individual progress, along with opportunities for activists to say what they want and press for more.
 
The picture being described for national politics is also a multiplex. 
 
One view is that Bibi has failed, due to assertions that no one--ranging from Barack Obama to European leaders, and including colleagues among Israeli politicians--believes what he says.


Another view is that no one could have overcome the mess that the voters presented. A number of small parties resulted from the election, having to be cobbled together into a coalition, with each having enough votes to scuttle a deal if its leader did not reach ego satisfaction.


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Commentators were counting the hours until Bibi would have to announce success or admit failure.


The most optimistic were predicting a Pyrrhic victory.


He made it, 90 minutes before the deadline, able to declare agreements in principle.


After a dismal summary of the commentaries, Israel Radio broadcast Leonard Cohen's recording of Hallelujah.


Some of the details had yet to be finalized, but it seemed enough for now. The negotiators could go to bed.


Bibi provided the last hold-out (Jewish Home) several goodies to obtain its agreement. However, the coalition would be so small (one vote over a Knesset majority) and the MKs of its largest party (Likud) so unhappy with what they got as to make it unlikely that any of its participants could achieve the promises about public policy that they obtained. 


The predictions are anything but a sure bet, but the reasoning is persuasive. 


Each of the major demands by coalition partners for policy change or money for favorite programs will encounter more opposition than success.


Demands by the ultra-Orthodox parties to turn back legislation about the recruitment of their young men and lots more money for their families and academies will meet the opposition of secular and Orthodox MKs, including those associated with the government. And if anything for the Haredim  passes the Knesset, there will be suits to the Supreme Court challenging violations of equality.


Moshe Kahlon's lost list of economic reforms will encounter a situation where the banks and other institutions with political clout, threatened by unwanted changes, can find enough allies in the government and elsewhere in the Knesset to keep his list of accomplishments shorter and more feeble than his aspirations.


Bibi's problems were sharpened a couple of days before his deadline when Avigdor Lieberman announced that he would not be joining the government.


To some it came as a surprise, insofar as Bibi was sure to let Avigdor continue in the prestigious position of Foreign Minister, despite his party's providing only a piddling six votes to the government.


The cartoonist for Ha'aretz portrayed Lieberman as a jack in the box springing into Bibi's face.





Others saw it coming, due to a building animosity between Bibi and Avigdor. Lieberman had been moving ever more to the right. He was demanding a death penalty for terrorists, a complete defeat of Hamas in Gaza, and transferring Israeli Arabs to Palestine. Observers concluded he wanted headlines, reflecting aspirations to become the national leader. 


While commentators were talking about a clash of egos, Lieberman and his party colleagues were speaking about principles. They accused Bibi of not creating a proper right of center government, by letting Haredim exclude themselves from national responsibilities while getting unlimited financial benefits, and being weak in dealing with those threatening Israel.


Whatever the background, Lieberman's pullout meant that Bibi could not produce a government supported by 67 MKs. He would have to make do with a shaky majority of 61, if he could persuade Jewish Home to come along.


He has done that, but he might yet have to persuade Moshe Kahlon to stay on board. Kahlon had said that he would not join a government with a paper thin majority. After Lieberman's defection, Kahlon said he was wavering.


Anyone aspiring to a breakthrough with respect to the Palestinians would not know where to look. None of the parties likely to influence things has made Palestine a major issue. The Palestinians themselves are charging one another (Fatah against Hamas; Hamas against its competitors in Gaza), of attacking one another's activists. American and European officials keep talking about a two-state solution, but spend more time wondering what to do about violent Muslims at home, and dealing with ongoing warfare in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya.


As Bibi's clock was running out, there was also the prospect of the President turning to Zionist Union, and giving Yitzhak Herzog a month to create a government.


If that occurred, Herzog would have faced conflict within Zionist Union. Shelly Yachimovich, once the party leader with continued aspirations of leadership, signaled displeasure with the presence of Tsipi Livni in her party. Herzog would have to cope with a party that was small as well as divided, with doubtful prospects of satisfying its various factions and attracting enough others to win support of a Knesset majority.


The prospects for Bibi's government favor more of the same. 


A likely scenario would have the professional bureaucracies managing the country, with elected politicians squabbling about one another's assertions of how to fix national problems.


Good government activists are promising legal suits against former convict Ariyeh Deri (SHAS) serving as a minister, against Kahlon's party colleague tapped to be Minister of Housing who has a record of property violation, and against the prospect of a Torah Judaism MK to run the Health Ministry with the title of Deputy Minister (a Haredi evasion allowing the overlooking of Sabbath violations in hospitals and clinics).


None of these suits may succeed, but they will at least provoke some commentators.


All told, a period of inaction in policy innovations is not a bad prospect, and less than a major disaster.


It recalls an American expression, that the country is safest when the politicians of Congress are on vacation.



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