Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a speech at the Western Wall, February 28, 2015.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
What has made Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu such a successful politician for decades is his ability to find a way to please all sides in a dispute and enable them all to have their cake and eat it too.
The prime minister is also good at avoiding confrontation by stalling, appointing a committee and kicking the can down the road.
Eventually, however, Netanyahu does have to make decisions – often reluctantly.
His critics say he listens to whoever he heard last, but that is not true. Actually, he usually rules for the party in the dispute that can cause him the most damage – politically or otherwise.
As an ideological follower of Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, he admires strength.
In the dispute over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, conversion and other matters of religion and state, the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties have strength. Diaspora Jews do not.
Netanyahu needs United Torah Judaism and Shas for his current coalition and however many more he intends to form in the future, barring a career-ending criminal probe.
Top American Jewish leaders are in Israel for meetings of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors but they then will go home and leave Netanyahu alone.
Who represents Diaspora Jews in Israel? Who is there to lobby Netanyahu on their behalf? In a country where handicapped protesters proved once again last week that demonstrations are only successful when they close down major highways and threaten to shut down the airport, who does that for American Jews in Israel? There are two American-born MKs in the Knesset – Deputy Minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) and Likud legislator Yehudah Glick, but the former focuses on diplomatic issues and the latter cares far more about the Temple Mount than the walls beneath it.
Israel freezes plan for mixed-sex Jewish prayer site at Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)
Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria also gave up American citizenship when she entered the Knesset.
But she clearly has not persuaded her party chairman, Moshe Kahlon, to put his foot down and prevent the haredi parties from winning.
That leaves Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is so enamored with his job as defense minister that he would be the last person to start a coalition crisis. He announced Sunday that his party would appeal the vote on conversion and opposed freezing the Western Wall framework, but not initiate any crisis over them.
Netanyahu has appointed Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to work out a new deal on the Western Wall; Hanegbi is a master at bringing about compromises, and he has an American-born wife.
Hanegbi cautioned the haredi parties Sunday to not celebrate prematurely, stressing that the Western Wall framework was postponed, not canceled.
“They might have won a battle, but they haven’t won the war,” he said.
There is still time for compromises that could satisfy all sides, or perhaps Diaspora Jews could still emerge victorious.
For that to happen, however, they would have to start using their elbows like Israelis and fight the fight.