The real problem is Netanyahu, no one else - analysis

The IDF draft bill and reported disagreements between Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties is just an excuse for why Israel – for the first time in its history – may go back to elections.

By
May 28, 2019 10:51
3 minute read.
WILL THEY laugh again in a few weeks? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman

WILL THEY laugh again in a few weeks? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman. (photo credit: REUTERS)

What is the ideological difference between Likud and Blue and White? What disagreements does Benjamin Netanyahu have with Avigdor Liberman when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians or economic reforms?


That’s right: None.
If that is the case then why are they not all joining together to form a coalition? The answer in two words: Benjamin Netanyahu.


The IDF draft bill and reported disagreements between Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties is just an excuse for why Israel – for the first time in its history – seemed on the verge, as of Monday afternoon, of going to elections just seven weeks after completing one.


Not only will this cost the country – at a time of a growing national deficit – billions of shekels, but it will lead to continued paralysis throughout the government. No legislation, no reforms, no new initiatives. Nothing.


Imagine if after the April 9 election the two biggest parties – Likud and Blue and White, each with 35 seats – joined together and formed a government. There wouldn’t be haredi parties in the government or others from the far-right or Left. It would be a government with 70 seats able to solve Israel’s pressing issues: the growing deficit, the rift with the Diaspora, and the lack of a civil marriage option, as well as what now seems to be the problem at the heart of the coalition talks – the IDF draft bill.


It would be a diverse government supported by some 2.5 million Israelis who voted for the two parties, and one with the greatest chance of being stable and lasting an entire term – with similar ideologies, there would not be any reason to rock the boat. Moreover, it would be a government capable of accepting the upcoming Trump peace plan and, with confidence, make the needed concessions to the Palestinians.


So why doesn’t that happen? Because of Netanyahu. It is true that Israel has never been as close as it is now to calling another election so soon after the last one, but it is also true that Israel has never had a prime minister-designate whom the attorney-general has decided to indict, pending a hearing on October 2-3. This whole situation is unprecedented – the indictment, the coalition deadlock, and the legislation that Netanyahu wants to pass to undermine the judicial system and save himself from a trial.


Before the April 9 election, Netanyahu claimed that he would not pass legislation to grant himself immunity. In the weeks since, we have witnessed how false that was. In essence, the one objective of the government that he is trying to form is to create a way for him to avoid an indictment. It is that, and only that, currently on his mind.


So, what will happen? That is impossible to know. As of the writing of this, Liberman has dug in his heels and is refusing to budge on the haredi draft bill. On the other side, Netanyahu is threatening to wipe out Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party in a new election.


Is a compromise even possible? Maybe. Israelis are known for having a short-term political memory. After a few weeks as defense minister, who will even remember that Liberman almost prevented Netanyahu from staying on as prime minister.


Then again, Liberman is staring down the possibility that his political career will come to an end after the next election. He barely crossed the threshold this time. There is no guarantee he will again.


It could be that this is his calculation. A government now, with the haredi parties, would not be able to get anything done. Nothing will change on matters of religion and state, nothing will move on the IDF draft bill, and it’s unlikely that Liberman will get the aggressive approach to Gaza that he has claimed is needed. So why bother joining?


The answer is because any move that Liberman makes now is a gamble, whether he joins the coalition or not. By Wednesday evening, we will find out what he has decided.


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