Those who think the demise of Labor and the affiliation of Ehud Barak’s rump
faction to the government is a coup for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are
mistaken. This latest realignment is yet another example of how our politics
seem motivated more by personal aggrandizement and power than the national
Excluding post-Zionist leftist splinter groups and their
extremist counterparts on the far Right, the vast majority today recoils from
ideologies and yearns for a responsible, moderate government dealing with issues
in a pragmatic manner.
But that cannot prevail in a government where
minority parties with one-dimensional agendas can exercise excessive clout and
veto policies the national interest demands.
This becomes even more
relevant given the existential threats confronting us – possibly the greatest
challenges since the establishment of the state.
Dark storm clouds are
gathering. The Iranian nuclear threat has not diminished; the tide of hostile
public opinion throughout the world continues to mount; our military leaders
speak openly of an impending war, and warn that the longrange rockets provided
to Hizbullah and Hamas may cause unprecedented civilian casualties.
despite these chilling developments, in the political arena business proceeds as
usual. The politicians continue behaving as if their only concerns are to score
points against their opponents, and fail to focus on the looming
The government is already displaying signs of dysfunctionality.
When during such difficult times the prime minister and foreign minister
repeatedly contradict one another publicly over major policy issues, one senses
that the coalition is heading towards dissolution.
Those who believe that
such behavior represents a good cop-bad cop scenario are sadly mistaken. It
reflects weak and divided leadership, and sends a global message that our
government should not be taken seriously, or relied upon to fulfill its
The demise of Labor places Netanyahu even more at the mercy
of Avigdor Lieberman, who is now uninhibitedly adopting populist macho
positions, irrespective of the long-term consequences. His principal objective
is to garner more votes than Likud in the next elections and position himself as
the next prime minister.
Indeed, if Netanyahu remains passive as
Lieberman continues to defy and insult him, he will invariably lose ground to
Israel Beiteinu and Kadima. In addition, Netanyahu’s continuing to operate a
government in this manner will lead to further polarization at a time where
unity is required.
IT IS now surely time to create the broadest possible
government. But the first step in this direction must be for the two center
parties to join forces. There are in reality few obstacles to achieving
Indeed, Kadima includes a substantial number of former Likud
members who were opportunists, taking advantage of a new party to enhance or
launch their personal political careers. To this day, Kadima continues absorbing
dropouts from other parties – including forlorn Labor politicians. When the
chips are down, there are no significant policy differences between Kadima and
In fact, to the extent that ideology applies at all, most of the
representatives of both parties are birds of a feather, inclined toward a
Were Kadima heading the government, it would be
obliged to implement virtually identical policies to those of the current
To the chagrin of many of us, Netanyahu and Kadima leader
Tzipi Livni both continue mouthing false expectations about the peace
They do so presumably because they feel an obligation to the US
to partake in the global theater based on the delusional premise that the
duplicitous Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah are moderates, and either capable or willing
to reach an accord.
But hopefully, both have now learned the bitter
lesson that unilateral concessions contribute toward the Palestinian strategy of
dismantling Jewish sovereignty in stages. And both recognize that a Palestinian
state must not be created in the absence of defensible borders and the assurance
that our neighbor will be demilitarized to prevent it becoming a launching pad
for future Iranian aggression.
These policy aspirations are shared by
most Likud and Kadima MKs, and reflect a broad consensus among the
The differences between Netanyahu and Livni principally amount to
competing political and personal ambitions.
Now is the time for us to
demand that they set aside these personal differences and work together with
expert advisers to chart both domestic and foreign long-term strategies
motivated solely by the national interest. Such a scenario would delight most of
us, as policies would no longer be subject to excessive political leverage or
vetoes from smaller parties, and would thus also facilitate electoral and other
long-overdue social reforms.
But unfortunately, instead of reaching out
to one another, Netanyahu and Livni continue sparring like children, and abusing
each other as though they were living in a country without a care in the
Netanyahu is a disciple of Menachem Begin. He should behave the
way his former leader would have acted under similar circumstances. He should
consider the future of the nation and, despite Livni’s hitherto irresponsible
and even infantile behavior, Netanyahu should endeavor to reach an accommodation
with her while rejecting demands for a prime ministerial rotation
Livni is also a disciple of Begin, who in 1967, when the state
was endangered, rose above party politics and joined the cabinet without even
requesting a ministerial portfolio. She would do well to follow his example and
join the government without making excessive demands. Under such circumstances,
she would discover that her declining popularity would be reversed
At the same time, Netanyahu should aim to retain Israel
Beiteinu and Shas in his government. But if they are too demanding, or refuse to
accept a reallocation of ministerial portfolios, he must then let them go. What
is of utmost importance is that the nation be led by a united centrist
government, and that the world recognizes this.
Both Netanyahu and Livni
must set aside their differences, take account of the will of the people and
unite to place the national interest uppermost.
Should they fail to rise
to the occasion, history will judge them harshly for endangering our