The Knesset votes on the nation-state bill, July 19, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Elections haven’t even been called yet and the mudslinging has already begun. On Friday, after meeting with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who had demanded the newly-vacated defense portfolio, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Bayit Yehudi Party leader not to make the same mistake of 1992 and topple a right-wing government.
“There is no reason to go to an election and we must make every effort not to… repeat the historic mistake of 1992 when the right-wing government was brought down, the Left took power and the disaster of Oslo was brought upon the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
On Saturday night, just as Shabbat ended, Netanyahu again issued a similar statement, this time with regard to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who has already called on the prime minister to hold elections as quickly as possible.
“It is forbidden to topple a right-wing government,” Netanyahu said, adding that he would meet with Kahlon right before the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday to convince him to remain in the coalition.
Naturally, Netanyahu is playing politics and is using the historic example of 1992 to try and create an excuse for himself when the government actually falls. This way, he will be able to say: “It wasn’t me. It was Kahlon and Bennett.”
In reality though, Netanyahu is responsible for the slow erosion of his own coalition. While Avigdor Liberman’s resignation 48 hours after violence in the Gaza Strip might seem like a victory for Hamas, its also important to keep in mind that Liberman is the second defense minister to resign in this current government. Before him was Moshe Ya’alon, who resigned after receiving the news in 2016 that he was going to be replaced by Liberman.
And while Netanyahu might be legally allowed to hold the defense portfolio, we call on him to appoint a full-time defense minister.
It would be reckless and irresponsible for the prime minister to serve in his current post of running the country while at the same time overseeing three different ministries, each of which requires a full-time minister. The slow erosion of the foreign service in recent years is proof of what happens when there is not a full-time minister in a government ministry.
A full-time minister – especially one who is the leader of an independent party – has the ability to leverage his or her political power to obtain budgets. A full-time minister has the political power needed to boost and empower the ministry they are taking over.
A case example was when Bennett used the coalition talks in 2015 to secure a budget to reduce the size of classrooms in Israelis schools or when Kahlon used his political power to receive complete and full authority over all matters related to housing in Israel in an effort to lower prices.
While Netanyahu is undoubtedly one of Israel’s most talented statesmen, it is impossible to serve as prime minister – a non-stop job on its own – while caring for the entire foreign service of this powerful country. The same would apply to the military. The minister of defense needs to oversee military operations, procurement, buildup, draft and weapons development.
This is simply too much, without even mentioning that this coalition would stand on a narrow majority of just 61 that would make governing difficult, if not impossible. Each member of Knesset who is part of the coalition would have the ability to extort the prime minister on any legislative issue he would look to advance.
They would be able to use their vote to make the government’s ability to function almost impossible. It was for this exact reason that Netanyahu decided to add Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu Party to his coalition in 2016.
The government seems like it is in its final days and it is natural that each party leader and MK is thinking about his or her political future. But let’s not forget what is really important: the stability and success of the State of Israel and its people.
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