Listen to the people

By including Livni’s party in the coalition and by offering Yacimovich the Treasury portfolio (if news reports are true) while allowing Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi to languish, Netanyahu is performing a disservice to the voters who went to the polls on January 22.

February 21, 2013 21:18
3 minute read.
The Shas triumvirate with the Likud Beytenu team

The Shas triumvirate with the Likud Beytenu team 370. (photo credit: Ya'acov Cohen)


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On January 22, there was an election for the 19th Knesset. There were clear winners and losers, reflecting the will of the 3,833,646 Israelis who voted (almost 68 percent of those eligible).

Yet in a tactical move that is highly problematic from both a democratic and an ethical perspective, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud Beytenu leader charged with creating the next government coalition, has chosen to shun the winners and court the losers.

In the process, he runs the risk of creating a government coalition that does not give proper articulation to the will of the majority of the Israeli people.

Tzipi Livni’s party ran unsuccessfully on a campaign that emphasized advancing the peace process with the Palestinians and attacking what it termed the “extremist” and “fear-mongering” Likud Beytenu.

One of the members of the party, MK Amir Peretz, declared publicly that he would not join a government headed by Netanyahu. And he ostensibly left Labor because party head Shelly Yacimovich had refused to make a similar declaration (thought she did so shortly after Peretz left Labor).

Yet, somehow Livni’s party has ended up becoming the first partner to join the proposed Likud Beytenu-led coalition this week.

Meanwhile, Labor under the leadership of Yacimovich ran – and lost the election – on a platform that focused almost exclusively on domestic issues, in particular a leftwing economic program.

Despite her hopes for a major comeback, Yacimovich managed to increase the size of the party by just two mandates compared to the 2009 election when Labor was led by Ehud Barak. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the public rejected her social democratic economic agenda, the prime minister, according to news reports, offered Yacimovich the Treasury portfolio, which would give her tremendous influence over economic policy.

To Yacimovich’s credit, she has stood by her promise not to join Netanyahu’s government, despite three meetings with the prime minister, thus remaining loyal to her voters.

In contrast, Netanyahu has scorned and scolded the big winners of the election – Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid surprised both political pundits and pollsters to become the second-largest political party.

Lapid ran on a campaign that emphasized domestic issues, in particular the need to implement a more egalitarian military draft policy vis-à-vis the fast-growing haredi population. And the party’s platform also advocates remarkably capitalist solutions to the ills of our economy such as fostering freer markets and more competition and breaking up the large, powerful unions in the seaports and at the electric company to lower the cost of food and consumer goods.

It should come as no surprise that a disproportionate proportion of Yesh Atid voters came from the upper middle classes. And Yesh Atid’s positions on domestic issues are remarkably similar to those of Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi.

Both parties advocate reforms in state religious services, are interested in equalizing the military burden, and are economically right-wing. In short, both parties reflect particularly bourgeois sensibilities and their positions are remarkably similar to those of Likud Beytenu.

Netanyahu and others in Likud Beytenu have blamed Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi for their intransigence when it comes to ending the exemptions from military service given to haredi men. But it is Likud Beytenu that is to blame for acquiescing to the demands of the haredi parties.

A clear majority of voters has made it perfectly clear that they want a coalition that includes Likud Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi – three parties which agree on domestic issues that matter most to voters right now, particularly since talks with the Palestinians seem so hopeless.

By including Livni’s party in the coalition and by offering Yacimovich the Treasury portfolio (if news reports are true) while allowing Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi to languish, Netanyahu is performing a disservice to the voters who went to the polls on January 22.

They expressed their views at the ballot box, and their voices should be heard and heeded.

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