Think about it: Coming to terms with reality

Netanyahu proved his ability to perform magic when it comes to his own political survival

By
March 22, 2015 22:56
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit: OHAD TZVEIGENBERG‏)

 
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I was wrong. I (and everyone else, including all the pollsters) was wrong in estimating Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to win over voters from the national religious and Center- Right lists with his “gevalt” campaign.

Without a doubt, Netanyahu proved his ability to perform magic when it comes to his own political survival, and one can only regret that he has never shown equal determination in acting to resolve Israel’s burning problems such the cost of living and price of housing.

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It is also regrettable that in his campaign Netanyahu increased the delegitimization of the Zionist Left, and of the Arabs as an equal component of the Israeli body politic, within those sections of the Israeli population which are in any case inclined to consider the Left and the Arabs as traitors.

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One certainly cannot accuse Netanyahu of failing to play the democratic game. However, he seems to refuse to accept the fact that close to 50 percent of the population sincerely want change because they believe that his policies and conduct endanger Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state. He also seems to be unaware that they were not acting to overthrow him but to replace him democratically, demonstrating that his perception of democracy is faulty.

Autocratic leaders are overthrown – democratically elected leaders are replaced in democratic elections.

When I was convinced that there was a fair chance Isaac Herzog would form Israel’s 34th government, I was greatly concerned that if this were to happen, certain sections of the population would refuse to accept the voters’ decision, and that the sort of incitement which led to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin would be repeated. In such a situation my fear was that just as Netanyahu as leader of the opposition had done nothing against the incitement back in 1995, and even inadvertently contributed to it, he would remain passive in 2015 as well.

But now there is no doubt Netanyahu will be our next prime minister, and that Herzog will serve as leader of the opposition, so that the situation I feared will not materialize – at least not at this stage of the game. Though close to 50% of the population are very unhappy about the election results, and are truly worried about some of the consequences of these results, there is certainly no danger of violence breaking out. Since 1948 the Israeli Left has not had a history of politically motivated violence.

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Only Yahad Party chairman Eli Yishai is still determined to fight against the election results, arguing that the failure of Yahad to pass the qualifying threshold was the result of illegal actions taken by his nemesis Arye Deri, and his former party Shas. He might be right, and it will be interesting to see whether concrete evidence of election fraud is found.

However, that will not change the make-up of the new coalition, or the Knesset support for the new coalition.

Since my natural inclination is to see the positive sides of every situation, even if I am unhappy about it, for the past week I have been trying to find the spots of light – and there are quite a few.

First of all, the fact that the extreme Right, in the form of Yahad, did not pass the qualifying threshold, is good news, though the growth of this political camp is worrying.

Second, the fact that the number of women elected to the Knesset has risen to 29 – in other words, close to 25 percent of the MKs – is something to rejoice at. Incidentally, women will constitute 16% of the coalition MKs and 34% of the opposition MKs.

Third, even though Netanyahu’s new government will not be totally free of problems and pressures, there is every reason to believe that this government will be much more stable than the outgoing one, and there are good chances it will complete a full term of four years.

Fourth, even to left-wingers Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu Party represents a ray of light and cause for optimism.

Hopefully, Kahlon, as finance minister, and with control over the Israel Land Authority and possibly the Housing and Construction Ministry as well, will be more successful in starting to untangle the cost of living and exorbitant apartment prices – not only for the haredi population and the settlers, but also for the population at large, including the Arabs.

The one sphere where I am truly concerned is with regard to Israel’s foreign relations, and efforts to avert future violent confrontations of one sort or another with the Palestinians, even in a situation where the prospects of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians do not seem bright. The prospects of the future of Israel’s relations with the United States and the European Union are certainly grim, as is the prospect of the Palestinians increasing their influence, and anti-Israel activities in various international political and legal forums.

I believe that Israel’s poor relations with the American administration and the EU are a function of truly controversial Israeli policies, and words and actions by our prime minister, and are not the result of anti-Semitism or shortsightedness on the part of foreign leaders, and that in the absence of a fig leaf or a shock absorber such as Ehud Barak was in the 32nd government and Tzipi Livni was in the course of the 33rd, Netanyahu will finally have to take full personal responsibility for the consequences of his policies, actions and words.

Under these circumstances the identity of the next foreign minister will not make much of a difference.

Nevertheless, for Israel’s sake, it is certainly preferable that it not be an overt Arab-hater, like Avigdor Liberman, or someone who openly states that he objects to Israel forgoing any territory in the West Bank and to the establishment of a Palestinian state, like Naftali Bennett. It is also preferable that the future foreign minister be someone whom Netanyahu consults.

Yuval Steinitz and Gilad Erdan from the Likud seem to be the least objectionable candidates.

I also hope that the Justice Ministry is not placed in the hands of the Likud’s Yariv Levin, who does not hide his plans to weaken the Supreme Court, and that the Housing Ministry will not be left in the hands of the Bayit Yehudi’s Uri Uriel, even though the new government is more likely than the outgoing one to engage in extensive expansion of settlements outside the current settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Finally a piece of advice to Benjamin Netanyahu: The best way for you to deal with all the attacks on you and your wife regarding how you run your household accounts is simply to ask your lawyers to prepare a list of what expenses should rightly be covered by the State, and what expenses should be covered by you personally. You are a wealthy man, Netanyahu, and you can certainly afford to pay for all your personal whims and caprices.

In addition, unless a new official residence for Israel’s prime ministers is to be constructed in the foreseeable future, ask whoever is responsible in the Prime Minister’s Office to repair whatever requires repair in the house on Balfour Street. The Moshik Galamin video was a pathetic means to deal with the problem.

Those opposed to you undoubtedly tried to make political hay of the whole embarrassing mess – but you and your wife contributed plenty of raw material to the effort.

The writer is a retired Knesset employee

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