Passover brings big political appetites - analysis

There are those who refrain from eating matza, because they do not like the taste and the texture. That appears to be the case with all of Benjamin Netanyahu's potential coalition partners.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a social event for Passover  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a social event for Passover
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
There are those who refrain from eating matzah as much as possible during Passover, because they do not like the taste and the texture.
Since they also do not eat bread, crackers and other filling hametz, they spend a week never quite getting full.
That appears to be the case with all potential coalition partners of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
Since the April 9 election, they have competed with each other in revealing the extent of their appetites.
It started with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who decided his five mandates were enough to proclaim that he “won the election” and demand that he have his way regarding the IDF conscription bill, despite the fact that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties rose in election from 13 to 16 seats.
United Torah Judaism MKs decided not to model themselves after the modest matzah that is described as “the bread of poverty.” Instead, they are demanding not only the chairmanship of the powerful Knesset Finance Committee but also the control of three ministries from deputy ministry posts. Last time, they made do with just the Health Ministry, but now they want the Welfare and Construction ministries as well.
If UTJ gets its way, Shas will make similar maximalist demands for its leader Arye Deri, who could control three portfolios on his own, until his expected indictment.
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who led his party from 10 to only four MKs on April 9, is demanding four posts for those four MKs, and he even played hard-to-get, refusing to meet with Netanyahu for a week.
But no appetite appears to be larger than that of Union of Right-wing parties co-chairman Bezalel Smotrich, whose National Union party has... let’s count them... two MKs: Ofir Sofer and himself. The other three URP MKs are from Bayit Yehudi, which is led by Rafi Peretz.
The agreement that formed URP gave Peretz the top slot on the list and Smotrich the pick of portfolios. So Smotrich went on almost every TV and radio show in Israel on Sunday proclaiming that he will either be the justice minister or education minister.
Smotrich rightly says that the same two parties that make up the URP faction controlled both of those posts in the previous Knesset. But he neglects to mention that it had eight seats last time and only managed to extort those plum posts, because they waited to join a narrow coalition of 61 MKs on the last day before the deadline to form a government.
And unlike all right-wing parties in the past, URP is not only saying they will not tolerate concessions to the Palestinians. Smotrich is saying that even talking about potential concessions is a reason to bring down the government.
There is also hunger for portfolios in the Likud, where at last count, 20 incoming MKs are demanding ministries, 17 of whom are men.
Of course, these are all opening demands, and much will change between now and the May 29 deadline to form the coalition.
By then, the matzah will be long forgotten, and the stores will be full of very filling cheesecakes ahead of the upcoming Shavuot holiday.
Then, there will be no more excuses for complaints about not being politically satiated.