The second chapter in the book of Samuel II tells of the days after the death of King Saul. David is anointed king of Judah, but Saul’s military general Abner refuses to concede, remains loyal to his deceased king, and sides with Saul’s son.
Abner’s soldiers march to confront David’s military general, Joab. Instead of an all-out war, Abner proposes that 12 select soldiers from each side fight it out. “Let the young men come forward and sport before us,” Abner says. By “sport,” he means bloody combat.
The soldiers proceed to grasp each other’s heads and thrust their daggers into each other’s sides – “thus they fell together.” Needless to say, the suicidal “sporting event” does not solve the conflict, and a fierce battle ensues between the two armies.
Israel’s pro- and anti-judicial reform camps are at each other’s throats, and time is running out before the controversial reasonableness standard bill is set to pass into law on Monday afternoon.
Netanyahu: A master at waiting until the very last moment
On Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said efforts were being made to come up with a softened version of the reasonableness standard, and he tried to calm the nation in case the bill ends up passing as is. But his statement effectively meant that tensions will continue to boil over until the very last minute.
The prime minister is a master at waiting until the very last moment to resolve issues – and that is only if he is unable to push them down the road for a few more months.
The scenario in March was similar. Pressure mounted, the controversial Judicial Selection Committee bill came very close to passing, pilots and reservists began to back out of reserve duty, and only at the last moment, facing a general strike, the prime minister finally relented.
Waiting until the last moment is not unwise. Why commit oneself to a certain outcome if there is still time left? Why not ensure that one’s decision will be the final say? This has the added benefit of the prime minister emerging as the “savior.”
But the prime minister’s waiting until the very last moment, while leaving his intentions unclear, carries a heavy price: Israel’s social cohesiveness continues to unravel, and its holy grail, the IDF, is experiencing unprecedented turmoil. Furthermore, the more the prime minister waits, the more reservists are likely to make the move to announce their refusal – and the deeper the damage will be to the IDF.
This, more than anything else, is cause for the prime minister to act – not by lashing out at the reservists, but by making a decision. During the prime minister’s endless consultations and dramatic prime-time addresses and last-minute reversals, there is something dangerously missing: leadership.
The prime minister did not have to wait a month to appoint a second Knesset representative to the Judicial Selection Committee; he did not have to wait until the very last minute in March, after much damage had already been done, to announce his willingness to enter talks; and he does not have to wait until the very last minute now to make a decision on the reasonableness bill.
Waiting may enable Netanyahu to gain the upper hand when the dust settles. But can Israel’s modern-day David continue to wait while the country’s Abners and Joabs rip each other apart?