Insight: A political guide to ‘after the holidays’

Netanyahu faces critical postponed decision on whether or not to enlarge his coalition

Herzog and Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
Herzog and Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The succot have come down. The mahzorim have been put away. The refrigerator is full of leftovers. And starting Wednesday, the children will finally start going to school each and every weekday morning.
Yes, the period known in Israel as aharei hahagim – after the holidays – has arrived.
It is common in Israel to postpone any project, any big decision, any serious work really until “after the holidays,” which ahead of Rosh Hashana seems so far off in the future.
After all, it is at least eleven chicken meals away.
But there is only so long a decision can be delayed. And with all due respect, neither Hanukka (December 6), nor Columbus Day (October 12), nor Canadian Thanksgiving (October 12) count among “the holidays” in “after the holidays.”
So that means no more procrastination.
That is especially true for politicians, who are among the most skilled procrastinators in Israel, a country where deadlines are often dates to start work rather than complete it.
There are a number of key decisions that politicians will have to reluctantly make in the days and weeks ahead now that “after the holidays” has come.
The biggest decision will be whether to expand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Netanyahu would like to see the Zionist Union join. Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog would be happy to join the government.
But both leaders are trapped by extremists and gadflies in their own party who won’t let them get away with it unless they come up with a wonderful excuse to work together.
Are the four Israelis who have been killed over the past few days in terror attacks enough of an excuse? No.
What if, God forbid, of course, the death toll goes up to 40? Maybe.
The problem for Herzog is he still has to go through a leadership race in his party. He has to set a date this month for that election, which must be held by May unless the party’s bylaws are amended.
Inside the coalition, the so-called mini-Norwegian Law is expected to be implemented by the time the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess on Monday. That means that the leaders of Bayit Yehudi, Kulanu, and Shas are all expected to quit the Knesset by the end of the week to make way for the next candidate on their respective parties’ lists to become legislators.
Bayit Yehudi decided on a rotation of their four ministers and deputies, who will each quit the Knesset for six months to enable former MK Shuli Moallem-Refaeli to return.
But in Likud, there has been no discussion of who will depart to make room for the next name on the party’s list, Tel Aviv gay activist Amir Ohana.
There is also expected to be a new Likud minister appointed to replace the new ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. If former minister Benny Begin is chosen, the procedure will be simple. But if Netanyahu chooses to appoint coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi to the cabinet, it would be much more complicated, because there is no one Netanyahu sees as qualified to replace Hanegbi, and the 2015-2016 budget must be passed.
That means the appointment could be delayed until the end of the year, perhaps until after Hanukkah – but not after New Year’s Day.
The final deadline approaching may be the least interesting to the general public, but could result in the biggest political fight. Labor must submit its candidate for chairmanship of the Keren Kayemet le’Israel (Jewish National Fund) in time for the World Zionist Congress that begins October 20.
It is still unclear who the candidates will be for the plum post. Herzog has not even decided which party committee should decide the matter.
No matter what he decides, the issue will end up being contested in court.
With so many political messes ahead, it is no wonder that politicians have been delaying their decisions until after the holidays. So if you happen to see a politician in the days ahead, don’t be surprised if he asks you the date of Canadian Thanksgiving.