Netanyahu's dream of right-wing government may not happen - opinion

As long as Netanyahu remains an actor in Israeli politics, no one can form a government without some form of Arab support.

YAIR LAPID (left) and Naftali Bennett share a smile at the Knesset in 2013. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
YAIR LAPID (left) and Naftali Bennett share a smile at the Knesset in 2013.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
For the first time since the last round of elections, I am optimistic – optimistic that Netanyahu’s dream of another “all-right” government is not about to be realized, and that his nightmare of a “left-extreme left” government headed by Naftali Bennett has a fair chance of coming into existence.
Let us get one thing straight: Netanyahu’s “all-right” government is a government made up of the conservative and extreme Right, without the more liberal, pluralistic Right, and with the ultra-Orthodox, who are right-wing in terms of their anti-liberal attitude to equality and human rights, but almost communist in their view of the welfare state, and as extreme as the pacifists in terms of their refusal to enlist for military service (show me a single right-wing party anywhere in the world, besides the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, that refuses military service on principle).
Furthermore, this “all-right” government will need the support of the Islamist party Ra’am from the outside, in order to be formed, and to continue to exist.
The “left-extreme left” government Netanyahu warns of (adding that it will not survive for more than a day) will include (if it will actually be formed) three right-wing parties (Yamina, New Hope, and Yisrael Beytenu), all three of which consist of both conservative and liberal elements, which together command 20 Knesset seats. It will include two centrist parties, with a slight inclination to the Right (Yesh Atid and Blue and White), and two left-wing parties – the Labor Party and Meretz – neither of which would be counted as “extreme left” anywhere in the democratic world (well, Donald Trump excluded). Yes, and it, too, will require Arab support from the outside.
As long as Netanyahu remains an actor in Israeli politics, no one can form a government without some form of Arab support – and that, in my opinion, is one of the few positive results from the current situation. The Arabs constitute around 20% of the citizens of Israel, and with all the necessary precautions, not letting them play some sort of role in Israel’s government system is antidemocratic.
Will such an alternative government be a dream government? Certainly not for those who dream of the “all-right” government, but also not for any of its potential components. I am sure that Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar, and Avigdor Liberman would all rather sit in a government with the Likud without Netanyahu, while Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli and Nitzan Horowitz would rather sit in a purely center-left government.
However, while the latter lady and gentlemen understand that their dreams are currently not realizable, Netanyahu is unwilling to give up his dream, which is less important to him for purely ideological reasons than for personal reasons. I am sure that if Meretz were willing to join his government and support various moves designed to get him off his legal hook, he would not turn it away.
WHAT WE shall certainly find out in the next few weeks is whether all the components of the alternative to a Netanyahu-led government will manage to put together a deal that will enable each of them to attain at least some of their goals – enough to make it worth their while to set aside, at least for the time being, some of their ideological aspirations.
What will they achieve? First of all, that Israel will have a government, whose head is not suspected of criminal offenses, is not a pathological liar, can be trusted to keep a promise or an agreement, and who does not behave like a potential dictator, driven by self-aggrandizement.
If, indeed, they will manage to achieve what may seem at the moment almost impossible, and decide in advance not to try to promote any policies or moves about which they cannot agree, that will leave plenty of room for vital changes in the fields of health, education, economics, defense, the Arab sector, and the growing intercommunal rifts.
Yes, the fact that the ultra-Orthodox will not have any representation in this government – at least not in the beginning, and that the Mizrahi periphery will be underrepresented in it, will impair the unifying image of this government, but it will certainly include many more elements of our embroiled society than what Netanyahu offers (and is apparently unable to deliver).
It is not yet clear how the ministerial positions will be divided in this government. What we have heard is that at first Bennett will be prime minister, and Lapid foreign minister, and after a period the two will switch positions, as did Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir in the 1984 national-unity government. It is said that Liberman will be finance minister, Sa’ar defense minister, and Ayelet Shaked justice minister.
Personally, I would be much happier if the Justice Ministry were placed in Sa’ar’s hands, and the Interior Ministry in Shaked’s hands. There is no reason why Benny Gantz should not remain in the Defense Ministry.
Hopefully, the government will be made up of no more than 20-25 ministers, but that will depend on the details of the coalition agreement that will be worked out after the basic outline of the government is agreed upon – and hopefully such an outline will be worked out, with a parity agreement as between the right-wing parties and the center-left parties, and a veto power to each side.
Netanyahu laughs at this idea, saying that such an arrangement cannot work. In his and Gantz’s case it has merely brought about almost total stalemate – including the absence of a budget, and numerous ministerial positions remaining unmanned – largely because from the very beginning Netanyahu wasn’t willing to accept a real partnership and sharing of power.
Incidentally, this time the parity will benefit the Right, which has fewer Knesset seats than the Center-Left in the bloc, especially since it is reported that Liberman’s seven seats are to be counted as part of the latter.
AND WHAT if the leaders of all the just-not-Bibi camp will fail to reach all the compromises that are necessary to form an alternative government, or if Netanyahu will manage to foil its formation by means of his usual tricks and shticks? How then will the Gordian knot be unraveled?
Given the results of recent opinion polls concerning the predicted results of a fifth round of elections, fifth elections would bring results similar to the elections of March 23.
A proposal by Shas leader Arye Deri (at Netanyahu’s behest) to hold direct elections for the prime minister while canceling the Knesset’s role of approving all new governments also proved to be a dud.
That leaves the option of the Likud replacing Netanyahu as its leader, which would enable the formation of an all-right government, which Bennett, Sa’ar and perhaps even Liberman would be willing to join. Not a likely scenario.
On the Saturday night news on Channel 12, the channel’s political commentator, Amit Segal, made the following statement: “I believe that we shall be witnessing in the next 10 days, a political version of the cancellation of the laws of physics.” Segal spoke of 10 days, because on Saturday that was the number of days left to Netanyahu to form a government, and he suspects that the Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties might well be on their way to the opposition.
All we can do now is wait patiently and see what happens.
The writer was a researcher in the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, soon to appear in English.