Filling the seismic gap of national responsibility

Make no mistake, the Netanyahu-Liberman pact is good for the country.

Liberman and Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Liberman and Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Critics of the joint Likud-Yisrael Beitenu electoral ticket have condemned it as the work of unadulterated political opportunism. Left-wing doom-mongers have even declared that the deal represents the dawn of a dark era. Yet the reality is quite the opposite. The agreement will help Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to lead the most stable government in recent memory, vital in tackling some of the gravest challenges this country has ever faced.  Given that this is not the first, nor the second time that Netanyahu has sought to create a broad-based government with unlikely political bedfellows, the story of the Right’s "big bang" is not one of political trickery, but national responsibility.             
Of course, it is also a tale of compelling personal stories. During the 1990s, Liberman was Netanyahu’s director general and the two were close allies. Having become political rivals, the pair now finds themselves drawn back together in high office in a saga that any script-writer would be proud of. The joint list also leaves Netanyahu on the brink of an unprecedented third election victory. As for Lieberman, he finds himself poised to rival the likes of Gideon Sa’ar and Bogie Ya’alon as the heir apparent to the centre-right crown.         
Yet, the real story behind Likud and Yisrael Beitenu joining forces is its guarantee of the kind of stability that the country has been crying out for. Far from condemning the agreement, left-wing critics should be applauding the opportunity that stable government will bring to introduce equitable conscription, to make significant strides in social welfare and housing and to institute electoral reform. These consensus issues among the country’s Zionist political parties, left-wing factions included, also happen to be some of the priorities highlighted by Netanyahu and Liberman in their surprise announcement last week. Now they are finally in a position to make real progress in these areas, free from the political shackles of smaller parties which held sway over previous coalitions.       
There can be equally little doubt that the efficient decision-making of a settled government will prove crucial in our fast-changing and increasingly dangerous neighborhood. Only last week, Hamas reminded us of their ability to terrorize Israeli citizens. The threat is no less great from Hezbollah on our northern border, especially given that the Syrian civil war is fueling instability in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Sinai Peninsula has become a global magnet for terrorists and our relations with Egypt are colder than at any point since Camp David. Throw into the mix the Palestinian determination to by-pass peace talks and push for unilateral recognition of statehood at the United Nations and our region is at best combustible, at worst a ticking time-bomb of violence. Only a unified government built on the basis of a large ruling party can be relied upon to make the clear, swift and decisive decisions needed to respond effectively in the face of unfolding turmoil.     
The biggest threat of all though, comes from Iran’s heinous nuclear program. As Netanyahu has already made clear, the moment of truth is likely to arrive in the months following January’s election. As Prime Minister, he has spent the last several years preparing to make the fateful military decision one way or the other, having raised international awareness of the issue for many years beforehand. As such, no party leader other than Netanyahu has been forced to grapple with the complexities of the issue from every angle possible. In short, there is nobody else sufficiently qualified to take the reins on this extreme test of leadership. By joining forces with Yisrael Beitenu, Netanyahu has all but ensured that he will guide the country through the potentially difficult days ahead. 
The cynics who doubt Netanyahu’s motivation behind the pact with Liberman would do well to consider not only the overwhelming positive possibilities that it brings.  They should also note the Prime Minister’s track record when it comes to advocating a wide coalition of large parties. Last week’s deal was no anomaly. Following the 2009 election, Netanyahu tried for weeks to tempt Tzipi Livni’s Kadima into a grand coalition, only to be rebuffed by the person now championed as a possible savior of the center-left. He then brought the Labor Party into government, creating a true bipartisan administration. Finally in May, Netanyahu invited Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima into the cabinet, in a move which offered no obvious motive for Netanyahu, other than a desire to get things done for the good of the country. The joint ticket with Liberman represents another example of Netanyahu’s desire to form a broad-based government to lead the country. 
Netanyahu’s record in office shows exactly why last week’s "big bang" shouldn’t be viewed as such an earthquake.  He has done more than any other leader to bring diverse and often opposing political factions together for the national good.  The fact that he has done so again should come as no surprise.  It should also provide further evidence of why he is the only responsible choice as Prime Minister.              
Ari Harow served as Bureau Chief to Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and is currently President of 3H Global.