As things look at the moment, by September 2022 we will be having another round of elections – the fifth round since April 2019.
Even if Benjamin Netanyahu manages to form a Likud/haredi/religious Zionist coalition after the elections, such a government, at this juncture – besides satisfying Netanyahu’s personal ambitions and interests, and providing his numerous supporters with a sense of sweet revenge – it is doubtful whether it will solve Israel’s pertinent problems. But it will definitely add to the ruinous polarization within Israeli society.
This government will reverse the positive steps taken to resolve the problem of illegal arms and unbridled violence within the Israeli Arab society – if for no other reason than that the problem can only be dealt with effectively in cooperation with the Arab society rather than against it.
It will yet again discourage haredi society from taking stock of its approach to the socio-economic model it has chosen to live by – an impossible combination of an extreme and discriminatory model of the welfare state to the benefit of its own members, while depending on those who profess the model of a free market, but who are willing to submit to all the economic demands of the haredim in return for total political loyalty.
In the long run, especially as the percentage of haredim in the population keeps rising, this is economically damaging both to the state and to the haredim themselves.
It will reverse the process of recovery of the professional civil service in general, and of that in the Foreign Ministry in particular, which Netanyahu and his ministers systematically destroyed before losing power, and which the “Government of Change” has been working hard to repair since assuming power last June.
It will reverse the process of trying to return to the basic premise upon which the State of Israel was founded – that Israel’s Jewishness is based on the pluralism of the Jewish people, rather than on a conservative (some might say a reactionary) interpretation of Orthodox Halacha.
It will also reverse the attempts to turn the rabbinate from a corrupt body that prevents many Israeli Jews – or persons who entered Israel on the basis of the Law of Return but are not considered Jews by those who do not themselves bother to use the services of the rabbinate – from getting religious services. These include the right to get married, divorced or buried without being humiliated on the way, and/or being forced to spend a lot of money on services that others receive for free.
The efforts of Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana to bring about a change in the kashrut system in Israel – managed today largely by haredi apparatchiks in the rabbinate, who view it as a source of cushy jobs for “our people” – are also liable to be ended.
It will reverse the approach that in addition to using an iron fist in reaction to Palestinian acts of terror, one must also take into consideration the fact that the 5 million Palestinians who live under direct or indirect Israeli occupation are becoming increasingly hopeless and despondent, and that it is in Israel’s interest to try to reverse this trend.
It is also likely to meddle with the smooth running of Netanyahu’s trial, and try to bring it to an immature end, even though the trial so far has proven that there is much more than just smoke involved. The trial must continue to its conclusion, with Netanyahu either proven innocent on all counts, or guilty on all or some of them. A plea bargain with Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street is unlikely, because any plea bargain that the State Attorney’s Office is likely to approve will include moral turpitude, which will bar him from the premiership.
However, what is most worrying is the prospect of the makeup of our next government coming exclusively from the benches of the current Jewish opposition. The delegitimization of the Left, of human-right activists, of anyone who believes in the necessity for territorial compromises in order to try to end the conflict, or anyone who is critical of Netanyahu, is likely to further escalate.
This delegitimization will occur especially from the Right in general and the Likud in particular. It already began upon the formation of Netanyahu’s fourth government in 2015, and turned into a poisonous spillage of abusive and libelous statements coming from the Jewish opposition benches after the formation of the Government of Change.
In the last 10 months, another group has been added to the delegitimized camp: religious Jews who have dared cooperate with the Center-Left and Arabs, or advocate a cleanup of the religious establishment.
MK David Amsalem (Likud) has repeatedly spelled out in colorful terms what the Likud will do to the members of the current coalition should the Likud return to power. Amsalem will certainly be a member of any coalition Netanyahu would form – if, as expected, he will be able to form a government after the next elections.
Finally, in the current expressions of jubilation coming from the Likud and religious Zionists, the number of blatant lies is amazing. The first lie is the repeated statement that the current government – which, according to them, is worthless, weak and dangerous – was formed on the basis of votes stolen from the Right, preventing Netanyahu from forming a government.
Of the three right-wing parties in Bennett’s government, both Yisrael Beytenu (Avigdor Liberman) and New Hope (Gideon Sa’ar) were among the parties that ran under the slogan of “just not Bibi,” so that not a single right-winger who voted for them voted for a government headed by Netanyahu.
True, Bennett was ambivalent on the issue of Netanyahu, and we know that many of his voters opposed the government that Bennett finally formed with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. However, even if Yamina had gone with Netanyahu, Bibi did not have the 61 MKs he needed to form a government, due to the objection of the Religious Zionist Party to join a coalition with Ra’am.
Bennett’s political maneuvering, which included Ra’am in the coalition, managed to avoid a fifth round of elections – or as it looks today, to delay them by 16 months.
Another set of lies being spread is that in all spheres, Israel’s situation was far better with Netanyahu in power than with Bennett. Most amazing is the repeated declaration, especially by the former deputy health minister, MK Yoav Kisch, that there was very little Palestinian terror under Netanyahu – as if to say that Netanyahu’s mere presence prevented terrorist attacks, or that he was much more effective in dealing with Palestinian terror than Bennett.
That is simply untrue. The same goes for health issues, the state of the economy, and many other spheres.
Perhaps the chances of the Government of Change to survive were never very good, because avoiding issues on which its members are ideologically divided is simply unrealistic. However, to categorize it as a historic mistake that should never have happened, and should never be repeated – as many members of the Jewish opposition are currently saying – does this government, and its supporters, a major injustice.
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 be published in English by Routledge.