Lapid’s ‘change’ coalition couldn’t shield Israel from US reprimand

The implications from the election of right-wing officials in the latest election may be more than anticipated.

 US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signing the Jerusalem Declaration (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signing the Jerusalem Declaration
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

The electoral victory on November 1 of Israel’s right-wing bloc, headed by former and soon-to-be next prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, has sparked predictable fear-mongering. Understandably disgruntled by their defeat at the ballot box, the “anybody but Bibi” camp continues to repeat its tired mantra about the makeup of the coalition-in-formation’s boding the end of democracy.

Happily taking a cue from these purveyors of gloom and doom, the powers-that-be in DC have been voicing their own concerns about the next government in Jerusalem. According to recent reports in the Hebrew press, citing anonymous United States officials, the administration of President Joe Biden has made it clear that it will be neither willing nor able to work with certain members of Netanyahu’s new cabinet.
Most notable among these is Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit faction of the Religious Zionist Party. Disregarding his popularity at the polls – which is why he should and will receive a ministerial portfolio – and ignoring his disavowal of past radical activism as a follower of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, Team Biden is exerting pressure on Bibi not to give Ben-Gvir prominence.
More specifically, the puppeteers pulling Biden’s strings are trying to prevent right-wing firebrand from obtaining the job he’s requesting: minister of public security. They shudder, too, at the thought of Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich replacing Benny Gantz as defense minister.
Netanyahu has no intention of letting Smotrich fill the latter role, which, by political rights, has to be entrusted to someone from Likud. And if, as some journalists are suggesting, he told Smotrich to forget about the defense portfolio due to warnings from Washington, he was using Biden as an excuse.
 Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
This isn’t to say that he means to dismiss all demands emanating from the less-than-friendly Democrats he’ll be facing, at least for the next two years of his premiership. On the contrary, he is gearing up to perform the kind of balancing act that enabled him to navigate the Israel through the stormy seas of Barack Obama’s presidency.
But allowing Americans to dictate the positioning of coalition partners wasn’t a factor in the overall voyage.

Double standards in governmental roles

Whatever the ultimate constellation of his government, then, it will have been reached through negotiations among the politicians chosen by the Israeli populace, not via foreign interference.

It’s noteworthy here that Biden and his crew never expressed the slightest consternation regarding certain members of outgoing Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s coalition – such as the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Ra’am Party – or over the potential backing of the anti-Zionist Hadash-Ta’al list, to keep him at the helm.
Naturally, as long as a controversial figure in Israel is either Islamist or on the Left, he or she is considered kosher by Uncle Sam’s current Democrat incarnation.
Both Netanyahu and Lapid are well aware of this double standard. Yet, while Lapid imagined his liberal leanings to be the key to spurring bipartisanship in the US where attitudes toward Israel are concerned, Netanyahu has always understood and still knows better.
Although he would die before admitting it, Lapid was confronted with the reality that his policies had to follow US guidelines to a tee for them to be deemed acceptable. Contrary to his fantasies and those of the “anybody but Bibi” crowd, Israel didn’t cease being negatively scrutinized when Netanyahu was relegated to the back benches of the opposition.
Indeed, any operation launched to combat terrorism by Palestinians and Israel’s Arab citizens has been met with diplomatic-speak and finger-wagging by Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the imperative for both sides to de-escalate. Every defensive action has unleashed an onslaught from the congressional Squad, comprised of such illustrious antisemites as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, among other outspoken BDS advocates.
US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet on the second day of Biden's visit (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid meet on the second day of Biden's visit (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

EVEN WORSE for Lapid – and Gantz, who’s also spouted the nonsense about Netanyahu’s being at fault for the rift between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to Israel – is the ongoing treatment by Biden and Blinken of bloody attacks against innocent Israelis as no more than tragic spokes in the cycle of violence. Their response to the multi-pronged assault in Ariel on Tuesday morning is the latest example.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the increased violence in the West Bank,” is how State Department spokesman Ned Price opened his statement. “We convey profound condolences to the families and loved ones of the Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children, who have been killed in the past 48 hours.”
Making a vague reference to the event that sparked the press release, he said, “We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack, which killed three Israelis and wounded three others.”
He concluded with an admonition: “The recent period has seen a sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including numerous children. It is vital that the parties take urgent action to prevent further loss of life.”
He failed to mention the details of 18-year-old Muhammad Murad Sami Souf’s killing spree, of course. Doing so might have marred his boss’s immoral equating of victims and perpetrators.
Or perhaps he didn’t bother familiarizing himself with the specifics, since all bloodshed looks alike to Foggy Bottom denizens. So, here’s a summary for their edification.
Souf, a resident of the Palestinian village of Hares who was employed as a janitor at Intel, started his rampage at the entrance to the industrial complex. First, he knifed one of two civilian security guards at the gate to whom he was presenting his work permit.
The other guard fired into the air. Undeterred, Souf ran to a nearby gas station.
There, he proceeded to stab five people. Two of them – 36-year-old Michael Ledigin, a father-of-two who moved to Israel with his family five years ago, and 59-year-old Mordechai Ashkenazi, a father-of-three and grandfather-of-two – died on the spot.
Then Souf stole a car and sped onto the highway, where he crashed into and demolished the vehicle of 50-year-old father-of-six Tamir Avihai. When a commuter stopped to tend to Avihai, who suffered from extensive injuries and was shortly thereafter pronounced dead at the scene, Souf stole the good Samaritan’s wheels and fled.
During his clumsy getaway, he hit oncoming traffic, exited the vehicle and tried to escape on foot. Witnessing what amounted to the tail end of the incident, an off-duty soldier, who happened to be on his way to a memorial for a victim of a terrorist attack last month, shot and killed him.
Gantz – who announced in April that he was advancing a plan to grant work permits to tens of thousands of Palestinians, in addition to the approximately 100,000 already in possession of them – must be wondering why the Biden administration doesn’t grasp Israel’s predicament. Despite the fact he and Lapid are barely on speaking terms at this point, they shared a belief that the absence of Netanyahu would provide their change coalition, which included lots of peaceniks, with a metaphorical Iron Dome against reprimand, certainly from Democrats.
For this naivety alone, they were unfit to run the country. What they should have learned by now is that the agenda of Biden and his buddies is bad for Israel, no matter who’s holding its reins.