Israel elected a far-right government: Where does it go from here? - opinion

The people have voted, and Netanyahu will form his government in due course. 

 PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid sit at the center of the front row, with MK Benjamin Netanyahu behind them, in a Knesset inauguration photo earlier this month. Herzog emphasized that Israelis are exhausted from infighting. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid sit at the center of the front row, with MK Benjamin Netanyahu behind them, in a Knesset inauguration photo earlier this month. Herzog emphasized that Israelis are exhausted from infighting.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Winston Churchill famously said: “You can always trust the Americans to do the right thing – after they have tried everything else.” Well, they did, and look at the mess they got themselves into. Now the Republicans have had partial election success by regaining control of the House of Representatives, only time will tell if they can pull something out of the fire, i.e. which damaging Democrat legislation they can reverse. They have also committed to continuing to advocate by-partisan support for Israel, regardless of our government.

Several European countries also had elections in which the trend was toward the far Right. That too happened in Israel, where our coalition government could not settle on a unified policy direction, leading to the fifth election in less than four years. The electorate was fed up with seeing the constituent political parties in the Knesset consistently pulling in different directions. 

Quo Vadis – where is Israel going from here?

At the recent inauguration of the 25th Knesset, President Herzog echoed this sentiment; Israelis are exhausted by infighting. Very little could be achieved by it. Each faction’s support was conditional upon the agreement to their various demands made for the benefit of their voters. Collective cabinet responsibility does not exist in Israel, where leaks are the order of the day, causing unease in the country. 

The attitude of “only if you do this or that for us, then we can support your policy” led to the collapse of four previous governments. 

 United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israeli politics are always controversial, but more recently, they bordered on entertainment. By the fifth election, the Israeli public had had enough, evidenced by the higher-than-usual turnout.

A sizable portion of the vote was against the government’s concern about the US administration’s reaction to our policies, particularly on the question of Judea and Samaria, the so-called West Bank

There was also an unjustified, yet considerable American reaction to the probability of “right-wing extremists” joining our government – particularly Itamar Ben-Gvir. Ben-Gvir was a follower of Rabbi Kahane, whose party was labeled as a terrorist party and banned from the Knesset. But that was almost thirty years ago, when he was 18. Now, Ben-Gvir has publicly rejected the late Rabbi Kahane’s policies. 

It is a sad fact, that the anti-Israel lobby in the US has allied itself to progressive Judaism. The sermons of progressive rabbis in the US extol the humanitarian case for Palestinian Arabs, and erroneously refer to us as a race. However, a race is not entitled to a country – only nations are. By that, they are implying that the Jewish nation has no right to the Land of Israel. They too will feel the draft of antisemitism in the not-so-distant future. It’s a pity that it will take even more anti-Jewish incidents to bring them to their senses.

We are a sovereign nation and who should be in our new government is nobody’s business but our own. The people have voted, and Netanyahu will form his government in due course. 

The far-right demands are counter-productive

HERE IN Israel, the inflexible demands of our right-wing party leaders are counter-productive. Such demands may force Netanyahu to consider the inclusion of another party to complete his cabinet, leaving the ‘wannabies’ out in the cold. The “I want or else” threats will get them nowhere, resulting in a betrayal of their voters. 

Hopefully, they will come to their senses before Netanyahu’s period of 28 days to form a government expires. Of course, he could apply to the President for an extension, but that would not be ideal. 

This time, let us put the good of the country before the personal preferences of individual Knesset members. 

The country owes them nothing. They are the servants of the nation and would do well to heed the words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

And that brings me to Itamar Ben-Gvir. He promised to become an influential minister in the next government. Among the many promises usually made by politicians, this was indeed the strangest and most unrealistic. 

As far as Shas leader Aryeh Deri is concerned, he is a convicted criminal. In 1999 he was given a three-year jail sentence for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Accordingly, he should not be in our government – far less hold a financial ministerial post.

The venerable Bezalel Smotrich, for whom I have great respect, is, in truth, not experienced enough to take on the enormous responsibility of Defense Minister. Netanyahu was correct to dissuade him as the position requires significant diplomatic skills. Smotrich’s strong, Zionist beliefs, ideas and determination are not sufficient to have his proposals – as much as I support them – accepted without repercussions. I am certain, however, that he will make a success of any other ministerial position with which he is entrusted.

One could have predicted these developments – as the saying goes, “old habits die hard.” To achieve one’s aims one cannot go about it like a “bull in a china shop.” Success in diplomacy is based on compromise, and regrettably many of our Knesset members have not yet learned that. 

I understand that cultural differences influence their actions. We are also a young country, but if we want to act like a successful western nation, we must change our modus operandi. The team spirit of good government is also missing. Netanyahu’s government will hopefully achieve this, and run its full term of four years, to enable it to fulfil the promises he made to the electorate.

The writer, almost 99, is the oldest working journalist and broadcaster; both are Guinness World Records. Hear his weekly shows in English on Israel National Radio and Israel Newstalk Radio, or on J-Air Radio 88FM in Melbourne.