“If you will it, it is no dream.” With those words in his book Old New Land, Theodor Herzl planted a seed that would grow into the modern State of Israel. People dared, they took risks and they succeeded.
Those words could not be more relevant today when it comes to the ongoing political crisis. That is because there are ways out of this situation, but for them to succeed, people will need to dare and take risks.
Two of the options are the most obvious. Either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu establishes a coalition with Naftali Bennett’s Yamina as well as the support of Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am, or the “change bloc” – as they call themselves – manages to coalesce into a governing coalition, also with some level of Arab support.
Regarding the second option, there are disagreements as to the best way to move forward. Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid Party received 17 seats in the election, believes that he should form the government. Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday night attacked Lapid for not putting his ego aside, warning that if he doesn’t give up the first go as prime minister, Bennett will join Netanyahu and the chance of replacing the embattled Likud leader will be lost.
On the one hand, the need for Arab involvement in the government is a positive development and good for Israel. For too long, the active participation of 20% of Israelis in the governing coalition was viewed as off limits. It was anyhow time for this change.
There are other options as well. If the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties – Shas and United Torah Judaism – break away from Netanyahu, they could give Lapid, Bennett or someone else the ability to form a government without needing Arab support, within or outside the coalition.
President Reuven Rivlin hinted at these different options which he called “unconventional alliances” upon receiving the official election results from the Central Elections Committee on Wednesday.
“We are stronger than [the crisis] and Israeli society is stronger,” he said. “I hope our elected officials will be wise enough to listen to the people of Israel and hear their demand for unconventional alliances, cooperation between sectors and professional, dedicated work for all Israeli citizens.
“Over the next few days, I will consider which candidate has the best chance to form a government,” Rivlin added. “My central consideration will be those chances to build a government that will receive the trust of the Knesset, pass a budget and heal the nation.”
As expected, the Likud hit back. In a joint statement, Knesset Speaker Yair Levin and ministers Yuval Steinitz and Amir Ohana slammed Rivlin for assuming that he has leeway when determining to whom he will give the mandate to form a government.
“Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the president has always first given the mandate to the person who has the largest number of recommendations,” the senior Likud members said. “That is how it should also be this time.”
The President’s Office hit back and said that the Likud members’ comments were undignified. “It would have been better had they not been made,” Rivlin’s office said in a statement.
The trio are obviously concerned that Rivlin will grant the mandate to someone who is not Netanyahu. Options include Bennett, Lapid, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz or maybe even a random MK who could be a “compromise candidate” and succeed in forming a government that would give some stability, even if just for a year or two.
After two years of political instability, the country needs to be able to move on. It needs to put an end to political mudslinging, it needs to pass a state budget, and it needs a government whose true motivations are not in doubt. This could be one led by Netanyahu, by Lapid, by Bennett or someone else.
In two weeks, Israel will mark Independence Day and 73 years since the establishment of our state. We are hopeful that we will be able to use the occasion to mark independence from political deadlock and nonstop election cycles as well.
The various party leaders can succeed in forming a government if they are willing to take risks and unconventional steps. If they will it, it is not a dream.