Rivlin’s time

Enough is enough. Israel does not have the luxury of this endless instability and chaos at the top.

The ultimate decider: President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The ultimate decider: President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel’s dysfunctional endless election cycles make it imperative that President Reuven Rivlin uses all of his influence to make sure the country has a government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clinging to power and prefers continued elections over the possibility that someone else will take his place. In the absence of a government, he remains Israel’s interim leader, and therefore does not have an incentive to work to form a unity government that would require concessions. Similarly, the Blue and White Party has ruled out working with Netanyahu due to his pending trial and – absent a minority government with support from the Joint List – will not be able to establish a stable government.
Enough is enough. Israel does not have the luxury of this endless instability and chaos at the top. It was already problematic that Netanyahu for years conglomerated numerous ministries under his control, reducing the influence of the Foreign Ministry and trying to centralize as much power as possible. It is already problematic that the prime minister has been indicted and is about to go on trial.
This seemingly endless election cycle has led to a situation in which the Knesset no longer puts the priority of Israel’s citizens first. It has eschewed responsibility for basic needs like a state budget and instead seems to be sitting on the sidelines as the country careens from one round of voting to another.
Israel has a president, and one of his most important roles is helping to form a government after elections. Already both the leading parties are showing that they have internal problems that hobble them. Netanyahu will have to go on trial soon, and in Blue and White, an internal controversy has seen MKs Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel rule out a minority government backed by the Joint List. That means that Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz might not have a majority to form a coalition, either.
The problem for Rivlin, who is supposed to task someone with forming a government, is that the math just isn’t there for either Gantz or Netanyahu. We’ve already seen how this played out several times before, when neither of them succeeded. And there aren’t any new faces in the Knesset for them to choose from. It’s the same exact parties, with some minor changes, that were in the Knesset a year ago. The system of Israeli democracy is rapidly facing another crisis and the possibility of a fourth election.
Gantz has done his due diligence, meeting with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to begin recruiting support. Rivlin will have to decide soon who he will tap to form the government – and the March 17 deadline is looming. Not working toward a unity government seems to indicate that Netanyahu simply prefers the current situation; continual elections have become the new normal. It appears that many of the sitting MKs also want this system since so far they, too, have not rebelled against it.
It is time for Israel to have real leadership, not this cycle of elections that makes a mockery of the democratic process and insults the voters.
There is a looming budgetary crisis, Iran’s continued efforts to attack Israel and, of course, the novel coronavirus, whose impact on Israel and its economy is still unknown.
Foreign powers are wondering what is wrong with Israel and asking themselves if it can be trusted and counted on when there is no stable government in Jerusalem. The way the peace process has become a short-term political football, with calls to annex this or that part of the West Bank for a handful of votes, shows how Israel’s future is being mortgaged for the interests of a few months of electoral campaigning.
Is this the legacy of David Ben-Gurion and Theodor Herzl? Rivlin now has a chance to speak to the higher values that underpin the state and make clear how this situation cannot go on. He might give the mandate to Gantz or Netanyahu – or maybe to someone else who he predicts has a chance of pulling Israel out of the mud.
We have to avoid the circus of yet another election that benefits only the egos of a few people in the Knesset – who sadly have shown over the last 15 months that the nine million people in this country are not their first priority.