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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Kulanu-Likud merger not the end of the world
By BARUCH STEIN
06/10/2019
I voted for Kahlon because of all the Knesset Members, he is the most successful at enacting domestic reforms.
I voted for Moshe Kahlon in April but had he merged Kulanu with the Likud prior to the election, I would not have voted for the Likud and I will not vote for them in September. Had I been in Kahlon’s place, though, I would have merged just as he did.

I do not like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I would prefer a prime minister who has not been recorded negotiating over coverage with the publisher of a newspaper, and who stood up to the religious cartel. I would prefer a prime minister whose positions are consistent and credible, but Netanyahu supported Palestinian Statehood in his Bar-Ilan University address and then supported annexation during his spring election campaign, despite having blocked three annexation bills in 2018 alone. He seems to go with whatever sentiments political expediency and his pollsters indicate without regard for reality and without providing any actual leadership of his own.

Short of a worthy prime minister, having Netanyahu depend on support from centrist or leftist parties that would protect religious freedom and the rule of law would be preferable to the far-right religious coalition Netanyahu wants.

Going into every election, I ask myself what issues I consider at play. I believe that demographics necessitate a demilitarized Palestinian State but that Israeli security forces must maintain operational capability in Judea and Samaria, and I consider returning to the Green Line out of the question. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the “Deal of the Century,” though, as they have rejected every previous opportunity for statehood.

While far-right positions like annexation are unhelpful, I have no confidence that there would be a peace agreement if a far-left candidate were elected or that the Left’s concessions would preserve Israel’s security or Jewish rights in places like the Old City. In the meantime, for too long the Israeli electorate has focused on conflict to the detriment of domestic priorities.

I voted for Kahlon because of all the Knesset Members, he is the most successful at enacting domestic reforms. Despite Israel’s rightward trend, in the 20th Knesset, Kulanu was a moderating anchor, blocking things like the judicial override bill.

Unfortunately, had Avigdor Liberman joined with Netanyahu after April’s election, there could have been a far-right coalition that would not have depended on Kahlon or any moderating anchor. Polls show that in the September election, the Right could come out even stronger.

At the moment, the far-right is an unfortunate reality of Israeli politics, which is why an agreement which would have allowed Kahlon to continue as Finance Minister and maintain his flagship housing program in exchange for joining Netanyahu’s coalition (had it materialized without the need for another election) despite the expected passage of the sorts of legislation Kulanu had blocked in the 20th Knesset, would have been the right thing.

Kulanu barely made it into the Knesset in April. Things like the judicial override bill and the immunity bill were set to pass regardless of Kulanu’s opposition to them. They had two options, either they join the coalition and continue their housing program and other economic reforms despite the far-right legislation, or they go to the opposition over the far-right legislation, forego their domestic agenda and watch the legislation pass regardless of their objections. Going to the opposition without being able to block the legislation would be pointless. The far-right coalition was a fact, advancing their domestic agenda in the meantime was the reason I voted for Kulanu and was what they were doing by preparing to join the coalition.

None of this has changed since Kulanu merged with the Likud. Merging with the Likud was contingent on the eventuality of a repeat election. There would have been no merger without the repeat election. Without the merger, Kahlon would have risked watching legislation like the judicial override bill pass from outside the Knesset, in a world without his housing program. Netanyahu offered an opportunity to ensure the continuation of the housing program and protect Kahlon’s position as finance minister by placing him fifth on the Likud list.

I still do not like Netanyahu, but it is impossible to imagine the next coalition being formed without the Likud, so I am glad to know that the housing program will continue after the next election. With that accomplished, I am able to readjust my priorities and vote in September for a party that might anchor the next coalition to other issues, like religio-political reform.
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