After two years of political instability, it seems that Israel will soon have a government. In what will likely be another band-aid solution, parties from the left, right, and center will unite under a brand new prime minister, Naftali Bennett (and perhaps Yair Lapid if the government lasts until 2023). The reaction from the Jewish world has been split at best, so, just to put it over the edge, here are four disqualifying issues with this prospective unity government:
- Lack of Representation
No, I’m not talking about the heavily-touted number of Mizrachim and women that will be a part of this government, I’m talking about ideological representation. Israel went right in 2021, historically so. Between the traditionalist-nationalist ideological camp of Likud, Shas, Religious Zionist Party (RZP), United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Yamina, and New Hope, there are 65 Knesset mandates. 30 of these mandates were won by Netanyahu’s Likud, who won the most seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 17 seats, barely over half of Likud’s total. If you include Yisrael Beiteinu in the “right-wing camp,” a party that once was a pillar of the national camp but has joined the “change bloc” out of personal animus between party leader Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu, that total rises to 72 seats. Add the neoconservative Blue and White, led by former Likudnik Benny Gantz, and that number rises to 80 seats, 75% of the Knesset mandates.
Instead of building a government based on the common ideological will of the voters, certain politicians have instead decided to build a government solely on the basis of personal animus against Netanyahu. These parties have nothing in common except their disdain for the Prime Minister. Voters, specifically from Yamina and New Hope, have voiced their displeasure at this spectacular bait-and-switch with 33% of New Hope voters and 76% of Yamina voters opposing the prospective government. More than half of Yamina claim they regret their vote because of the prospective government. In the same poll, 57% of Israeli’s oppose the prospective government. The backbone of this prospective government is the betrayal of the will of Israeli voters, a factor that will breed resentment from the public and instability within the government.
The very real issue with this unpopular governance is best expressed by the government’s simultaneous boycott of Haredi parties and stated commitment to expand the IDF drafting of Haredim. Haredim, who represent about 13% of the Israeli populace and hold 16 Knesset seats vis-a-vie Shas and UTJ, have long been reluctant to draft into the IDF due to conflicts with yeshivah study and concerns about secular coercion. Instead of working with Haredim and their political representatives to remedy this issue, the government will attempt to move forward behind their back and without their consent. If this is done it will only breed more division and more hatred when the opportunity to work with Shas and UTJ to address concerns of religious education interference and secular coercion for a more united Israel is more present than ever.
- Social Radicalism
Despite getting trounced in the election and despite Bennett’s election promises, social radicals will receive institutional power to a degree not seen in decades, perhaps ever. Start with Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid party, and the man Bennett promised would not be prime minister under his watch. Lapid is slated to be Israel’s Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister, set to take the premiership automatically in 2023. Yair is the son of Tommy Lapid, the radical anti-religious crusader who specifically fought tooth-and-nail against the institution of marriage in Israel during his time in politics. During this past election, Lapid showed how close the radical apple had fallen from the radical tree, threatening an unnamed Chabad rabbi as such:
“If you support the party of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir [i.e. RZP], I will pursue you. The story of menorahs at every intersection on Chanukah and Chabad Houses around the world is over. Your story about Ahavat Yisrael [loving the Jewish people] is over.”
This threat, reported by Yediot Ahronot’s Nahum Barnea, was shocking to many, but not to those that remember the radicalism of the elder Lapid and not to those who see the same anti-religious rhetoric parroted by Lapid’s allies on the left, curiously targeted most often at Chabad.
Only last week, Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg drafted a law that would criminalize “Jewish proselytizing of minors,” i.e. providing young Jews with a sense of national and religious pride through the ancient practice of wrapping Tefillin. Despite zero chance of this law passing even one reading in the Knesset, it serves as a small taste of Zandberg’s antipathy towards the religion of her people, and perhaps even her people themselves. Zandberg is slated to be the next Environment Minister.
Zandberg’s sole superior in the Meretz Party, Nitzan Horowitz, is also slated for a more powerful position, the Health Ministry. Horowitz’s political career and rise to the head of Meretz is based almost solely on his commitment to sexual radicalism in particular. To this end, no ministry could allow Horowitz to affect more change than the Health Ministry. Without a doubt, Horowitz will seek to continue the proud Western tradition of motivated political actors infiltrating and influencing the sciences to their own destructive political gain.
Yisrael Beteynu’s Avigdor Liberman is slated to be the new Finance Minister, a devastating blow to the religious sector in Israel. Lieberman first made his mark as the most hawkish member of Knesset, but once he was out-hawked by Bennett, Liberman re-emerged as the Knesset’s most ardent secularist. Liberman caused the second and third elections due to his boycott of the Haredim before committing himself to the opposition of Netanyahu as well. Liberman’s hatred of Judaism, his opposition to any religious or traditional influence in Israeli society or government, has fueled Israel’s governing crisis, and by being given the Finance Portfolio, he is being given the keys to the car. Liberman has promised to use this position to bully religious institutions in Israel to appeal to his base of increasingly hateful and desperate anti-religious voters. Considered by many to be the most corrupt politician in Israeli history, Liberman is also reportedly trying to gain control of the Knesset Finance Committee under his party, centralizing Israel’s finances under his political gasp.
Merav Michaeli, perhaps the most radical of the bunch, is slated to receive the Transportation Portfolio. Michaeli has stated that she opposes Hatikvah as Israeli’s national anthem because of its Judeo-centrism. Surely, from this logic, she opposes the Israeli flag, adorned with the Magen David, and perhaps the name of the state itself. Michaeli’s leadership marks a clean break in the continuity of the Labor Party, away from its modernist, collectivist, secularist, yet staunchly patriotic roots towards an anti-Zionist, nationally suicidal direction. This has been expressed in coalition negotiations where Michaeli forced Bennett to include a commitment to “Jewish Renewal,” a euphemism for non-Orthodox, illegitimate Jewish “authorities,” undermining the national character of the state. With the Transportation Ministry in tow, she is sure to wade into the growing issue of public bussing on Shabbat, a prohibition begun by her predecessor David Ben-Gurion, a man she shares nothing in common with but the title of party leader.
To top it all off, the Knesset speakership will be held either by Mickey Levy or Meir Cohen, both members of Yesh Atid, both puppets of the aforementioned Yair Lapid. Whoever is given the post will be given total control over what legislation to advance and what legislation to indefinitely table.
- Executive Weakness
Unfortunately with Israel, executive weakness, specifically in regards to foreign policy, is built into the political infrastructure. Unlike the United States, for example, Israel’s executive officer is not the “commander in chief.” In fact, such a position does not even exist. These responsibilities are instead delegated to the National Security Cabinet, which includes the party-heads of all coalition parties. Make no mistake, in this government, Meretz’s Nitzan Horowitz, Labor’s Merav Michaeli, and Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas will have a significant say in Israel’s ability to defend itself.
On top of institutional weakness, the prospective executives, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid are inexperienced and unproven. Naftali Bennett’s biggest claim is his brief stint as Defense Minister at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis where he emerged as a dissident against Netanyahu’s then-unpopular coronavirus policies. This support dissipated when Israel became the first country to truly emerge from the coronavirus crisis, vindicating Netanyahu and taking the air out of Bennett’s once-promising campaign. The only ministry Lapid has ever held was the Finance Ministry, which he held for ten months before being sacked by Netanyahu.
One can only worry when pairing this exceptionally weak executive leadership with the bigger picture of a rising Iran and a US administration committed to reorienting American foreign policy away from the Israel-Sunni alliance and towards the Islamic Republic. Without strong US or Israeli leadership, Israeli allies in the Middle East could defect to the Iranian sphere of influence to appease their Muslim populous and the growing hegemon, once again isolating Israel in a sea of nations who want her dead, soon with the nuclear capability to ensure it. Israel needs strong leadership to maintain and strengthen its allyships and keep Iran from nuclear power. Without this leadership, Israel may be a sitting duck.
- Sovereignty Sell-out
The reliance on Ra’am is, without a doubt, the biggest issue with this government. While Hasbara NGOs fawn over Israel’s inclusion, there is a real existential crisis that is brewing under the surface. Ra’am is an anti-Zionist, Islamist party, knit from the same cloth as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Ra’am’s charter refers to Israel as “a racist, occupying project” and notes the party’s “responsibility” to “confront that project” i.e. dismantle and destroy the State of Israel as we know it through semi-legitimate political means. As for Arab-Israeli’s, the Ra’am charter states clearly “there can be no allegiance” to the state that protects and cares for them. Party leader Mansour Abbas put this extremism on display last month when he cut off all negotiations, swearing he would not support any government that engages in any war with Hamas.
There has been a push by Hasbara NGOs and apologists for this prospective government to whitewash Abbas as a good-hearted statesman and Ra’am as a moderate party for Arabs just seeking inclusion in Israel. The very opposite is true. Ra’am is a malicious force that openly seeks the destruction of the State of Israel and its chief is a conniving saboteur willing to use any and every tool at his disposal to see it through.
Even before this prospective government has been sworn in, Abbas is already winning. In final negotiations, Abbas forced Bennett to suspend enforcement against the ongoing illegal Bedouin construction in the Negev until 2024. Opposing this illegal Bedouin expansion in the Negev was one of Bennett’s main policy points, a topic Bennett focused on repeatedly to highlight his right-wing credentials, framing it as an issue of basic sovereignty. It seems, before he has even become prime minister, Bennett has already given that sovereignty away.
This prospective government is not stable. It is a government without the support of the governed. It is a government that promises social radicalism deeply out of touch with Israeli society. It is a government that will deeply weaken Israel’s standing on the global stage. It is a government that has already given away its sovereignty and basic ability to independently make decisions to people who openly seek its destruction. There are no excuses for this government, especially from Naftali Bennett, who promised voters this would not occur and went forward anyway. When elections come around again, which will likely be in the next year, Bennett will have a lot of explaining to do to his voters, though most of them are done listening.