James J. Marlow
James J. Marlow

Bloc for change have Bibi on the ropes

Credit: James Marlow

After a dramatic vote last Monday night in which the Likud lost control of the Knesset and its committees, Binyamin Netanyahu is being urged to use the remaining time he has, to continue to find a way to form a government and not throw in the towel. With Yamina and the Religious Zionists, Netanyahu has 59 seats, just 2 short of a majority.

The mandate to reach a coalition of at least 61 mandates expires on 4 May and Religious Zionists, continue to refuse to accept outside government support from the Arab Ra’am party.

The Arrangements Committee is the first Knesset committee to be formed after an election. It has full control of the legislative agenda in the new parliament until a government is formed and includes forming other parliamentary committees and who will serve on them. The anti-Netanyahu bloc won the vote and could now pass legislation to prevent a candidate who is under indictment from forming a government.

Hours after Likud suffered the surprise defeat, the party’s faction chief, MK Miki Zohar, said it was likely they were heading to the opposition. But the bloc for change still have many hurdles to cross.

First, they have to unite behind one candidate, and there is no indication whether that person will be Lapid or Bennett as both are desperate for the job. Second, the bloc for change has to receive the mandate from President Rivlin and that is not guaranteed at this point. Third, they too have to reach 61 mandates to form a government and the simple maths says that it is not possible, without the Arab parties.

Even if the Arabs support a government led by Lapid or Bennett, it is almost impossible to imagine that parties from across the political spectrum, would agree on anything, other than “Anyone but Bibi.”

Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beitenu on the right, Yesh Atid, Blue and White on the left and Labor with Meretz on the far left is unlikely to last for long. Don’t forget, this “coalition for change” must also come with support from the Arabs parties either from within or outside the government.

What can they possibly agree on? Ministerial posts? The budget? Social and economic policies? The economy, investment, funding for veterans?

What about the continuation of the vaccination program and the import of more jabs? Do you think they will agree on Arab sector funding or decisions on whether the Palestinians can vote throughout Jerusalem for the upcoming Palestinian elections? The list goes on and I have not even mentioned rockets from Gaza, the Iranian threat or American foreign policy.

Let’s remember in last Monday’s vote, the four MK’s from Ra’am, waited outside the plenum, suggesting they were going to abstain from the motion. But on the second role call, they entered and voted with for Yair Lapid’s proposal.

In exchange for their support, Lapid promised Ra’am head Mansour Abbas, a seat on the Knesset Finance Committee, a deputy Knesset speaker position for one of its lawmakers and a committee chair on combatting violence in the Arab community, if he forms a government.

Abbas later told Channel 12 News, “We wanted to keep our role holding the balance of power in the Knesset and show we are not in the pocket of any bloc”. The Ra’am leader also stressed that he was angry at Smotrich and Ben-Gvir for their constant attacks on him and that he is only driven by advancing the interests of Arab society and a solution to its burning problems.

The right-wing bloc has 72 seats 

In the years when the right was united and in power, their leaders brought about a series of steps including the pursuit of sovereignty, identity and tradition. Former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar bolstered the connection between Israel’s schoolchildren and their heritage when as Education Minister, he introduced visits by schools to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Binyamin Netanyahu prevented the creation of a Palestinian State under former president Barrack Obama’s administration. As Defence Minister, Avigdor Liberman promoted the granting of building permits for thousands of housing units in Judea and Samaria. When Naftali Bennett became Defence Minister, he prevented the release of terrorists and discontinued various gestures made to the Palestinian Authority. Bezalel Smotrich acted to amend the justice system.

But today, some on the right, actively work against each other and fail to represent and implement the desire and clear expression, of those who voted last month.

Unless the right parties cease their stubborn refusal to join hands as part of a united and stable right-wing government, the citizens of Israel will be forced to go back to the polls over and over again, and Israel’s international standing as a strong and robust democracy will deteriorate.

A Right-Centre-Left-Arab government does not express the will of the people of Israel. How will it stand up to the new administration in the White House with a determined ideological backbone in the face of pressure? Is Israel ready to make more gestures and concessions? Or political arrangements and withdrawals, which could pose an existential threat to Israel’s future?

By playing politics under the banner of “Anyone but Bibi”, Israel will come under such pressure, with firm European Union’s support and enthusiastic applause from Israel’s left. The people voted for a right-wing government with a determined political vision that promotes the true and fundamental values of the national camp.

The magnitude of the hour has arrived. The gravity of responsibility on right-wing leaders, is on your shoulders, to bring about the formation of a broad, strong and democratic government. If not, Israel will head to its fifth election.

About the Author
James J. Marlow is a broadcast journalist and public relations media consultant. He has previously worked for ITN, EuroNews, Reuters, Daily Mail, Daily Express, LBC Radio and Sky News. In addition he has trained and prepared hundreds of business and entertainment people, politicians and Rabbis, for the media, including television, radio and audiences.
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