Martin Sherman

Into the fray: Comparing coalitions

While the current coalition is far from unblemished, things could be worse—and have been, recently.

The current Netanyahu-led coalition has been lambasted, almost without respite, from the moment it was formed—arguably even before that, while it was still being assembled.

Unprecedented breach of the basics of democratic governance

It has been accused—usually with only flimsy foundation—of virtually every conceivable flaw—from gross incompetence, through flagrant corruption to brazen embezzlement. While the incumbent government is, like all its forerunners, not unblemished, it is far from the demonized image ascribed to it by an obsessively Bibi-phobic “elite” and a blatantly partisan mainstream press. Moreover, by any impartial comparison with its immediate predecessor, it is a tangible improvement.

Indeed, given the docile, domesticated media “coverage” (read “sheltering”) lavished on it, it is easy to forget just how the Bennet-Lapid coalition was spawned and how it was sustained.

This was a coalition, whose establishment was the result of an unprecedented breach of the most fundamental element of democratic government and the most staggering violation of an electoral pledge in Israel’s political history. True, in the past, elected politicians have broken promises made to voters once they were elected or reneged on campaign commitments made to the public after winning office. But what Bennett did was vastly different, and commensurately worse.

Whereas past skullduggery involved elected officials not honoring their pledges once elected—whether because post-election realities made their fulfillment unfeasible, or because pre-election conditions shifted, making prior promises impossible to honor. However, in the case of Bennett, he violated the most basic canons of his political platform and professed ideological credo that, in large measure, defined his party’s identity—not after winning office, but in order to win office.

“I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister…”

Thus, on the very eve of the 2021 elections, on a Channel 20 (today 14) interview, Bennett brandished a declaration—which he then signed on-screen. In it, he made the following undertaking: “I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister, including in a rotation (agreement.)” and “I will not establish a government based on the support of Mansour Abbas from the Islamic Movement.”

Moreover, a few days earlier, a senior member of Bennett’s faction, Yamina, MK Matan Kahana, lambasted the Likud for not voting for a motion to disqualify some Arab lists and candidates, including, Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Ra’am party, and organ of the Muslim Brotherhood from participating in the Knesset elections.

According to Kahana, a close associate of Bennett’s, the failure of the Likud to disqualify Abbas and his party “has allowed embracers of terrorists to become members of the Knesset…”. He alleged that members of “…Ra’am visited and encouraged families of terrorists”, adding that “Mansour Abbas himself visited the family of the terrorist who carried out an attack at the Meron junction in the Second Intifada.” Acerbically, Kahana asserted: “These people have no place in the Knesset of Israel. The Prime Minister and the Likud should be ashamed of themselves for the delusional decision to flee the vote…

Undermining democratic governance & Zionist tradition

Yet, several weeks later, despite the robust Right-wing rhetoric and professed ideological resolve, that is precisely what Bennett and his cronies did—paving the way for Yair Lapid’s (albeit very abbreviated) incumbency as Prime Minister, via a rotation agreement that Bennett was not formally obligated to implement at the time. Accordingly, this decision to betray his voters’ trust was not one made under duress, but completely willingly. As such, it was a twin violation of his solemn electoral pledges (a) not to allow the anti-Zionist Islamist faction into the government; and (b) not to allow the appointment of a Left-wing prime minister.

Thus, in his unbridled frenzy for power and position, Bennett not only shredded the most basic tenet of democratic government—the most rudimentary element of trust between the voters and those seeking their vote—but also gravely undermined the time-honored principle of Zionist governance in the Jewish nation-state.

This is not unfounded malicious slander. After all, the Bennett-Lapid coalition was totally dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Ra’am for its existence and was utterly reliant on the approval of the Islamist Shura Council. Indeed, despite its seemingly affable chairman, Mansour Abbas, Ra’am is an unequivocally anti-Zionist faction, which even compelled the Bennett-Lapid government to curtail a tree-planting project—an over a century-year-old Zionist activity—in the South, because of Arab resistance.

Of course, one must not forget that in order to secure the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in his government, it was necessary to pledge between 50-60 billion shekels to the largely anti-Zionist Arab sector (including half a billion for discretionary spending), dwarfing any sums allocated to the much vilified ultra-Orthodox.

This crazy-quilted coalition, fraudulently cobbled together by a man with the temerity to head the government with the support of barely 5% of the electorate, soon began to display its shabby and rickety nature.

The largest political corruption scandal

For example, the man appointed to run the nation’s coffers was none other than Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose party, Yisrael Beiteinu, was wracked by one of the largest political bribery and corruption scandals in Israel’s history, which landed several of his most senior (and closest) aides stiff prison sentences. Astonishingly, although Liberman ran his party with an iron fist, keeping tight control over everything that transpired in it, during the investigation he was not even summoned as a witness—never mind a suspect! (for further detail see here). There are, of course, only two possibilities: Either Liberman knew of the malfeasance—or he didn’t. If he did, then he is colossally corrupt; if he didn’t, he is incredibly incompetent.

Then, there was previous Transport Minister Merav Michaeli, who barely three years before her election to the Knesset, called on Israeli mothers not to send their sons to serve in the IDF, proclaiming—on army radio no less: “I think that women should not send their children to the army… when there is an ongoing Occupation for over 40 years…they should stop being willing to send their children to the army without asking questions.” A little earlier, Michaeli penned an article, proposing to change the words of the national anthem, to make them more acceptable to the anti-Zionist Arab population. This is the same Michaeli, who recommended abolishing the nuclear family, which she saw as inherently unsafe for children, and transferring responsibility for childcare from the parents to the State! Fruitcake, anyone?

Justifying the antisemitism of ICC

Likewise, there was the former Health Minister, who shortly before joining the Bennett-led government, justified a probe by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the conduct of the IDF. Interestingly, Horowitz’s statement sparked a furious response from Bennett’s number two, Ayelet Shaked, who vowed “We won’t serve in a government with Meretz. Horowitz’s remark justifying the political and anti-Semitic action of the court at The Hague and its persecution of IDF soldiers is a disgrace to the Israeli Knesset.”

As it turned out, however, it did not take long for her ideological ire to cool, and Shaked found it quite acceptable to serve together with the once morally insufferable Horowitz. After all, what principle can withstand the lure of power and the lust for position?

Moreover, we should not forget Bennett’s Deputy Economy Minister, Yair Golan, who claimed he could identify the onset of nascent fascism in Israeli society and emerging processes, reminiscent of those that gave rise to Nazi Germany, thus presenting Israel’s most vehement detractors with precisely the confirmation they needed to support their toxic Judeophobic venom against the Jewish state.

But perhaps the crowning indictment of the Bennett-Lapid government that most graphically exposed its true nature—its disregard for democratic norms, concern for Israeli security, and its fatally flawed judgment—came in the final days of its incumbency.

Buffoonery, balderdash…or bribery?

This was when the buffoonish “alternative Prime Minister, Yair Lapid acted with untoward haste to transfer a stretch of potentially rich marine gas fields to an enemy country, ruled by a brutal Iranian-controlled terror group—all this while by-passing the Knesset and riding roughshod over previously time-honored democratic norms and conventions–with the collusion of his compliant Attorney-General, Gali Baharav-Miara. Not less perturbing is the transparently mendacious rationale given for the agreement and the hurried manner, in which it was pushed through—i.e. that it would allegedly serve to pacify Hezbollah and preserve stability in the North. Of course, we all know how splendidly that prognosis worked out, and how spectacularly it was repudiated hours after October 7, when fighting, that was supposed to be averted by the agreement, erupted on Israel’s northern border.

Indeed, it is difficult to know what is more troubling—whether the then-Israeli leadership actually believed the drivel it fed the public; or whether, knowing it was utter balderdash, purposefully and unscrupulously misled the public anyway?

* * *

So dear citizens, while the current coalition is far from unblemished, remember things could always be worse. In fact, they already have been!

About the Author
Dr. Martin Sherman is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies a member of the research team of the Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF)-Habithonistim, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project. . He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment, and was a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government. Sherman also lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees: a B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), an MBA (Finance), and a PhD in political science and international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and is the author of two books, as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. Sherman was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971.