It’s all about the Benjamins

But really it’s all about one Benjamin: Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu.

After three nail-biting national elections (April 2019, September 2019, and March 2020), Israel finally has a new government. Congratulations! Mazal Tov!

For more than a year, the Israeli public witnessed a seemingly never-ending ‘texas hold’em’ poker game that they didn’t have to go across the border to Taba in order to see. And then in a flash, it was all over. The two major players went ‘all in.’ Gantz bluffed. Bibi called. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But before people get too excited, let’s take a closer look at the composition of this new ‘national unity’ government:

It has the most ministers ever… 

The 35th (2020) Israeli government is by far the largest of all time. The cabinet includes 35 (soon to be 36 if the government ever decides to declare the COVID-19 ‘crisis’ over) ministers. Additionally, there will also be as many as 16 deputy ministers. In terms of comparison, the previously largest 32nd (2009) Israeli government had 30 ministers and 9 deputy ministers.

For those that are unaware, government ministries are expensive experiments in job creation costing the public excessive amounts of money. Each minister is provided with office space, cars, drivers, a director-general, a full-time staff, and, of course, generous expense accounts. If deemed necessary, they are even given a security detail. Each deputy minister is provided with nearly all of the items listed above as well. With the national unemployment rate standing at close to 25% is this really the time to massively increase government spending?

Mark my words: Public officials will never treat public spending as they would their private pocketbooks. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply delusional.

It features questionable appointments…

Likud MK Gilad Erdan has been appointed as both Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (UN) as well as to the United States. It goes without saying that Bibi, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN himself,  should know better than to combine these two important jobs!

The lone Gesher MK, Orly Levy-Abekasis, has had an entirely new ministry created just for her – the ministry for strengthening and advancing community. Am I the only one that believes this is completely unnecessary?

The new public security minister MK Amir Ohana is widely considered an ultra-Netanyahu loyalist. The primary focus of his new job description appears to be in charge of trying to get his boss off the hook in cases 1000, 2000, and 4000. How fast can you say conflict of interest? 

Meanwhile, two highly qualified Likud MK’s seem to have been left out in the cold. Both former Shin Bet head and deputy defense minister MK Avi Dichter, and former Jerusalem mayor and rookie MK Nir Barkat haven’t been tapped by the Prime Minister to fill any meaningful role in the new government. If you think this was done by chance, think again. Bibi has a well documented past of deliberately sidelining those best positioned to someday replace him as Likud party chairman.

But even more questionable priorities…

West Bank annexation 

Respected right-wing pundit Dr. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum drew the ire of his normal base of supporters by coming out against annexation in a compelling op-ed for The New York Times. If the right is see-sawing on annexation, and the left is firmly opposed, why rock the boat unnecessarily? Especially if you believe the ‘status quo’ serves Israel’s long-term interests.

Besides making some people feel better and others feel worse, it’s hard to see what annexing all, or parts, of the West Bank will actually do in practice.

Since the signing of the Oslo agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the mid-90s, the West Bank has been divided into Areas A, B, and C. Area C, or around 60% of the West Bank, is already under full Israeli control and includes all Israeli settlements, as well as all land designated for use by the Israeli Parks Authority and the Israel Defense Forces. How would extending Israeli sovereignty in this area change any of this?

Mum on Gaza and Lebanon

Everyone knows that the next round of fighting between Israel and Gaza is a matter of when, not if. So then what will the new government do differently with regards to the Islamic terrorist organization that controls the densely-populated coastal enclave? Wait, we pretty much already know: absolutely nothing. Because the Benjamins are the twin architects of keeping Hamas in power in Gaza for fear that a new, more radical interlocutor, might emerge.

And for that matter, does anyone even remember the last time Hezbollah, undoubtedly the biggest immediate threat facing Israel from across the internationally-recognized border with Lebanon, was even mentioned? I certainly don’t.

COVID-19 already a thing of the past?

Great, so we’re all wearing ninja masks, gloves, and walking through disinfectant showers to ‘win’ against this insidious, invisible, enemy. So far less than 300 Israelis have died making COVID-19 less of a threat than annual road deaths. Watching the surreal scenes of excessive social distancing from the new government’s swearing-in ceremony in parliament, as well as the first meeting of Israel’s largest-ever cabinet, really makes one wonder: When is too much, too much? End the policy of fear already! It’s time to allow all Israelis to return to their routines. The new government should end all economic restrictions, allow busineses to re-open, and people to go back to work. Let’s dedicate the state’s limited resources elsewhere.

Oh wait, we already know where all those resources went: three national election campaigns and an inflated ‘national unity’ government.

About the Author
Freeman Poritz is currently traveling long-term and observing Israel from afar.
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