In the aftermath of the Israel’s election I am sure there would be a consensus among Jewish News readers on two aspects.
First, that Israel’s P.R. . voting system– invariably leading to nauseating post-election “horse-trading”, periods of political paralysis and fragile coalitions- is woefully unfit for purpose. Secondly, that Israel’s ability to survive as a vibrant democracy in the Middle East , surrounded by hostile regimes where open elections are virtually unheard of and societal divisions are “settled” by brutal dictators and barbaric civil wars, is truly remarkable. Beyond those points, consensus would probably end.
For my part, the saddest aspect of both Israel’s elections this year has been the huge element of inter – Jewish invective that has dominated the campaigns, waged by viciously anti- religious groups against the Torah-observant population. The instigator of this scourge has undoubtedly been Avigdor Lieberman , with his Yisrael Beitenu party. Far from being a “kingmaker” as he is being dubbed, he is a “king trouble- maker”.
Although Lieberman is uncompromising towards the Arabs on foreign policy (which to me is his only redeeming feature) , his domestic agenda is almost entirely focused on opposing religion. In terms of policy this means forcing all yeshiva students into the army, secularising the education system, undermining public Shabbat observance , and removing rabbinical control over vital matters of status, such as marriage and conversion.
Unfortunately , apart from his obvious appeal to ex–Russians, Lieberman has gained further support from younger disaffected citizens who seek a role model who is radical and defiant – a position previously held by Yair Lapid and his now-absorbed Yesh Atid party. Hence, Yisrael Beitenu’s astonishing increase to eight Knesset seats. Lieberman has also contaminated the opinions of otherwise responsible politicians within the Blue and White party who have done little to disassociate themselves from his blasphemous outpourings.
What of the current stalemate? Clearly Likud cannot form a majority Government with its natural rightist allies alone – namely UTC, Shas and Yamina. Blue and White similarly cannot do so with its natural leftist allies – namely Labour- Gesher, Democratic Union and (yes, I would so categorise them for these purposes) Yisrael Beitenu. Both blocs would fall well short of the 61 seats needed. The reality is that neither Netanyahu nor Gantz has won this election. But it is inappropriate for the media to keep depicting Netanyahu as the sole loser . He has been a great leader and there is every reason he should stay around.
The only party excluded from those mentioned above is the 13 –strong Arab “Joint List”. For the idea of including in the Government a motley group of politicians who support Palestinian terrorists and basically seek the destruction of the State is surely anathema to any intelligent Israeli with even the most tenuous attachment to Judaism or Zionism. They are the Trojan Horse in the Knesset.
My message to President Rivlin is this. There seems no alternative but to broker a coalition between Likud and Blue and White, even if it requires a process of “banging heads together”. Let those parties have a consecutive Prime Ministerial power-sharing agreement between their leaders. Such an arrangement was relatively successful between Peres and Shamir in the 1980’s, and could work well now. In truth there is not such a political gulf between Netanyahu and Gantz as individuals.
But the Government must not end there. The strictly orthodox parties play a key role in underpinning the profile of Judaism – an essential ingredient for Israel’s survival. They too must be brought into the coalition. If Yamina were also included it would bring the Government’s total Knesset strength to almost 90 – a heathy majority. As for the remaining ragbag of left-wing appeasers, revolutionaries and the party of Lieberman , (whose personal obstinacy and bigotry was the main cause of all this upheaval) let them stew as an unholy alliance in opposition , where they can effect the lease damage.