Menage A Trois

In Israel, it takes three to tango. So a new menage a trois…. A non-sexual threesome…. is emerging on our political scene.

The Likud has a majority of one in the government, holding on to power by only a thin hair. Negotiations have been feverish between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union (Labor) party. And now, Avigdor Lieberman, powerful and boisterous leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, may agree to join the coalition providing that his demands are met.

It is a situation of musical chairs, each one running to claim possession of the right seat. And it is a quandary for Prime Minister Netanyahu who really dislikes the leaders of both of the opposition parties but needs at least one to increase the strength of his Likud government.

Herzog is a decent man, a quiet man, from very strong Zionist roots. His grandfather had been Chief Rabbi of Ireland before relocating to Israel where he became the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. His father, Chaim Herzog, had been an army general, a lawyer, politician, renowned author and Israel’s sixth beloved president from 1983-1993.

Isaac Herzog is the inheritor of devout Zionist genes and is a scion of one of Israel’s great families.

He is, in my opinion however, not strong enough to lead the country and to combat Arab terrorism . He represents the Ben-Gurion style of Labor with the dominance of the Histadrut.

Many of us are tired of Histadrut rule and we rejoiced when Menachem Begin was the first leader to shed the shackles of Labor rule and domination.

In recent weeks Herzog and Netanyahu have been holding serious discussions in an effort to convince the Zionist Union to leave the opposition and to join the coalition. With minor disagreements here and there, usually about which portfolios would be offered to it, it appeared that a breakthrough was on the horizon for a unity government. Until a few days ago……………….

Out of the blue, Avigdor Lieberman re-appeared on the scene and considered joining his party and adding six seats to the coalition if his demands were met.

One was to regain the Defense Ministry portfolio, now held by Netanyahu’s colleague, Ya’alon. That would be a problem for Netanyahu. Lieberman has been an outspoken critic of Netanyahu and his policies and the two men are not known to be friendly to one another.

A second demand, one that I whole-heartedly agree with, is to impose the death penalty on convicted terrorists. But to be fair, if such a proposed bill were to be voted favorably, it must include the same death penalty upon convicted Jewish terrorists who commit heinous crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Lieberman, a former citizen of the Soviet Union, is a strong man, feared and despised by the Arabs. But that can also be a favorite factor in offering him the Defense Ministry. We need a tougher leader to pull in the reins of leniency and to end the mini-intifada which we have endured sufferingly for the past half-year.

Herzog, meanwhile, has refused to continue negotiations with Netanyahu if Lieberman were to agree to re-join the government.

His words remind me of the outcry of Elijah to the people of Israel during a contest with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
“How long will you go hopping from one foot to the other? Choose this day which god you will serve… either Baal or our One God”.

Herzog is telling Netanyahu to choose between him or Lieberman. He cannot have it both ways.

So there is a new dilemma in the endless saga and soap-box chapters in our Israeli politics.

And the menage a trois…the dance of the threesome… continues. Until one of the proposed partners becomes too tired to dance and opts to sit down for a deserved rest.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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