These days, as I contemplate, with unprecedented foreboding, the new government that Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to form, I recall some of the lyrics of the song, Stout-Hearted Men, written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II. I often heard this song during my childhood. The chorus includes
Give me some men
Who are stout-hearted men
Who will fight
For the rights
Are there five, 11, or an even larger number of newly elected Likud members of Knesset who will “fight for the rights they adore” by refusing to vote for the intended coalition when it is shortly to be presented for Knesset approval?
As many have written in recent weeks, there are solid grounds for foreboding. We are seeing leaders of two minorities within the Israeli population, the residents of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) on one hand, and the Haredim on the other, adding demand after demand, and reportedly receiving most of these in commitments from Benjamin Netanyahu. The leaders of these minorities, Ben-Gvir, Smotrich, Maoz, Goldknopf, and Deri, some of whom are convicted criminals, are sometimes swaggering with their sudden power. Some of their demands are opposed by a strong majority of Israelis, to judge from polls that have been taken. In addition to the internal damage of imposing widely unpopular policies, the reaction of the United States, other governments, and various international bodies to the coalition’s plans and actions might severely harm Israel’s vital interests.
Ben-Gvir, Smotrich, Maoz and the Haredim have had disproportionate power in negotiating with Netanyahu because he has had no possible alternative coalition. It has been a well-established practice of the leader of the victorious party to take steps to promote the possibility of an alternative coalition in order to moderate the demands of the parties involved in current negotiations. However, Netanyahu and his key supporters have so befouled the climate vis-a-vis Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid in recent years that such an alternative Center-Right coalition did not realistically exist in the wake of the November 1 elections.
Have all the “stout-hearted men (and women)” already left the Likud in recent years? One can easily list the names of admired former Likud members who have exited the party. Are there enough men and women among the 32 current Likud Mks who will take a stand to prevent what could be unprecedented damage to both Israel’s internal social fabric and its external standing?