The National Unity Government

Ninety four, yes 94 votes is the size of the new Likud Government Coalition that includes Kadima under its new Chairman Shaul Mofaz. This is the largest Coalition ever in Israeli history, 94 out of 120 seats represents the largest majority of any Israeli Government. While many on the left are finding excuses to criticize Netanyahu and Mofaz, in fact this will probably be the stablest Government in Israeli history. And with the addition of Kadima, the Coalition is now more centrist in its politics, so that the favorite epithet of the media, namely “right-wing,” can no longer accurately be applied to this Government.

There are four major subjects that the Coalition must now grapple with in the year and a half that the Government will still be in office. But, some of these items have earlier time limits:

1. The Tal Law. The current Tal Law on miltiary service runs out on July 1 and the Supreme Court has ruled that it must be replaced with a Law that is more equitable, so that not only the secular part of the population, but the Haredi (Ultra-orthodox) and Arab sectors will also be required to serve. Strictly it covers not only military service but a whole range of civil, social and educational services that are optional. Also, the exemptions for religious scholars must be reduced from the current level of ca. 40,000 to say 4,000 as a limit. This is something that will be negotiated within the Coalition between the secular parties (Kadima, Yisrael Beitanu) and the religious parties (Shas, United Torah Judaism), with PM Netanyahu playing the role of intermediary.

2. Electoral reform. Many Israeli Governments and parties have promised Electoral Reform but never delivered. The main problem with the Israeli system is that it is pure proportional representation, so that political parties control the Knesset and there is no direct representation of citizens. Some proportion of seats need to be assigned to constituency representation. This is one item in the Coalition agreement between Kadima and Likud, and it has been agreed that such reforms must be in place for the next election, one and a half years from now.

3. Social Justice. The “social justice” demonstrations that were a big feature of last summer and that caused the Government to establish the Trachtenberg Committee and to implement some of its proposals, are beginning again. The first small demonstrations were held last Sat evening, and we can expect more. What annoys me about these demonstrations is that this seems to be the left trying to circumvent the normal electoral process. The Government was elected; I and many other voters don’t want to see a rabble of favorite leftist causes (remove poverty, more food for everyone, more jobs, more of everything) be implemented, as that will increase Government spending and put us in the same boat as Greece and other failing states. Let the Government rule, not the mob.

4. Iran. Noone knows for sure what will happen with Iran. Two things are fairly certain, Iran will not give up its weapons development program and the so-called negotiations that are currently underway between Iran and the US and its allies will fail as before. Also, the other certainty is that Israel cannot live with an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Many think that the Israeli Governent is bluffing, is only trying to convince the western nations and Iran that is is serious about attacking, but is really doing this only to get tougher sanctions. But, I think that Israel is deadly serious. There are predictions about when Israel might act, nominally when Iran reaches the critical point of producing a nuclear bomb. There are many guesses when that might happen, but it is most likely to be this Fall. Some have predicted that Israel will attack Iran after the results of the US election, especially if Barack Obama is reelected and the Israeli expectation is that he will not put more pressure on Iran and certainly will not attack Iran. Then Israel will be essentially forced to go it alone. Having Shaul Mofaz in the Cabinet, being a former Commander-in-Chief of the IDF, will expand the range of the Coalition and make it easier to come to such a momentous decision. That’s why we have a Government of National Unity.

All these things portend great changes in the near future. If the Coalition Government does not deliver on these important issues then the subsequent political map of Israel cannot be predicted.

Note that there is no mention of the Palestinians or the peace process above. While the state of the Arab world around Israel is in flux, with Presidential elections in Egypt, a civil war in Syria, unrest in Lebanon and uncertainty in Iraq, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are ready for any kind of peace agreement. The recent exchange of letters between Israel and the PA is merely for time-saving and the optimistic comments of the Quartet representatives have nothing to do with reality.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.