Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

To the Moon and Back: Final Election Results in Israel

Bennett and Shaked (the New Right party) did not make it into Knesset after all. Talk about a spectacular crash. There certainly is Schadenfreude, but I would not to get too worked up about that outcome.

Likud picked up another seat at the expense of the Haredi party, Yahadut Hatorah. The Haredi parties, with 15 seats the third largest bloc in Knesset, are saying that they will make a technical union to augment their clout in the coalition negotiations.

Likud, then, is six seats stronger than it was in the last Knesset, which is a lot. Netanyahu could use that strength to moderate the jingoism; I am not holding my breath. If Yariv Levin gets the Justice Ministry, he will make Shaked look like an amateur.

Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi will make big demands: Justice, Education. With a seat or two less, Likud would have been vulnerable to even one small party leaving the coalition. Which, had that math eventuated, could, maybe, perhaps, with a lot of stuff over a long period of torturous negotiations, have led to a unity government with Gantz. That is not going to happen, not that that was ever likely.

Liberman (Yisrael Betenu) is in, so is Kahlon (Kulanu), both, with a few, five seats. Liberman and his voters are very, even militantly, secular. He came up with the latest draft bill, which the Haredi establishment rejected, backed up by riots in the streets from some haredi factions. The Supreme Court has ruled that blanket exemption of Haredi men is unconstitutional. So right now, unless there is a legislative putsch to end the separation of branches and eviscerate the Supreme Court, the government has to come up with something that satisfies the Court.

But eviscerating the justice system is exactly what some aim to do. They want Knesset ability to override a Supreme Court ruling with a simple majority of 61– which the right of course, has, and did in the last government, but which Kahlon blocked, and he had the votes then to make that stick. Such a change would be the end of the justice system. Just so we’re clear about what Shaked and her ilk were and are up to; what Yariv Levin and Smotrich and others are pushing. Including legislation to exempt Netanyahu from judicial decision about his indictments.

Liberman will give Netanyahu a hard time with demands for entering the coalition, but he has nowhere to go; it’s not like his seats, even if he and Gantz could make a deal, would make the difference. Netanyahu can buy him off with Defense Minister and then ignore him again, as he and the whole defense establishment did when he had this post in the last government. Of course, he knows that very well, so what he does, we’ll find out. He and the haredi parties revile one another but there are more than twice more of them than of him.

So, the moon capsule, Beresheet, crashed instead of landed. I followed that story very moderately. I did tune in last night for the live ending of the mission; too bad, etc. I can’t say the whole thing got me going. I would be far, far more moved if no child in Israel went to bed, or to an excellent school, hungry. If our educational system educated everyone to real citizenship, and if our political system delivered full, dignified citizenship to all. If Jews learned from our experience as a minority how to run things differently when we are the majority. The moon will keep revolving without our intervention. The other matters depend on us.

Shabbat, mercifully, intervenes in a few hours. Before that, I have preps, including cakes to bake (I very rarely bake but when I do, it’s good; even “very good”), and out of town guests to see. Diversion is the best thing sometimes.

It’s no permanent solution, as we know, but we all need a break in order to keep going. Even God did.

Shabbat shalom.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus is a professor of Jewish history and an award-winning author of books on Jewish modernity and on Jewish women's history.