You can’t have the cake and eat it…unless you are Bibi and you call the Labor party

And here we are again, watching a movie we’ve watched in the past. A movie in which the Labor party comes to the rescue of a weak government in order to strengthen the very same opponent they were the alternative to, only one election ago.

Sources claim that Labor and Likud are negotiating a national unity government. If this is the case, it will be a big blow to Herzog and Livni’s electorate, who voted Labor only a few months ago for one particular reason: to remove Bibi from the PM office.

I know you may say I’m unreasonable. This is a critical time for the State of Israel, as Iran has just signed a deal that, if things go badly, could eventually allow them to obtain nuclear weapons. Therefore, it makes sense to stand together until we get through these hard times. Right? Wrong.

We do have to make a plan to defend ourselves in case this deal does not go well. And we have the IDF and its very professional commanders and soldiers to put it together as they’ve done it in the past. Another party in the government won’t make a difference in the effectiveness of their planning.

But this is not the only reason for which Labor should not join this government. There is one more.

The Labor party should vocally lead the opposition, now more than ever, in openly criticizing this government for taking us into this hole. And, naturally, they should not come to the rescue of a failed government who has isolated Israel from the world stage. In fact, Israel was hardly consulted about the agreements signed in Vienna. This government’s actions (e.g. its old-fashioned right wing rhetoric, its addiction to settlement building and its open media battle with our most important ally in the world) definitely did not put Israel in a better bargaining position in the international stage.

Thus, Labor should remain were it is, in the opposition, as a credible alternative to this government that is doing everything it can to survive. But if they do join, as they’ve done it in the past, their voters won’t forget this in the next elections. Why? Because voters will know that in hard times Labor always come to the rescue. So, why vote for them to begin with?

PM Netanyahu’s plan to have Labor joining his government might be a strategy to appear as more “balanced” towards the international community, allowing him to survive in power for longer. But, what should actually be keeping him busy right now? First, he should be working with the dealmakers in the international community to minimize the gaps in the monitoring protocols specified in the agreement. Similarly, he could be working in the background to get the best possible experts in those monitoring teams. We could do many things in order to provide pragmatic solutions to the parts of this deal that concern us the most. That would certainly make me and many Israelis sleep better at nights.

Demanding from the government to take smart steps to avoid a bad outcome should be a condition for Labor before joining any government. And as leaders of the opposition they should say so, openly and critically. They should position themselves, for real, as an alternative. Otherwise, more rhetoric in the media won’t change reality much, even if it is a national unity one.

About the Author
Dany Bahar is a fellow in the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.
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