It’s pretty simple, do the math: The Center/Right bloc has a majority in the Knesset (and an even larger majority in the electorate, given the many voters for Blue & White who just want Bibi out, and the many wasted votes for parties which didn’t pass the threshold for three Knesset seats).
[Read this article in Hebrew.]
If it wasn’t for Bibi-gate, we’d have had a continuation of stable, effective government months ago, since the April elections.
It’s also pretty simple, with a little moral/political clarity (just quote Bibi on Olmert): even without a conviction, the PM cannot function under indictment. (For those who think the legal process will not lead to a conviction, a simple corollary is to let him focus on a speedy trial and acquittal, which the facts may well dictate, to enable his return.)
And the solution to the dilemma can be summed up with one (simple) name: Yuli Edelstein.
Note, first, that Yuli is #1 on the Likud list (the PM is not included on the list). Structurally, he’s ‘next in line’ without new elections, to lead the Likud; politically, he is the most popular leader in the party aside from the PM.
As or more important, Yuli is respected, even admired, across the political spectrum and throughout Israeli society for his integrity, intelligence and moderation. He’s not so much a ‘politician’ as a teacher, an activist, as he started out as in the USSR — and mainly, a mensch. He is religiously observant but respectful of those less (or more) so; he is conservative on security and national issues but liberal on social and economic matters. He is intellectual, and humble, but possesses the inner strength and moral courage of one who served in Soviet prisons on matters of principle. (As Natan Sharansky used to like to say: they served in prison before serving in the Knesset….)
And most important: Yuli is not a threat to Bibi. Edelstein been an ally of Bibi’s since his Yisrael B’Aliya party, led by Sharansky, merged with Likud back in 2003. He’s never announced his intention (never had the intention) to run against the PM in party primaries, like Gidon Sa’ar and others. Bibi can comfortably resign, with an agreement that should he be acquitted he can retake the reins of government, knowing that he can trust Yuli explicitly to honor that deal.
Yuli Edelstein is the natural choice for so many (simple) reasons. Aside from the above, he has extensive governing experience as a cabinet minister, as well as parliamentary experience including serving as the most effective speaker of the house ever (sorry, president Rivlin, it’s true). Think Levi Eshkol, or Yitzhak Shamir for that matter. Whether he constructs a narrow coalition with Likud’s natural partners on the Right, or a broader coalition, Yuli can quietly go about the business of governing, while helping to heal some of the fractures in our society.
With Yuli heading the government and coalition, it’s likely that many Blue & White leaders (like many of their voters), would be delighted to serve with him, not least his former Likud and cabinet colleague Moshe Yaalon. Whether B&W would formally consider joining the coalition, or some of its Knesset members would break off to form their own faction to do so, or (re-) join Likud, is an open question; until now, Gantz has declared his interest in unity. (See my call for the sort of stable coalition possible with no small parties to blackmail it, here.)
For the record, a Likud + B&W coalition would not really be a “national unity” government, of the sort Shamir and Peres formed in the 90’s with 97 seats. Rather than that sort of Right/Left marriage of convenience, it would be a natural pairing of the two more centrist parties, without necessarily needing to rely on the ideological Left or Right parties. (Note how little policy differences separate Likud and B&W. None, really, only matters of degree and focus….)
So often we in Israel insist on noting the complexities of living here, whether in explaining our history and policies to people abroad or in discussing domestic issues and politics. But sometimes, things are not so complex. We had elections this year; the majority of voters support a combination of national security strength and internal reforms reflected in the policy platforms of the Likud and B&W (and, in fact, a few other parties’ as well). We have a natural leader without the hubris of the PMs of recent years (decades) but with the requisite capability, talent, intellect and breadth of knowledge, esteemed by all members of the Knesset and across our society, waiting in the wings.
That’s pretty simple. Let’s call him out onto the main stage, and get on with the business of running our wonderful, threatened, miraculous, troubled, flourishing country.