The longest crisis in Israel’s governance, with four inconclusive elections, can be solved by letting the second in Likud’s list to the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, form the next government, and providing an honorable exit to Benjamin Netanyahu from the center of the political storm.
Edelstein served as Knesset Speaker from 2013 to 2020. He has shown his strength of character and provided a personal example during his days as prominent refusenik in the Soviet Russia. He is respected by the Israeli public and even a Labor Knesset member, Omer Bar-Lev, proposed him for this job after the indecisive second election round in 2019. He has the capability to quickly form a broad-based stable coalition.
Benjamin Netanyahu is a popular leader, but also Ben Gurion was. The world did not come to an end and Israel continued prospering after Ben Gurion left the political stage. Israel is a parliamentary democracy and popularity does not make a prime minister: a coalition of willing political parties does. Netanyahu does not have this coalition.
An honorable exit path should be provided to Netanyahu to end the impasse. Let us remove one big obstacle to the formation of the next Israeli government. People might have completely different opinions regarding the worthiness of Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial. Many believe that it is a just trial against a corrupt politician. Many others believe it is a political maneuver to get rid of a popular leader by means other than the ballot box. In any case, most will agree that the trial has become a big obstacle to the formation of a good and stable government and is causing great harm to Israel. This trial could last for years and become a continuous distraction .
We have seen this in the past with other popular leaders too: the case of the leftist Brazilian president Lula da Silva, who was sent to prison for corruption in a highly politized case, is another example. Lula da Silva spent more than two years in prison. His case was dismissed last month by the Supreme Court of Brazil, he was set free and is running now for a third presidential term to the delight of his followers. When hearing about the release of Lula from jail, President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina exclaimed ‘Justice has been done’, arguing that the cases against Mr. da Silva had been pursued “solely with the aim of persecuting him and eliminating him from the political contest [New York Times, March 3, 2021]
As a practical (but also quite principled) way out, I propose the following: A new law should be presented and approved with no delay by the new Knesset.
The new law regards the rights of a Prime Minister, during and after serving in office, to a proper defense against any allegations of crimes he/she allegedly committed while she/he served as Prime Minister. The law will simply state that the State should provide monetary assistance to the Prime Minister (or former Prime Minister) for an appropriate defense of his/her case, commensurate with the resources allocated by the State to the State prosecution. Furthermore, the law will reaffirm that he/she is considered explicitly innocent, with all the rights pertaining to innocent people, until proven guilty by the Court.
This law will provide a natural extension to the right of any individual citizen to a fair defense against excesses of an overzealous prosecution, specially the one that is funded by the unlimited resources of the State.
This new law will be applicable to Benjamin Netanyahu.
With all the brouhaha in the media about a possible alternative coalition around the opposition leader Yair Lapid, you cannot form a stable government without a political program shared by the parties in the coalition. And this potential coalition has only two shared goals:
1) They all want to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu
2) They are all in favor of a 2-state solution [*]
Although this will be welcome news for the Biden administration and the European Union, it is not enough for a stable government to hold.
[*] Here comes the fine print:
New Hope and Yamina: the two states being Jordan and Israel, separated by the Jordan river.
Joint List and Ra’am: the two states being Jordan and Palestine, separated by the Jordan river.
Labor and Meretz: the two states being Israel and Palestine, with international borders along the 1949 armistice line
Blue & White: the two states being Israel and Palestine, with the Jordan Valley and the main Jewish population centers in the West Bank under Israel sovereignty … and let us bomb Gaza, to get rid of Hamas and solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza .
Yesh Atid: anything of the above is fine for us, as long as we can get rid of the hold of the religious parties on the lives of the secular Jews.
 Times of Israel, April 3, 2021, “Retired judge predicts Netanyahu graft trial will last at least 3 years”
 “Blue and White vows to invade Gaza, kill Hamas leaders if it commands the next war”, Times of Israel, August 6, 2019, reported by TOI staff.