Wednesday, May 27

The Bickering Right Wing Coalition of Self-Interest

The Likud won the most seats in the Knesset after the March 2015 Elections and, superficially, it seemed that Netanyahu would have no problem forming a right to extreme right-wing coalition. Everything seemed to go in his favor especially the moment the results were known.
34th Cabinet of Israel

This was not to be. He was surrounded by a macabre mix of small right wing parties, such as Naphtali Bennett's  Bayit Hayehudi, Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu, the ultra-Orthodox Shas under Arye Mahluf Deri and Torah Judaism Parties. Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu decided not to be part of the coalition. A right wing coalition of 61 members was cobbled together with much bickering, political blackmail for cabinet posts and intra-fraternal strife. Even the opposition of 59 members is fragmented. This will give the coalition more power than it deserves.

We all saw the result. Netanyahu won and lost. While forming a coalition, he paid a very high price by giving out key cabinet posts to the small, political blackmailing, sectoral parties so that he could present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin. We witnessed an amazing circus of squabbling, mediocre party hacks scrambling for cabinet posts, leaving the Likud dry with relatively minor portfolios that were divided into almost indecipherable cabinet posts that hopefully would make a united coalition. This was meant to satisfy the hungry potential cabinet ministers, whose grudges against each other were so blatant. The latest edition to the cabinet is Gilad Erdan, who was sworn in at the last minute possibly at the expense of veteran, Benny Begin. Begin may have a cabinet post created for him at the last minute. Gilad Erdan is loyal to Netanyahu and defended Netanyahu and his wife's follies through thick and thin. Initially he was left out of the cabinet. However with a "kvetch" here and there he was brought into the cabinet.

The majority of the Israeli Electorate is right wing and even that vote is split among right wing small parties. Most of the leaders of these parties have super-inflated egos and wield tremendous power to blackmail Netanyahu into giving in to their demands for cabinet posts. In order to satisfy them a law increasing the number of cabinet ministers from eighteen members to twenty members was cobbled together at a lightning pace.

The ultra-Orthodox partners never had it so good for many years. The conscription of Haredi youth into the IDF will not occur. There will be increased funding for their yeshivot at the tax-payers' expense. They will get increased funding from the National Insurance for maintenance of their children. Secular education will be denied them so that they will remain eternal Talmud scholars, unable to develop skills to earn a decent livelihood on the free market. More state money will be going into settlements in the occupied West Bank, thanks to Bayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home Party) in the coalition. It will be a coalition to promote narrow sectarian interests.

In apartheid South Africa under white minority rule, the government maintained power by shouting "swart gevaar" (black danger) which was basically a call to the blood by using racist scare tactics. This worked for many years until sanctions were declared against South Africa and the economy collapsed as a result. This heralded the demise of apartheid and a democratically elected ANC government.

In Israel, on Election Day, Netanyahu went into a panic and used the sane "call to the blood" tactic. He stated that the Arabs were coming out in droves to vote and this could be a threat to Israel. The ruse worked but Netanyahu lost to the small right wing parties and the ultra-Orthodox parties. The "wheeling and dealing" to form a coalition, which has always been part of Israel's political leadership, had reached a new low. All the members of the coalition dislike and do not trust each other. This coalition will probably not last until the next scheduled election in 4 years.

The Zionist Camp candidate, Isaac Herzog, lost the elections and perhaps it is a blessing in disguise for him. We are all witnessing "how the mighty Netanyahu has fallen". Netanyahu had it made for him after the elections, but had made painful compromises rather than brave decisions as the small parties blackmailed him politically and left him without any choices. He went back on his cabinet post promises for his political party cartel, leaving his party colleagues disgruntled.

This coalition will be impotent and there will be no reforms that will improve the lot of the economically weak sectors. The Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, who promised to introduce reforms in lowering prices of natural gas has turned around and has washed his hands fromhis rhetoric before the elections as it goes against a tycoon friend of his that has large financial interests in one of the gas companies called Tamar.

Most of Israel's Likud cabinet ministers have received chopped up pieces of portfolios to satisfy their voracious appetites for cabinet posts. It is rather pathetic and wasteful. Thank goodness that Israel has many tax-payers who will fulfill their civil duties to pay for coalition follies.

Peace with the Palestinians and the two-state solution will not happen on this Netanyahu watch. He has made that clear. There will be no freezing of settlements in the West Bank. On the Palestinian side there is no viable partner for peace any less than on the Israeli side. President Mahmoud Abbas, will be unable to sign any agreement with Israel on that score even if conditions were amenable. The extremists in the Palestinian camp from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and those even more radical will assassinate Mahmoud Abbas, whose power base is very weak if he even signs a peace agreement with Israel. He is better off threatening to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for war crimes where he can somehow maintain his status quo which suits him and his PA. After all, Dr Saeb Barekat, the eternal negotiator, will be unemployed in the remote event of a peace treaty being signed.

The blame for this situation lies with many Israeli voters who are ignorant of the importance and responsibility of voting. There will be no breakthroughs for peace or any progressive new laws. It will be the same stereotype declarations of recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People and with that much undertones of racism towards Israel's non-Jewish minorities. Sectarian interest, especially serving the right wing, will take priority in this pathetic coalition of mediocre, small party political hacks.The government will have its strength in making laws that have a right wing and religious orthodox Jewish consensus rather than what is good for all Israel's citizens. Israel will be in for a rough ride internationally. 

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