A new government

Fredy Winkler

Even after an extension of the mandated time limit to form a new government, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud Party were unable to form a coalition. They then chose to dissolve the newly-elected parliament, and set a date of September 17th for another round of national elections. This was to avoid giving the mandate to form a government back to the president, and taking the risk that someone else would form an unfavorable coalition.

Now, the big question is whether a new election will actually change things sufficiently, so that Netanyahu can form a government.

After the last election, Netanyahu held a victory speech where he highly praised his party’s “almost unbelievable” win. The actual facts surrounding that election, however, were hardly a great win for him. While it’s true that the Likud Party gained some seats, they came at the expense of other right-leaning parties. In the final analysis, conservative parties as a whole actually lost two seats. This configuration tipped the balance of power toward Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel-Beiteinu Party, and drove the decision to dissolve the parliament. Without them, Netanyahu wasn’t able to form a government that could survive.

At its heart, the contest was between Lieberman’s party and the various religious parties within the coalition. Lieberman demanded that young religious men be recruited into the military and that their other privileges in general be cut. This position was at the core of Lieberman’s party, and he was therefore unwilling to give up something that was so fundamental to his campaign.

In a last-ditch effort, Netanyahu tried to persuade the religious parties to accept the demands of Lieberman’s party, and some of them even signaled a willingness to compromise. But the ultra-Orthodox parties rejected all compromises. It’s interesting to note that the young men themselves are not usually against serving in the military, but the leading rabbis of the various religious groups will not allow their young men to serve. The rabbis fear that military service will let them experience the “other world,” and cause them to fall away from the faith that they have been taught.

When the final effort to form a government failed, the only option was to “retreat to the front” and charge ahead with new elections. That set off a new round of accusations, and should provide plenty of fodder for the election campaigns that are now underway.

Netanyahu recently accused Lieberman of being a “leftist,” which is almost a cuss word in the current Israeli political climate. In actuality, though, there’s probably not a party in Israel that’s any further right than Lieberman’s.

The Israel-Beiteinu party stood against the attempts of the religious parties to make Israel a “Halacha Nation,” meaning a nation that’s governed according to Orthodox Jewish laws. Thus, the current conflict in Israel’s society isn’t so much one of right against left, but rather a question of how the Jewish nation chooses to define itself. It’s a question of whether Israel will become a Halacha State, or a modern nation as understood by most Western countries.

In the knowledge that God will fulfill His plans, in spite of the political confusion, Shalom!

News from Israel - 07/2019

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