Incredibly, dear readers, this title applies all too well to a number of subjects that I wish to touch upon. I would obviously prefer that it would be otherwise, but it is so.
I start with what is happening on the Israeli political scene, as it is, in my opinion, at one and the same time, incredibly perverse and breathtakingly stupid. I have been watching it with incredulity – I keep thinking that this is so senseless, so devoid of concern for what Israel truly needs, that something surely will shift. But it does not appear likely that anything will.
Our political campaigns have been devoid of content, of serious dialogue
OK, I get it.
Binyamin Netanyahu has served as prime minister longer than anyone else. He has done some excellent things for the country. Consider this, written last year by Lawrence Solomon:
“Before Israel became known as the Startup Nation, its signature exports were Jaffa oranges and other agricultural products. Theories abound as to how Israel morphed from a nation of orange groves to one that grows inventions by the bushel but no one seems to give credit where it is arguably due the most — to the economic policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose rise to power coincides with the rise of the Startup Nation.”
But he isn’t recognized for this today, or for a host of other accomplishments, including his ability to sound the alarm on Iran, because his weak point, or one of his weak points, is the fact that he is not a team player. He has, it would seem, quite a capacity for alienating people he has worked with. There is a considerable list of such people, key among them Naftali Bennett. The ill will between them is palpable.
And so what did these politicians – Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar (pictured), Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman – who have resentments against Netanyahu do? They based a whole campaign on the goal of getting rid of him. That struck me as indubitably stupid, because it sidelined serious dialogue about the issues. And it stoked ugly animosities in the nation at a time when unity is sorely needed. It was all “anyone but Bibi,” which is no platform at all, in my opinion.
The irony here is that Netanyahu is still the most popular politician in the country – he has consistently garnered considerably more support than any of his challengers and in this last election received 29 mandates. His supporters are as adamant about the fact that no one can replace him as his detractors are about the absolute need to do so. Thus it has been argued that to try to displace Netanyahu is to fail to respect the will of a significant segment of the electorate (close to 25%). The catch, of course, is that he does not have sufficient mandates to make a go of it without the cooperation of several other parties.
Neither Sa’ar with six mandates nor Bennett with seven mandates is exactly a huge political force. What they did, however, was to draw votes away from Likud, splitting the right-wing bloc, and becoming a political power in that sense.
Netanyahu needed the support of right wing parties – the parties of Bennett (Yamina) and Sa’ar (New Hope), along with Religious Zionists (Smotrich) and with this, the two ultra-Orthodox parties. The latter three were with him. Sa’ar was quiet, but adamant about not joining a government with Netanyahu; while Bennett bounced back and forth – meeting with both Netanyahu and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and never fully committing to a Likud-led coalition. This caused great unease amongst those of us who understand how important a right-wing government is right now.
Netanyahu, not to his credit, spoke about incorporating Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party into the coalition or putting together a minority coalition with Ra’am support from the outside. That option became impossible because Smotrich, with solid reason, refused to sit in a coalition dependent upon an Islamist party.
Netanyahu tried to convince Bennett that if he committed to a Likud coalition – which would bring the number of mandates to 59 — it might be possible to draw a couple of the members from Sa’ar’s party – perhaps Ze’ev Elkin or Sharren Haskel, who had both come from Likud, or Yoaz Hendel, bringing the number to the necessary 61. But Bennett insisted that he would not join unless it was a sure thing that the coalition would have sufficient mandates to govern with his participation.
Netanyahu, who was gambling that he could cobble a coalition together, could promise nothing of the sort. And so, in the end, as we all know, the prime minister failed to put together a government and, on May 5, President Rivlin handed the mandate to Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who is center-left, for a period of 28 days.
For weeks, it all looked fairly iffy for Lapid, but it was known that Bennett was meeting with him. As a last ditch effort Netanyahu offered Bennett and Sa’ar a three-way power-sharing deal on a rotational basis. Once again, Sa’ar, who would have gone first, said no.
Yesterday, May 30, Bennett announced that he was going with Lapid and together they were working to form a government. The proud claim was that this was going to be a “Change Government,” by which was meant a government without Netanyahu. This, you see, is the big victory.
As the coalition is shaping up, it would include Labor, the far left Meretz, and, yes, the Islamist Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas.
Bennett’s announcement sent shock waves through the right-wing of the country. His decision, vile on several counts, was truly unexpected:
Just slightly over two weeks ago, Bennett had declared that a “government of change” was not viable in current conditions. Because of the current security situation in the country, and particularly the “state of emergency” that had developed in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, what Lapid was planning would not work, said Bennett. A coalition with the Islamist Ra’am party would not be in a position to deal with the current unrest.
Indeed! The violence by Islamist Israeli Arabs – incited by Hamas – is a severe problem that requires a strong right-wing approach.
On May 27, in the Knesset, Mansour Abbas, while disavowing violence, made a statement indicating that, “In light of the events of the past month, many thousands of Arabs protested, which is a legitimate form of dissent that seeks to express solidarity and objection to the provocational use of force inside the Al-Aqsa mosque and against the family evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.” (Emphasis added)
And now Bennett is apparently okay with this.
And let us go back a bit more, to March 22, which is when Bennett signed a pledge, which he presented on TV: “I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister, including in a rotation (agreement.)” and “I will not establish a government based on the support of Mansour Abbas from the Islamic Movement.”
The deal Bennett and Lapid are working on would include a rotation with Bennett going first as prime minister and would require support from Mansour Abbas.
We all know that it would be unwise to count on the words of campaigning politicians, but this is over the top for duplicity. Naftali Bennett is a hypocrite who sees fit to change his position as it suits him. He should never be trusted again, and it is likely that his voters will NOT trust him again. A recent poll indicates that 70% of those who last voted for Yamina do not want Bennett to join with Lapid.
Then why would he do this? Because his hunger to be prime minister is very great, and this deal brought him the promise of achieving that goal: he will go first in the rotation.
See this commentary by Akiva Bigman:
“He has no public support and no legitimacy to serve as prime minister, yet he has convinced himself that he is a figure of historic proportions…
“Everything he does, he claims, is for the sake of the people. Whoever has been following Bennett’s posts lately could not help but notice his megalomania. ‘My people’ is the recurring theme of countless Facebook posts and interviews. Bennett speaks as if he is an absolute monarch or a biblical prophet.
“’When I see my people suffering because of leadership failures, I cannot stand idly by; I love my people; My people are hurt, and I will dedicate my whole life to healing the wound,’…This must also be how he justifies his denials, lies, manipulations, and scams.
“Bennett is of the opinion that the end justifies the means…
“According to Bennett, not only is the Likud the only reason behind all that ails us, but everything will only be resolved once we let him take over the wheel.”
And Gideon Sa’ar? He is joining the “change” coalition and undoubtedly proud of himself that he accomplished his anti-Bibi goal. But I find myself shaking my head in bewilderment: Sa’ar claimed to be right-wing. Yet getting rid of the prime minister was of such importance to him that he was willing to sacrifice that right-wing government, which would have happened if he had joined the Likud coalition along with Bennett!! Sacrifice it and in its place support a government with an Islamist party and Meretz and Labor.
Sa’ar’s explanation of why he held out: “Israel’s interest is in the replacement of the longest serving-ruler in the country’s history…The meaning of the proposal we received – even if it was realized – is that for the next four and a half years Netanyahu would have remained the strongest and dominant person in the government and in the political system…”
Reports today indicate that the Lapid-Bennett negotiations are “making progress.” But a deal is not finalized yet, and could still possibly encounter a glitch. One member of Yamina – Amichai Chikli – has already told Bennett that he could not support the formation of a government with left-wing parties.
Reportedly he is leaving and will be replaced by the next person on the list; but the possibility exists that other members of Yamina might have second thoughts about what Bennett is doing.
Further, Lapid is acknowledging some “obstacles” as Gantz (Blue & White) and Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) are at odds about portfolios.
Assumptions are being made that if Lapid fails, the next step would be yet another election, but it is my understanding that this goes first to the Knesset, where something might yet be ironed out if some measure of reason were to take hold. I have read that the very MKs who had been courted to leave Sa’ar and support Likud, and refused, at this final juncture might decide to do so.
As well, today Arutz Sheva is reporting that the ultra-Orthodox parties – UTJ and Shas — are working to form a right-wing government that is being proposed to Gideon Sa’ar. It would exclude both Likud, which is the stumbling block for Sa’ar, Bennett and Lapid, as well as the left-wing parties Meretz and Labor (and obviously Ra’am), and would include the Religious Zionist Party, Blue & White, and Yesh Atid. The biggest stumbling block would be bringing together Lapid and the ultra-Orthodox parties.
At the same time, Aryeh Deri has been attempting to bring Ayelet Shaked, second in Yamina, out of the deal with Lapid. There had been rumors that she was less than enthusiastic about what Bennett is doing, but seems to be resisting pressure.
Deri’s final plea:
“We make this final call to Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Gideon Sa’ar and Ze’ev Elkin: Do not give your hand to the formation of a left-wing government that will endanger the Land of Israel…”
He is so correct, but it is doubtful that he will be heard.
A whole lot of speculation here, mixed with a good deal of wishful thinking, but still we don’t know what will transpire.
Let us look, then, at some of the reasons why a strong right-wing government is so very necessary now.
- Amichai Chikli – mentioned above – recently spoke at the Knesset’s Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs and touched upon critical issues incisively. I repeat his words here:
“We didn’t demand that the Israeli Arabs be Zionists, but we want to hear a pragmatic voice, one of respect. In the Arab leadership there are…people who play a destructive, nationalist, radical Palestinian role… When a Member of Knesset calls upon young people to raise enemy flags on the city walls, that is not a call we can accept. We know what the shouts Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud mean [“Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is coming” – a battle cry again Jews, who were slaughtered at Khaybar]. The severe events—the burning of synagogues, the lynchings, those are severe events. It will not be possible to integrate Arab society when significant parts of this population have fully identified with the enemy. That is intolerable.” (Emphasis added)
- Negotiations, mediated by Egypt, are currently on-going between Israel and Hamas. The Hamas demands make it clear that they were not hit hard enough.
Just today, Khalil al-Haya, a top Hamas official, met today with Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. After the meeting al-Haya told reporters that Israel “must halt its aggression” in Jerusalem, in “Sheikh Jarrah and all over Palestine.” Jerusalem is a key focus of Hamas, which is seeking to wrest control there.
Israeli officials have said they will allow the reconstruction of Gaza to go forward if Hamas returns the two Israel captives and the two bodies of Israeli soldiers. Hamas rejects this connection. Yahya Sinwar, a top Hamas leader, says they are ready for “immediate negotiations” to reach a prisoner exchange with Israel. This is not acceptable.
Then we must take a hard look at the approach of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with regard to the reconstruction of Gaza. He is convinced, he has reassured Israeli officials, that it can be done without involving Hamas, which can be circumvented.
According to The Jewish Press, $1.4 billion has already been pledged to Hamas by various sources:
Is Blinken so obtuse that he is aware of this, so stupid (forgive me) that he imagines he can accomplish the impossible?
Please see Jonathan Tobin’s astute observations about the consequences of rebuilding Gaza:
Oh, and there’s more: Blinken is speaking about bringing the Palestinian Authority in to oversee reconstruction in Gaza. (Please, don’t laugh too hard.) He envisions this as a way of strengthening Mahmoud Abbas so that the “two-state solution” – which will bring peace – can be advanced. The Biden administration is courting the Palestinian Authority with a variety of unacceptable gestures, not the least of which is providing funds. Biden is diligently overturning the approach of President Trump, which involved holding the Palestinian Arabs responsible for their actions.
All of this, and more, our government will have to contend with, demonstrating strength and commitment to Israel’s rights at every turn.
I will, of course, be returning to examine these issues in greater detail.