Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Is Israel’s coalition falling apart?


1.

Consider the following three developments:

– One of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most important political allies is under investigation. He was detained, his wife was questioned and there is suspicious money in their bank account. David Bitan, the mover and shaker of Netanyahu’s coalition, is in trouble.

– A day before Bitan was detained for questioning, his ambitious legislative plan to pass a law that could help the Prime Minister overcome his own legal trouble was thwarted. Parties in the coalition other than Likud were not as pleased with the plan as Bitan had hoped. The PM was forced to announce that if the law passes — and it is more likely it will not pass — it will not be relevant to his own case.

– A vote on a law that the Haredi parties insist on passing, aimed at preventing municipalities from opening grocery stores on Shabbat, was postponed. It was approved by the cabinet, but it is not clear if it has a majority in the Knesset.

Is the coalition falling apart? A number of Members of Knesset think it is. Others are still cautious as they take a wait-and-see approach. The government “is doing great things,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennet this morning in a radio interview. He was trying to be optimistic about the coming “two years” of this government. Behind closed doors, his party, the Jewish Home, is getting ready for a surprise election. Netanyahu, we know from experience, could make a quick calculation and see that having an early election is his best chance for survival. Or he might be forced to call for an early election because of other parties’ similar calculations.

2.

Note the two above-mentioned laws that did not get their day in the Knesset. It is time for all observers of Israel to realize that most of the hoopla over controversial legislation in Israel ends with such results. The grocery store law did not pass, and it is not clear that it ever will. The Nationality Law — also controversial — does not have the needed support and is unlikely to pass. Netanyahu’s controversial conversion law was shelved a long time ago.

This does not necessarily mean that raising hell over these laws was not worthwhile. One can make the argument that thanks to the overkill campaigns all these laws were terminated.

It does mean that when, occasionally, a controversial law passes, it should not be perceived as the end of the world. Israel is not going through a “wave” of “undemocratic” legislation. It is going through a wave of failed attempts to pass somewhat controversial legislation — and it appropriately responds by rejecting many of them.

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