August 19, 2019

Will Israelis support the new mega-coalition?

In my article for the IHT-NYT today, I write that:

Many Israelis — about 44 percent according to a Channel 10 News poll — woke up Tuesday morning to the news and, after an initial scratching of the head, decided that it was not such a bad idea after all to have a unity government.

I spoke to many Israelis today – most of them not exactly supporters of the Netanyahu worldview – and almost all of them were generally relieved to learn that election day was postponed for another year and a half or so. The picture drawn by the polls is quite interesting: a vast majority of the public (63% in Haaretz, 73% according to Channel 2 News) believe that the motivations behind the unity government were purely political – not the good of the country. Still more voters support this political move than oppose it – 44% to 37% according to Channel 10 News, 39% to 34% according to Channel 2 News. In other words, while voters are skeptical as to whether the new coalition is what it pretends to be, they were so unenthusiastic about the prospect of new elections that they are willing to give it a chance, or at least tolerate it. As for the future – here’s what I suggest would be the ultimate test of Netanyahu and his new best buddy, Shaul Mofaz:

Netanyahu and Mofaz, appearing Tuesday at a joint press conference, promised to do exactly that: they said they would pass a “historic, just and equal solution’’ to the problem of ultra-Orthodox unequal service, they said they would change “the structure of government” to make Israel’s system more stable and less chaotic. That is an agenda befitting a coalition of such scope. But the proof will be in the pudding: for such coalition to be justified, [Kadima back-bencher Doron] Avital’s “tomorrow’s news’’ has to also be about reforms and changes. Netanyahu’s scary majority can be justified only if the agenda it promotes is also scary — in scope and ambition.