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We Agree to Disagree (Except on Ditching Netanyahu)

Future ministers like Gideon Saar and Avigdor Lieberman believe that Netanyahu is dangerous to the country because he can no longer see the difference between his own interests and the country’s.

Shmuel Rosner is an Israeli columnist, editor, and researcher. He is the editor of the research and data-journalism website themadad.com, and is the political editor of the Jewish Journal.

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Shmuel Rosner
Shmuel Rosner is an Israeli columnist, editor, and researcher. He is the editor of the research and data-journalism website themadad.com, and is the political editor of the Jewish Journal.

Likud voters still hope that a new government–the government that does not include their party and their leaders–will not become a reality. In a poll published on Monday, about a third of them believed that the “change government” isn’t going to form, and another third told the pollsters that the new government is going to collapse before the end of 2021. Among the other sectors of the public, and among most Likud officials, there is growing realization that a new government is likely to form very soon. Next Monday is the latest possible postponement.

Yesterday, some of the coalition agreements were published. They make the new government seem very real. Reading these agreements is much like watching mating hedgehogs. Everything is so delicate as not to offend anyone, as not to make anyone uneasy. This leads to a formulation that includes many platitudes, and few details. And yet, some things we already know: for example, that this will be a government with many ministers, and not the economic government of 18 ministers promoted and promised by Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

Reading these agreements is much like watching mating hedgehogs. Everything is so delicate as not to offend anyone, as not to make anyone uneasy.

Lapid already admitted that this is a serious flaw. He had to compromise, or the government wouldn’t be possible. Like him, Yamina’s Naftali Bennett compromised: he vowed not to sit with Meretz, and still does. Meretz, for its part, is sitting in a coalition that has no intention to focus on making peace with the Palestinians (although a perfunctory sentence about peace is included in the document). Labor sits in a coalition controlled by capitalists. Blue and White leader, Benny Gantz, sits in a government in which he will not be the Prime Minister, even though he has more seats than Bennett. Ayelet Shaked had to accept that she will not be the Justice Minister.

The agreements between the parties are a recipe for doing as little as possible, except when everyone agrees. State-religious changes will only be made if all the parties agree to make them. If not, then the status quo is king. Labor’s demand for public transportation on shabbat will materialize only with the consent of right-religious Yamina. The Kotel compromise might have a chance, as all parties seem to accept it (and it’s also a good way to show the Haredi parties that they lose by being so loyal to Netanyahu).

And so on and so forth.

The compromises are many, and achievement is one: ousting Benjamin Netanyahu. That is the main aim of this government, and if you think this is somewhat petty, you are not alone. Many Israelis, mostly on the right, feel like you. But most Israelis feel that it is worth it—that forming this coalition of rivals to oust Netanyahu was an essential move.

You could say that the main debate between these two groups is about the importance of personality in politics. Some Israelis, mostly on the right, understand that the PM has a controversial, maybe even problematic, personality. But they deem it unimportant compared to the other things at hand. They believe that if the PM is vindictive, or cheap, or conniving, it’s not necessarily commendable but also not very important. What’s important is whether the PM governs well—the blitz of vaccines, the persistence against Iran, the stature of a world leader.

You could say that the main debate between these two groups is about the importance of personality in politics.

In the other camp, there is a lot of personal animosity, some of which is juvenile, but there is also a measured argument that goes like this: at some point, when personal flaws seem uncontrolled, they affect the ability of the PM to govern in a useful way. Future ministers like Gideon Saar and Avigdor Lieberman believe that Netanyahu is dangerous to the country because he can no longer see the difference between his own interests and the country’s.

If Netanyahu is a merely annoying yet great leader, you’d be right to wonder about the strange quilt of many colors that was arranged as a replacement. But if Netanyahu is dangerous to the future of the country, you’d cover it with the closest available blanket, even a colorful quilt, to keep it warm.


Shmuel Rosner is an Israeli columnist, editor, and researcher. He is the editor of the research and data-journalism website themadad.com and is the political editor of the Jewish Journal.

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