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Comparing coalitions

The current government is not unblemished, but it could be and has been worse.

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Aug. 14, 2022. Photo by Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL.
Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Aug. 14, 2022. Photo by Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL.
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project.

The Netanyahu government has been lambasted almost without respite from the moment it was formed. It has been accused of virtually every conceivable flaw from gross incompetence to corruption and embezzlement. But while the government is not perfect, it is far from the demonized image painted by the Bibi-phobic “elite” and partisan mainstream media. Moreover, by any impartial comparison with its immediate predecessor, it is a tangible improvement.

Given the docile media “coverage” lavished on the Bennett-Lapid coalition, it is easy to forget just how it was spawned and sustained.

This was a coalition established by an unprecedented breach of the most fundamental element of democratic governance and the most staggering violation of an electoral pledge in Israeli history. True, elected politicians often break their promises, but what former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did was far worse.

In the past, elected politicians reneged on their commitments because post-election realities made them unfeasible or pre-election conditions made them impossible to honor. Bennett, however, violated the foundation of his political platform and the ideology that defined his Yamina party not after winning office, but in order to win office.

“I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister”

On the eve of the 2021 elections, Bennett brandished a declaration on television, which he then signed on-screen. In it, he pledged: “I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister, including in a rotation” and “I will not establish a government based on the support of Mansour Abbas from the Islamic Movement.”

Moreover, a few days earlier, MK Matan Kahana, a senior member of Bennett’s party, excoriated the Likud Party for not supporting a motion to disqualify some Arab lists and candidates. These included MK Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Ra’am Party, an organ of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Kahana, the Likud had “allowed embracers of terrorists to become members of the Knesset.” He alleged that members of Ra’am “visited and encouraged families of terrorists. … Mansour Abbas himself visited the family of the terrorist who carried out an attack at the Meron junction in the Second Intifada.”

Kahana asserted, “These people have no place in the Knesset of Israel. The prime minister and the Likud should be ashamed of themselves for the delusional decision to flee the vote.”

Undermining democratic governance and Zionist tradition

Yet several weeks later, Bennett and his cronies did just what they had pledged not to do: They formed a government with Ra’am with Bennett as prime minister in a rotation agreement with Yair Lapid. Clearly, Bennett’s decision to betray his voters’ trust was not made under duress but willingly. It was a deliberate violation of his solemn electoral pledges not to allow the anti-Zionist Ra’am into the government and not to allow the eventual installation of a left-wing prime minister.

Thus, in his unbridled frenzy for power and position, Bennett not only shredded the most basic tenet of democratic governance—trust between the voters and those seeking their votes—but also gravely undermined the time-honored principle of Zionist governance in the Jewish nation-state.

After all, the Bennett-Lapid coalition was totally dependent on Ra’am for its existence and thus reliant on the approval of the Islamist Shura Council. Moreover, despite its seemingly affable chairman Mansour Abbas, Ra’am is unequivocally anti-Zionist. It even compelled the Bennett-Lapid government to curtail a tree-planting project—a century-old Zionist activity—in the south because of Arab resistance.

Furthermore, to secure the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in the government, between NIS 50-60 billion was earmarked for the largely anti-Zionist Arab sector, dwarfing the amount allocated to the much-vilified ultra-Orthodox.

Bennett’s crazy-quilted coalition, cobbled together by a man with the temerity to head the government with the support of barely 5% of the electorate, soon began to display its shabby and rickety nature.

The largest political corruption scandal

For example, the man appointed to run the nation’s coffers as finance minister was none other than Avigdor Lieberman, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu was racked by one of the largest bribery and corruption scandals in Israel’s history. Several of Lieberman’s most senior and closest aides received stiff prison sentences. Astonishingly, even though Lieberman ran his party with an iron fist, he was not even summoned as a witness, never mind a suspect. Either Lieberman knew of the malfeasance or he didn’t. If he did, then he is colossally corrupt; if he didn’t, he is incredibly incompetent.

Then there was Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, who barely three years before her election to the Knesset called on Israeli mothers not to send their sons to the IDF, proclaiming—on Army Radio no less—“I think that women should not send their children to the army … when there is an ongoing occupation for over 40 years. … They should stop being willing to send their children to the army without asking questions.”

Earlier, Michaeli had penned an article that proposed changing the words of the national anthem to make them more acceptable to anti-Zionist Israeli Arabs. She also recommended abolishing the nuclear family, which she sees as inherently unsafe for children, and transferring responsibility for child care from the parents to the state. Fruitcake anyone?

Justifying the antisemitism of the ICC

There was also former Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who shortly before joining the Bennett-led government justified a probe by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the conduct of the IDF. Interestingly, Horowitz’s statement sparked a furious response from Bennett’s number two, Ayelet Shaked, who vowed, “We won’t serve in a government with Meretz. Horowitz’s remark justifying the political and antisemitic action of the court at The Hague and its persecution of IDF soldiers is a disgrace to the Israeli Knesset.”

However, it did not take long for Shaked’s ideological fire to cool. She soon found it quite acceptable to serve with the once morally insufferable Horowitz. After all, what principle can withstand the lure of power and the lust for position?

Then there was Bennett’s Deputy Economy Minister, Yair Golan, who claimed he could identify the onset of nascent fascism in Israeli society and emerging phenomena reminiscent of those that gave rise to Nazi Germany. This gave Israel’s most vehement detractors precisely what they needed to support their toxic Judeophobic venom against the Jewish state.

But perhaps the crowning indictment of the Bennett-Lapid government came in its final days.

Buffoonery and balderdash

This was when the buffoonish Alternate Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, acted with untoward haste to transfer a stretch of potentially rich marine gas fields to an enemy country ruled by an Iranian-controlled terror group. To hand the fields over to Lebanon and Hezbollah, Lapid bypassed the Knesset and rode roughshod over time-honored democratic norms and conventions with the collusion of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara.

Equally disturbing was the transparently mendacious rationale given for the agreement and the hurried manner in which it was pushed through. It was claimed that the deal would pacify Hezbollah and preserve stability in the north. Of course, we all know how that worked out: Hours after the Oct. 7 massacre, the Hezbollah attacks, which were supposed to be averted by the agreement, erupted.

It is difficult to say which is more troubling: That the Bennett-Lapid government actually believed the drivel it fed the public or, knowing it was utter balderdash, purposefully and unscrupulously misled the public anyway.

So, dear citizens, while the current coalition is far from unblemished, things could always be worse. In fact, they already have been.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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