It was hard not to notice the big difference between the Israeli government’s attempts to find the votes it needs to advance the Israel Defense Forces’ scholarship bill last week and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s remarks on the lack of votes to authorize a law that would regulate settlements in Judea and Samaria. Coalition leaders blamed Likud, but Sa’ar has now blamed his fellow coalition members.
Likud members have begun to believe that Sa’ar has softened his opposition to the establishment of a government led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. With his party’s prospects up in the air, Likud members believe Sa’ar considers this option preferable to another election. They also know that messages have been relayed between Netanyahu and the Justice Ministry.
If their assessments are correct, then the Judea and Samaria law was just an excuse. A government is not brought down by the failure of a specific law, but by a strategic decision. It may be that Sa’ar has given the coalition its final test. Should the coalition succeed, it will be afforded additional time to repair itself. But if it fails, it will fall faster than we thought.
The Judea and Samaria vote is a test for Ra’am and Meretz, which oppose the law, but also Yamina Knesset member Idit Silman, who for the first time will be forced to vote against the government and risk resignation from the party. Should Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid consolidate the support of all 60 coalition members, they could warn Silman not to vote against the government.
Sa’ar’s announcement, which holds the coalition and not the opposition responsible for the impasse, proves that party leaders from the nationalist camp were right not to support the coalition in unequivocal terms. This is their government. They made their bed. Let them lie in it. Sa’ar on Tuesday said what many, even in the coalition, are thinking: a government that cannot pass critical legislation has no right to exist.
In the meantime, elections are in the air.
Finance Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Party head Avigdor Lieberman has ramped up his anti-haredi rhetoric in what appears to be a campaign move. Sa’ar has shifted to the right, as has Bennett. And the left has shown itself willing to yield on more issues than in the past. All the assessments indicate that, even if a solution is found for the Judea and Samaria law next week, the next challenge is already around the corner, and everyone knows how it is destined to end.
Mati Tuchfeld is Israel Hayom’s senior political correspondent.