The new government that will soon be sworn in is going to be very different from what we have come to expect in the wake of the recent election: It is going to be anything but homogenous.
Many right-wing voters who have been following the coalition talks feel that something is very off. Unlike the media campaign to delegitimize the far-right parties, they have no problem with having Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister or with Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich becoming finance minister or even defense minister. They seek a government that will fully exercise its powers and reform the judiciary.
The discontent among those voters started after they saw Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the coalition talks and the impossible demands made by his would-be coalition partners, as well as the protracted nature of the negotiations, which should have culminated with a new government a long time ago.
It looks as if Netanyahu will have no choice but to ask the president to extend the deadline for forming a coalition by two weeks. This is despite the ongoing escalation with the Palestinians and the fact that some of the ministers in the outgoing government have effectively gone AWOL or announced new policies just so they could leave behind a legacy. It boggles the mind to think that a new government could have been sworn in almost two weeks ago, when the new Knesset was sworn in, only to have this opportunity squandered.
There is also the issue of truncated portfolios, rotating ministerial appointments, the fast-track amendment of statutes and the restructuring of the government agencies just so that everyone is happy with their appointments and a government gets sworn in.
Even the strongest backers of this new government have to admit that it will get off to a bad start. For example, Smotrich is expected to serve as finance minister for two years and will then be replaced by Shas leader Aryeh Deri. Apart from the fact that it is virtually impossible to effect any meaningful long-term change over such a short tenure, these two would-be ministers are polar opposites in terms of their economic worldviews: Smotrich espouses liberal economics while Deri seeks centralization. Smotrich fights the unions, Deri sides with them. Smotrich believes in a free market economy, Deri believes in a welfare state.
When it comes to such crucial matters as the state budget—and Netanyahu knows this—the most important thing to pursue is stability. That’s why Netanyahu pushed for a two-year budget in 2009, which has been the norm ever since. The fear of constant change is also very much present in the Defense Ministry, amid plans to restructure the units and have the Border Police report to the national security minister or effectively disband the Civil Administration.
For the past three years, when there was no clear winner in the elections, politicians managed to keep going using various rotating portfolios and other mechanisms to share power. But now, with the right being the clear winner in the election, there is a golden opportunity to return to stability.
The fact that rotating ministries are once again in fashion does not bode well for this. After all, the rotating premiership agreement is what ultimately brought down the shortlived unity government between Likud and Blue and White in 2020. Sometimes, deadlines for rotating positions are also the expiration date of the government. Just ask Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Having said that, judging from their statements, right-wing lawmakers are determined to actually implement policy this time, not just walk on eggshells. It appears that the right is determined to actually govern.