(December 25, 2018 / JNS) It happens to the best of us. A couple gets into a fight over a fundamental issue and, unable to reach an agreement, decides to split up. It would only make sense for such a process to be accompanied by a fair amount of yelling and fighting.
That’s why it is a little bit surprising that the atmosphere of Monday’s dramatic meeting of coalition heads—the one that agreed to hold elections—has been described as pleasant, courteous and even laid-back.
Despite the disagreements between the Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties, the public disputes between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi Party chairman Naftali Bennett and Kulanu Party chief Moshe Kahlon’s very unfavorable view of Netanyahu, this coalition worked and led to a number of achievements. A short while after elections were announced, Netanyahu made it clear it was this very coalition he hoped to see in the next Knesset.
So why are we heading for elections? Well, there are a number of reasons. Kahlon has expressed interest in elections for weeks, but Netanyahu didn’t approve because a certain legal matter had been bothering him in the background and because working with a 61-member coalition, while possible, is very difficult.
We are not, however, holding elections as a result of the haredi draft law, the very law for which the faction heads convened and decided to call elections in the first place. The draft law could have been passed. Previous coalition governments have found creative solutions to dozens of issues that were no less complex than this. But there must be an official reason, and that is why, this time, the haredim turned out to be nothing more than an excuse.
In keeping with the typical lighting speed of the Israeli news cycle, the media reported on the news Israel would hold elections in April for a few hours before quickly moving on to what the next coalition government might look like. Netanyahu has said this current coalition is the one he would like to see in the next Knesset.
Yisrael Beytenu Party chief Avigdor Lieberman has set conditions for him to join the next government, including that the haredi draft law stand. Kulanu Party chief Moshe Kahlon has reiterated his position as to whether, once indicted, a prime minister can serve in that role.
Although it has become something of a cliché in recent years, there is one more thing worth noting: It’s going to be a very ugly election cycle, full of generalizations, mudslinging and distasteful viral videos. Consider yourselves warned.
Yehuda Shlezinger writes for Israel Hayom.