The thunder and lightning of multiple elections have passed, bequeathing Israel another narrow Netanyahu government. Here are ten tips that Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners would be wise to observe in order to both govern responsibly and achieve real policy goals:
1. Set clear priorities and tackle them sequentially, because running in too many directions simultaneously could lead to mistakes or explosions.
Don’t try to split the post of solicitor general from the attorney general, change the system of appointing Supreme Court justices, pass a Supreme Court override law, cancel the “breach of trust” offense, cancel Matan Kahana’s reforms in conversion law and kashrut regulation, pass a new IDF draft law, evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, ease IDF open-fire regulations against terrorists and change the status quo on the Temple Mount all in your first week in office. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
2. Rule emphatically but be as inclusive as possible.
Stay away from the ugly and divisive bombast of, say, Avigdor Lieberman and David Amsalem. Just as settlers are not “fascists” and ultra-Orthodox Jews are not “parasites,” so too leftists are not “traitors” and secularists are not “Hellenists.”
In general, it would be a good idea to put fetters on Israel’s political passions and tone down the rhetorical heat. After 44 months of relentless and repeat election campaigning, lower the flames. There will be plenty of heated debate about policy to come and it should not involve hateful rhetoric.
3. Foxes do not make good henhouse guards, so keep Aryeh Deri away from the Finance Ministry and Itamar Ben-Gvir away from the Public Security Ministry.
4. Prepare Israel for war, the right way.
Despite the dynamic of the Abraham Accords, Israel must prepare for a broad range of war scenarios. This includes the development of a credible Israeli capacity to strike Iranian nuclear targets and the ability to withstand intense missile wars, as well as preparation for a real war on three fronts against an Iranian-led coalition.
Israel must have ground forces capable of swift and crushing maneuvers to attain decisive outcomes by taking the fight deep into enemy territory and breaking its will to fight. In other words, Israel must bring back the doctrine known as hachra’ah (decisive outcome). This will be expensive. The IDF budget and order-of-battle must be increased.
5. Push back hard against antagonistic international organizations, like the U.N. Human Rights Council and Amnesty International.
Expel hostile U.N. agencies from the prime Jerusalem real estate they occupy on Ammunition Hill and in Armon HaNetziv, including the outrageously regressive UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
6. Rule emphatically in Area C.
Preserving what is left of Israel’s de facto sovereign control in Area C of Judea and Samaria means approving settlements, roads and other infrastructure projects that will benefit both Jewish and Arab residents of the area. It also involves dismantling illegal Bedouin and Palestinian settlements that purposefully impinge on strategic routes. This includes the encampment called Khan al-Ahmar that was erected in E-1 with European Union assistance to deliberately challenge Israeli control of the Jerusalem envelope.
7. Build in and around Jerusalem.
Building in E-1 and expanding Maaleh Adumim eastwards are the best ways to solidify Israel’s long-term hold on the strategic arc from Jaffa to Jericho, which anchors Israel’s control of the Jordan Valley. Before the 2019 and 2020 elections, Netanyahu said that he would move ahead with building 3,500 homes in E-1. Tenders were issued for 1,000 homes in Givat Hamatos and projects in Atarot and Gilo were announced too. Since then, the projects have stalled. These must advance in order to keep Jerusalem Zionist and thriving.
8. Retake control of the Temple Mount, and do so davka (specifically and defiantly).
This is because Fatah, Hamas and the Israeli Islamist movement have made control of the Temple Mount the centerpiece of their assaults on Israel. Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority also continues to broadcast the venal lie that Israel is threatening the mosque on the Mount. Now is the time to reassert Israeli administration of the site.
Despite the sensitivity of the situation, Israel must demonstrate sovereignty. The best way to do this is by expanding Jewish visiting privileges and even basic prayer rights at this holiest of places for the Jewish people.
9. Brook no terror.
Make it clear to the Palestinians that even one bus bomb, G-d forbid, or one round of Kassam rockets will cost them tangible real estate and concrete Israeli assistance of all types. Both the P.A. and Hamas, nasty and corrupt as they may be, are 100% capable of halting violence against Israel when they want to.
Israel must act to boost its deterrence. This means zero tolerance for booby traps on border fences, missile fire, incendiary kites, drone incursions and the like.
It also means targeting Hamas leaders if they fail to maintain the current lull, striking deep inside Syria the minute IRGC bases are identified and knocking out more Iranian nuclear sites through sabotage—hopefully with clear U.S. backing.
In addition, Israel should settle for nothing less than overwhelming, sweeping, almost cosmic reform of the corrupt and rejectionist P.A. before even approaching a discussion of political road maps for the future.
10. Engage the Jewish world around the globe, even though much of it already has decided that Netanyahu is venal and his Religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners even more so.
It is boorish to portray Israeli society as bisected by two warring camps: A moral, liberal, democratic, universalist Israeli left versus an immoral, illiberal, hyper-nationalist, supremacist Israeli right. This is a false dichotomy, a fictitious portrayal of Israeli society. It must not be allowed to take root. Open channels of respectful Israel-Diaspora dialogue are the way to prevent it.
Israel must also reject the hypocrisy of foreign leaders from Washington to Paris who threaten to downgrade their ties with Israel if Ben-Gvir gets a seat in the cabinet.
For all his crudeness, Ben-Gvir is at least an Israeli patriot who prays for the success of IDF soldiers, unlike the Islamists of Ra’am or the viciously anti-Israel Arab communists of Hadash who celebrate the killing of IDF soldiers. I know of no foreign leaders who distanced themselves from Israeli governments that included or sought to include Ra’am, Hadash or Balad representatives.
In general, Israel must repulse attempts to smear it with a totalitarian brush. Israel is becoming a more conservative, nationalist and religious country, but its democracy is vibrant, its commitment to personal freedoms and human rights remains strong and its contribution to regional stability is more salient than ever.