It is difficult to count how many times members of Israel’s governing coalition seemed about to drop out, thus opening the door to the government’s demise. We were simply observers of this interminable process. It was an exhausting experience that served our nation ill.
But late Monday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid finally announced that they would introduce a bill to dissolve the Knesset, triggering new elections. Until a new government is established, Lapid will serve as interim prime minister, as per his agreement with Bennett. This was long expected, but what is amazing is how Bennett and Lapid are trying to declare their failed government a success story. According to their spin, the government showed that people with diverse positions can come together in a cooperative spirit.
I maintain that the reverse is the case: The experiment was an abysmal failure. Politicians with fundamentally different ideologies can come together only so long as those ideologies are stifled in the name of unity. Yes, the coalition prevented elections for a year and passed a badly needed budget. But it did not take long for it to fray at the edges because of the ideological diversity of its members. It was inevitable that this would ultimately tear it apart.
The most disturbing aspect of Bennett and Lapid’s “unity” coalition was its dependence on the participation of the Ra’am party. The spin was that it was positive to have an Arab party in the government, as it was a sign of national maturity and increased diversity.
But Ra’am is not simply an “Arab” party. It is the political arm of the Islamic Movement of Israel’s southern branch—a spin-off of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ra’am’s chairman Mansour Abbas often spoke words of moderation—at least publicly—but the fact remains that he answers to the Islamic Movement, which is anti-Zionist and seeks to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state.
Such a party should never have a place in an Israeli government again. The prospect that a new coalition, seeking sufficient mandates to govern, might call upon Ra’am is chilling.
This is the heart of the matter: Israel needs a cohesive, solid right-wing government in order to protect and advance Zionist values and Jewish rights to the land. This is because we have been losing ground at a disturbing rate.
There are now 75,000 illegal Arab structures in Area C of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords is under Israel’s exclusive control. Most of these structures are funded by the European Union. The Civil Administration, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense, does take down some structures, but there is a net gain for the Arabs, as they average seven new structures per day. As for the European Union, whatever gestures it makes in regard to trade with Israel, it clearly demonstrates an anti-Israel bias.
It is time for a government that cries “enough!” and is persistent in stopping, indeed reversing, land theft. Moreover, such a government must be prepared to move ahead proudly in developing the land that is ours.
Then there is U.S. President Joe Biden, who heads a pro-Palestinian administration. Biden is coming to Israel in search of political perks for the Palestinian Authority. Most troublesome is his push to reopen the American consulate in Jerusalem as a de facto embassy to the PA. This effectively calls a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel into question. It is scant comfort that Lapid—a centrist two-state man—will be interim prime minister when Biden arrives.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is celebrating the imminent demise of the current government, would have us believe that he is the leader who can set things right (double entendre intended). But this is also spin.
Netanyahu has a great deal going for him: He is politically savvy, has a solid international reputation and has promoted a strong stance on Iran. But the Arabs did not build 75,000 illegal structures in Area C over the past year alone. Much of the construction was done under Netanyahu’s watch. While he would have us believe that he is right-wing, he is in fact a centrist who tilts right.
We have seen the first step towards an improved governmental situation, but we are not yet where we need to be and tough electioneering is now required. Likud is by far the largest party in the Knesset and polls show an increase in the number of mandates it will secure in the next election. This increase, however, depends upon Netanyahu. Polls show a decrease if he is replaced— he still has a fiercely loyal following—but they also show that Likud would not be able to cobble together the 61 mandates necessary for a government.
An electoral stand-off would absolutely not be in the country’s interest. Hard work lies ahead. At the moment, the best way to secure a genuine right-wing government is by supporting and strengthening the Religious Zionist party, so it has a major influence on the formation of the governing coalition and establishing its policies.
Arlene Kushner is a freelance writer, investigative journalist and author. She has written books on the PLO and Ethiopian Jews, and major reports on UNRWA. She is a co-founder of the Legal Grounds Campaign, which provides courses to law students regarding Israel’s legal rights in the Land of Israel. Her blog, focusing on political and security concerns in Israel, can be found at www.arlenefromisrael.info.