Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

End the Shenanigans and Form a Government

February 11, 2013 2:24 am 0 comments

Prime Minister Netanayhu at his weekly cabinet meeting. Photo: Screenshot.

The excessively slow pace of Israel’s electoral and political systems impose dysfunction at a time when a strong, strategically directed government is desperately needed.

This is highlighted by the excruciatingly slow coalition building process preceded by the lengthy pre-election campaign. The head of the leading party designated by the president to form the next government has 28 days to build a coalition with an option of an additional 14 days.

To have a hiatus of three to four months during which the outgoing government functions as a lame duck would be intolerable for any country. However, in the context of the extraordinary pressures and existential challenges currently confronting Israel — in particular the expansion of radical Islam in the neighborhood and the critical emerging security threats on all its borders — the absence of effective government for such a long period is appalling.

A strong government is also urgently required to formulate responsible economic and social policies to pre-empt a domestic crisis, which could ultimately also impact on security.

Moreover, with U.S. President Barack Obama scheduled to make his first visit to Israel in the near future, a government with a strategic plan and a unified diplomatic approach is an essential prerequisite. That cannot be achieved if a government is formed only days before the presidential visit.

In light of this, the ongoing shenanigans delaying the formation of a government are a monumental display of irresponsibility by all political parties. This is surely a time when the national interest requires that those elected to office recognize their obligation to concentrate on speedily creating a government. Ideally they would suspend their personal agendas and avoid dragging out the negotiation process to jostle for ministerial portfolios.

Remarkably, notwithstanding all the media babble and despite the substantial erosion of Likud-Beytenu electoral support, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a uniquely advantageous position to create a genuinely broad coalition. With the exception of the radical Arab parties and Meretz, a genuine centrist consensus on the peace process dominates the political arena. The vast majority of Israelis have no desire to rule over Palestinians and, given a genuine peace partner, would be relieved to separate from them. Even the hawkish Habayit Hayehudi would welcome the opportunity of entering the government in the absence of dramatic changes leading to the emergence of a Palestinian state — which is currently not even on the horizon.

Indeed, Yair Lapid — mistakenly dubbed by much of the media as a center-leftist —unequivocally committed Yesh Atid to maintaining the unity of Jerusalem and retaining the settlement of Ariel within Israel. He did undertake to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians, but after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Netanyahu’s most recent offer to negotiate without preconditions by demanding a settlement freeze (including all of Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods) and the release of all imprisoned terrorists — there is little doubt that Lapid and Netanyahu would have identical responses to such intransigence.

Despite Labor leader Shelley Yachimovich having pledged not to join a Netanyahu government, she admits that today many of her party members are pressing her to do so. Even Hatnuah head Tzipi Livni, despite her former histrionics against Netanyahu, is now also almost desperate to join the government. This confirms that in spite of all the posturing, a broad political consensus prevails.

The sole major issue which remains a barrier towards creating a broad national government is the commitment by many parties to introduce reforms to preclude the non-Zionist and inflexible ultra-Orthodox rabbis from exclusively controlling state religious policies.

The most emotional aspect of this is “equalization of the burden” for haredim serving in the army or national service. There is also the need to steer them into the workforce, weaning them away from long term reliance on state welfare.

In contrast to his late father, Yair Lapid has been extremely reasonable in his approach to the haredim. Many even consider his proposal to progressively introduce the draft over a five year period to be too gradual. But despite this, the ultra-Orthodox are threatening to go to the barricades and seeking to exploit emerging tensions between Netanyahu and Lapid.

Throughout the election campaign, Lapid was a role model for moderation and restraint. Most politicians harbor dreams of ultimately becoming prime minister. But he blundered when in response to a rhetorical question in a TV interview he said that he visualized himself displacing the current prime minister within 18 months — a remark which certainly would not have contributed to Netanyahu’s comfort level with an impending new partner.

The desperate haredim are already capitalizing on this. Indeed, despite Rabbi Ovadia Yosef having described Habayit Hayehudi leaders during the elections as “goyim,” Shas leaders have appealed to them not to support efforts to draft their followers. They seem to have even convinced some of the more stringent religious Zionist rabbis to exert pressure on party leader Naftali Bennett to soften his position. Should they succeed, Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi would be discredited and may lose a precious opportunity to restore religious Zionism to its rightful place in a Zionist state.

In this context Netanyahu is making Bennett’s position more difficult by publicly humiliating him, meeting with him only after his consultations with Meretz, Labor, Tzipi Livni and even the radical Arab parties. Irrespective of former confrontations, such personal displays of animus by the prime minister are misplaced and do not display him in a favorable light.

Netanyahu and Lapid should stop posturing and speedily reach an accommodation regarding the haredi imbroglio. Many Shas supporters already serve in the army. Once appropriate legislation has been passed requiring haredim to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or national service, Shas may still seek to join the government. United Torah Judaism would probably stay out, which would not be a great loss.

On the other hand, should Netanyahu form another narrow government which would continue to be subject to extortion by the ultra-Orthodox and obliged to substitute genuine efforts to draft haredim with mere cosmetic gestures, the electorate would be outraged. Besides, a narrow government under the current circumstances would almost certainly only have a very limited duration. In the ensuing elections irate Israelis would undoubtedly severely punish those leaders — in particular Netanyahu — for failure to create a broad government.

With the impending visit to the region by Obama there is a desperate need to present a united front in relation to policies on Iran and the Palestinians. To achieve this, our politicians have an urgent obligation to cease posturing and form a broad national government.

Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at He may be contacted at This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Israel Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel

    Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel – Famed Jewish-American comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld is slated to make his comedic debut in Israel later this year. Seinfeld, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents from the Ukraine and Syria, will perform in Tel Aviv’s Mitvtachim Menorah Arena on Dec. 19 as part of a world tour. The comedian is most known for his enormously popular NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998 and is widely considered one of the greatest TV series of all time. […]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    A new video circulating online shows eight American children reacting — mostly positively — to their first taste of the famed Israeli eggplant salad/dip, known in Hebrew as “salat hatzilim” and in other parts of the Levant as baba ganoush. The clip, created by, features the youngsters trying a variety of exotic dishes from other countries as well, such as Hawaiian poi, Colombian pork belly and Russian borscht. The Israeli delicacies served include schnitzel, slices of pita, hummus and the baba ganoush salad. “If someone […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Pioneers/Philanthropists ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit

    ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit – Forbes magazine announced Tuesday that it will host its Under 30 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Summit in Israel for the first time in April 2016. The conference is expected to bring together some 600 young entrepreneurs, with 200 from Europe, 200 from the U.S., and 200 from Israel. The summit has been hosted in Philadelphia for the past two years. It will include presentations, speeches, a pitch competition, and cultural immersion opportunities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →