Welcome to the New Netanyahu Era
After five tumultuous election cycles held in the space of three-and-a-half years, and a government that lasted not much more than a year, the sixth Netanyahu government has reached the runaway and is ready to take off and deliver political stability for the State of Israel.
Political stability will be this government’s first goal since that is precisely what has been lacking in Israel. As in any country, instability causes citizens to suffer, so wherever one may be on the political map, political stability will be a positive development.
The current mood among sections of the Israeli public is reminiscent of the 1970s, when, in 1977, Menachem Begin and his Likud party were elected for the first time, triggering hysteria.
Then, as now, some Israelis are overjoyed that they got the government they voted for. The pro-Netanyahu camp is also happy that a prime minister from the largest political party formed the government, unlike the former setup, which was based on a government led by a prime minister (Naftali Bennett) at the head of a party with just six Knesset seats.
Fueled by the largely left-wing Israeli media, the anti-Netanyahu camp is frightened to the point that some of its members believe that the LGBT community is facing Iranian-style repression.
This fear is completely baseless. There are always extremist views in any government, right or left, but these are generally fringe voices. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, for example, was a volatile hilltop youth activist who came from the extreme fringes of the political map in the past. Yet today, Israelis elected him to restore their sense of personal security. While many issues compete for the Israeli voter’s attention, personal security is a fundamental one that wins elections and places people in positions of power in this country.
Now, the State of Israel has a full-on right-wing government, reflecting the majority of the voters’ will. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is still distributing roles – and already, he has unhappy campers in his party to deal with.
Likud Knesset Members Eli Cohen and Yisrael Katz will alternate as foreign ministers. This isn’t the most sensible setup; will international leaders have to go online to find out who Israel’s foreign minister is on any given day?
Netanyahu also named close confidante Ron Dermer as minister for strategic affairs. This is truly an unusual move. Dermer was not elected, yet now is in a cabinet position. Only time will reveal whether the appointment will pay off and whether it will set a precedent for future professional appointments.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu implemented a brilliant maneuver by appointing the only gay Likud Knesset Member, Amir Ohana, as Knesset Speaker.
This position is one of the seven official symbols of state sovereignty. While political observers were waiting to see whether Netanyahu would appoint the moderate Likud figure of Ofir Akunis, or the firebrand politician Dudi Amsalem as Speaker, Netanyahu surprised everyone and selected Ohana, thereby contradicting the claims that his new government will be homophobic.
Several MKs have been designated ministers without portfolios, which is a shame since the government should be prioritizing its civilians over the needs of politicians.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s inauguration ceremony on December 29 was both stormy and jubilant, depending on where one sat in the Knesset.
Unlike prior governments, which relied on strained, artificial political arrangements and the narrowest of majorities, Netanyahu has a comfortable majority this time and has more room to maneuver. Even if he is pressed by the more extreme elements in his government, he has the margin to deal with that pressure.
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri who was convicted of criminal tax misconduct will serve as both health and interior minister in this government, two important positions, begging the question of just how far Netanyahu is prepared to go to placate his coalition partners.
Ultimately, the real showdown now is between Netanyahu and the Israeli media.
In each of the five election rounds so far, pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps battled it out, and this time, the Netanyahu camp triumphed.
Netanyahu was always certain that he would win. He went out into the “wilderness” of the opposition, patiently bided his time, and returned.
This government is facing an avalanche of criticism before it has even got to work. But it is important to keep in mind that it also had a lot of public support in Israel.
The big question now is how will it perform. Will it fail as its detractors predict? Or will it follow in the footsteps of Begin, who went on to sign a peace treaty with Egypt and disproved the fears that dominated sections of the country in the 1970s?
Danielle Roth-Avneri is a publishing Expert at The MirYam Institute. She is an Israeli political commentator. She appears on the This Morning Program on Channel 13 Reshet TV. She is former parliamentary correspondent of Israel Hayom, the most widely read newspaper in Israel.