It’s Israel’s political system, stupid – opinion

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The 36th Israeli government’s swearing-in on Sunday evening came as a relief to some of the public, if only for the fact that it prevented the fifth round of elections. At least that is what members of the motley coalition would have us believe, although they, like most people in the country, do not have much confidence in its longevity.

But since the main purpose of this particular training was to oust former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they have good reason to be satisfied with themselves. Their mission was accomplished, at least temporarily.

The same cannot be said of voters who gave Likud 30 seats in Netanyahu’s Knesset, a number far higher than any other individual party. Many of those who voted for Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett, are also not happy with his alliance with the left and the Islamist Ra’am party. Ironically, although their candidate is now Prime Minister, they suffer from buyers’ remorse.

After all, their criticism of Netanyahu, as harsh and hard-hitting as it is, has always come from the right. So the current constellation Bennett has found is not exactly what they had in mind when they campaigned for him.

Yet there are those among his loyalists who have decided to give him a chance to lead the government in the right direction, both literally and figuratively. So far he has undergone and passed a few small tests.

These include allowing the Jerusalem flag march to proceed as planned on Tuesday, and subsequent airstrikes on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military complexes, following incendiary balloon launches from Gaza into the Palestinian territories. border communities in southern Israel.

That’s not the end of the story, of course, as the barrage of explosive balloons continued throughout Wednesday. The ruling terror group in Gaza clearly wants to see how far it can push the post-Netanyahu government without incurring another major IDF operation against its operatives and assets.

The rest of the world, too, is paying close attention to the change in Israel after 12 consecutive years with Netanyahu at the helm. This is understandable. In the eyes of his counterparts around the world, Bibi came not only to represent the Jewish state but practically to personify it.

Ditto for his admirers at home, whose belief in his leadership kept him in power for over a decade. Their feeling that no one is able to face Israel’s many challenges better than they have naturally driven their political enemies mad. Minimizing his electoral and world successes by calling him a “magician” with tricks in his bag and rabbits in his hat, they used every means at their disposal, including the criminal justice system, to impeach him.

Yet neither his charges for corruption, fraud and breach of trust, nor the weekly black flag demonstrations of the “crime minister”, have prevented him from obtaining the most terms in each of the four elections held since April 2019. That’s not to say its popularity hasn’t waned, however. It took a hit within his ideological camp. The message he received this week was that his personal rivalries and reluctance to cultivate a Likud successor had finally come back to bite him in the butt.

His fans are furious that politicians otherwise on his side were more determined to stab him in the back than to safeguard and promote the country’s best interests. Like Netanyahu himself, these supporters called the new government “fraudulent” and accused Bennett of being some sort of political Robin Hood for “stealing on the right and giving on the left.”

They also point to the unprecedented phenomenon of a government led by a party with only seven seats – six after Knesset member Amichai Chikli gave up in protest against his move to the left. While there is some truth to all of the above, the claim that the ruling coalition is “undemocratic” needs to be nipped in the bud.

IN GENERAL, it is high time that Israelis of all walks of life stopped frivolously claiming that “Israeli democracy is in danger” whenever certain policies do not suit them. The left has spent years engaging in this vile practice, going so far as to compare Netanyahu to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for example. The right, for its part, behaved in the same way vis-à-vis the “deep state” and the interventionist Supreme Court, which gives itself the power to override Knesset legislation.

Today’s disgruntled Netanyahu supporters and those disappointed with Bennett can be justified in feeling duped. They have every right to suspect the new government and try to overthrow it – if it doesn’t collapse on its own internally before they have a chance to try.

They are also free to demonstrate against him and insult him, although the latter is an outrageous form of expression that I personally cannot stand, especially when watching other Likud members who might benefit from a lesson or two of decorum.

But no one inside or outside Likud should refer to a government that was created through the manipulation of an extremely problematic – often wacky – “undemocratic” system. In the first place, the principle of “majority rule” as the term is used in Israel does not apply when it comes to building a coalition.

Second, if Bennett hadn’t struck a sneaky deal with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, the country would have been forced to go to the polls, once again. The idea that if he had joined Netanyahu instead, New Hope Party leader Gideon Saar would have ditched his ‘everyone but Bibi’ platform to jump on Bibi’s train is based purely on wishes pious.

A more realistic assessment is that if Netanyahu had persuaded Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich to accept Ra’am’s support, Bennett would have remained with his natural partners on the right.

NONE OF this speculation is any more relevant now that the government is in place. And since Netanyahu is both certain he will fall and determined to instigate his downfall from his post as opposition leader, his supporters should be less strained.

They would also do well to keep in mind that working the rogue system to his advantage is part of Netanyahu’s talents, both as a skilled politician and as a great leader who will undoubtedly go down in history as that such.

More importantly, as members of the national camp, Likud politicians and voters must be very careful not to give to the enemies of Israel – be it the Ayatollahs of Tehran, the radicals in the US Congress, or the editors of the New York Times – fodder for assault. Throwing epithets at Bennett and denouncing the “undemocratic” nature of the new government only fills their anti-Semitic guns with ammunition.

We on the right flaunt our patriotism, proudly displaying Israeli flags and bragging about how lucky we are to live in the only democracy in the Middle East. No single coalition, even one pathetically describing itself as “change of government”, can or should change this.

No, this is not the country that needs a recovery. It’s the political system, stupid.


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