On the verge of a new government
Israel does not yet have a new government (nor a new Prime Minister), but it is on the verge of one.
Last night, just, just, just before the deadline to announce a government to be voted upon by the Knesset, eight very disparate political parties got their act[s] together and partnered to form a new government comprised of left-wing, centrist, right-wing, and Arab elements. Such a thing is historic for several reasons.
If you’d like to get a sense of the background and history leading up to this moment, I’ve written about some of that… but now, as of just last night, there is something more concrete to write about. And that is: a very fragile prospective coalition of 61 out of 120 Knesset Members – the barest of Knesset majorities.
Just so you understand: a government of 61 Knesset Members can be toppled by any one of them, thereby sending the country back to elections.
The prospective government’s components
In the interest of keeping this simple, I will not get into great detail. Israel’s prospective government is comprised of:
- 2 centrist parties with a total of 25 members
- 3 right-wing parties with a total of 19 members
- 2 left-wing parties with a total of 13 members
- 1 [Islamist] Arab party with a total of 4 members
Beyond the fact that 61 is the barest of Knesset majorities and therefore very fragile, as I’ve noted, there has never been 1) an Israeli government with so many component parties; 2) a government that spanned Israel’s entire political spectrum; 3) a government that included an Arab party from its very inception. Also, an additional fascinating historical point: Israel will, for the first time ever, have a religious Prime Minister who wears yarmulke. His name is Naftali Bennett.
Don’t anyone breathe too hard
I am too cynical and follow politics much too closely to be an idealist, but I so wish that the world would allow me to be one.
Still, looking at this prospective Israeli government through the eyes of an idealist, whom I can easily empathize with, it is a truly beautiful thing. Who could have imagined that such a diverse, wide-ranging group of politicians representing most of Israeli society could ever come together?
It really feels like this coming government could fall apart if anybody breathes too hard. In fact, it’s not even in the bag yet – the Knesset still has to vote upon it, and that might not happen for another 12 days or so… and there have been [legitimate] protests and [illegitimate] threats of violence against leading members of the prospective coalition, which will only intensify in the coming days.
While everything feels incredibly uncertain today, and the new coalition’s very existence seems very tenuous, there is a certain, not entirely irrational hope that this government might hold itself together precisely because of its fragility. In other words, the eight parties comprising this government understand that they all have to make sacrifices in order to make it work… and the legislative issues that most divide them are going to be tabled.
Getting to work for the people
The Israeli government has not had a budget since 2019. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Finance Minister deliberately prevented passage of either the 2020 or 2021 budgets; and, on balance, the cost to Israeli consumers is estimated by TheMarker at 10.5 billion shekels a year.
To me, this is one of the most concrete signs that the Prime Minister has stopped prioritizing the needs of our country above his own. Netanyahu could readily have passed the budget last year when he had a government; and the only reason he didn’t was that he wanted to force another round of elections to prevent his coalition partner (Benny Gantz) from becoming Prime Minister in November ’21, as per their signed agreement.
Assuming that this new government is voted in, the Knesset will only get a chance to pass a 2021 budget in July. The practical effect is that the reforms will only be felt in 2022. Personally, I find this continuous derogation of responsibility on the part of the government to be utterly maddening. It is the weakest elements of Israeli society who have been suffering the most as a result of having no budget passed for the last two years.
Therefore, a functioning government is simply necessary for the State of Israel. We cannot go on like this forever, from election to election to election to election, with no leader being able to cobble a coalition together. Four national elections in the span of two years is beyond absurd and irresponsible. By the way, according to the Macro Center for Political Economics, each of those four elections has cost the Israeli economy NIS ~3.5 billion!
The idealist hopes against hope that a sense of true responsibility to the citizens of Israel unites the member political parties of the prospective government that was announced last night… Please, please, please… could you please just do your jobs?