A more stable Israel?
Only time will tell what results come of Israel's new coalition but greater stability is not out of the question
When Israelis went to sleep on Monday night they were planning on having elections in September. What they got the next morning was a new unity government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Many are outraged by this move between Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party and MK Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima party, but is it really so bad?
As part of Kadima’s demands, in exchange for joining the coalition, the new unity government has specified four distinct areas that are to be of high priority: national service for all including the haredim, changes to the electoral system, greater efforts for peace with the Palestinians, and maintenance of a Jewish, democratic Israel.
It is simply undeniable that the haredim are a massive problem for Israel in several different ways: women’s rights, settlements, lack of service in the army, and demographics due to the other three. The new coalition, which gives Netanyahu’s government a massive majority with 94 seats (roughly 80 percent of the entire Knesset), will pave the way for passing an alternative to the Tal Law, which allows the ultra-Orthodox to indefinitely defer army service, and it reduces pressure from more right-wing parties in the coalition that Netanyahu needed to appeal to for support previously. In fact, even without the religious parties’ support, an alternative to the Tal Law can now be passed to require service from the religious.
Netanyahu has been criticized many a time for being the leader of Likud and not sticking to their ultra right-wing principles. On paper, Likud does not even support a two state solution based on the argument that part of Jordan is Palestinian Territory (or the other way around depending on who you speak to). At the same time, Netanyahu has been slammed from the left for being too radically right wing and not offering enough to the Palestinians.
But, regardless of what one thinks of Netanyahu personally, this new coalition does provide Netanyahu with the support, in terms of Knesset seats, to put more on the table when negotiating with the Palestinians, perhaps giving the Palestinians an incentive to return to the negotiating table.
The unification may also be a good thing for Iran. Many have speculated that the coalition is an indicator of an impending strike; however, Mofaz has openly opposed an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran and would prefer that the United States take the lead when it comes to halting Iran’s nuclear program. That being said, the 94-member coalition definitely provides stability in the government, which is something Netanyahu and Mofaz both have stated is necessary at the present time. But whether or not Netanyahu is actually looking at a strike on Iran, having a stable government in September will certainly be beneficial no matter what the Knesset and Israeli government opt to do about Iran.
However, despite the potential for these positive steps, Shaul Mofaz, literally days ago, swore he wouldn’t join Netanyahu’s coalition, making him…a politician. Mofaz stated to The New York Times, “I intend to replace Netanyahu…I will not join his government.”
It is always baffling to see how angry people get when a duck acts like a duck. Perhaps the the Prime Minister himself said it best when discussing Iran, “"Ladies and Gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?...That's right, it's a duck.” No one should be that surprised by Mofaz. Sometimes it’s better to have a flip-flopper who changes his mind based on the current state of the country than one who sticks to his prior word even when it could cost the country immensely.
For Mofaz, this move is likely disastrous as he’s proven he is indeed the epitome of a flip-flopping politician. For Kadima, it is beneficial because the MK’s don’t have to worry about losing their seats in a September election. For Netanyahu and Likud, the unity government is ingenious, and for the state of Israel, it has the potential to bring real change due to the increase in maneuverability for the Prime Minister.
Only time will tell what results come of this new coalition.
Emily Schrader is a researcher for a pro-Israel education organisation and a blogger at www.danareport.com
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