Back when Benyamin Netanyahu called for new elections he was confident and thought he had made a tactical decision which would not only provide him with a strong coalition, but a comfortable coalition where any of the lesser parties which chose to join being unable to threaten the coalition with a vote of no confidence. He made a couple of serious miscalculations along the way, one before finally calling for new elections and the other subsequent to dissolving his relatively strong coalition confident of a better tomorrow. Netanyahu’s first mistake occurred when he first decided to call for new elections rather than face the difficulties of making a new budget and facing Iran and other threats without a stronger and more stable coalition. He then reversed himself when Kadima, facing possible oblivion if new elections were called, offered to join Netanyahu’s Likud led coalition adding an impressive twenty-eight to the coalition which promised to give it the stability Netanyahu desired. Unfortunately, Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of Kadima, replacing Tzipi Livni, and Netanyahu had a falling out within a couple of months and Kadima pulled out of the coalition which drove Bibi to again call for new elections. There was a short period of indecision and within a week Likud executed a vote of no confidence with coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu. This excess drama and indecision likely was just the initial sign of weakness and began his problems. Soon after dissolving the coalition, Netanyahu and Lieberman merged their two parties in the hopes of forging an unopposable center-right consensus party. This was the next step in the undoing of Netanyahu’s plan as the religious parties resented Lieberman and Yisrael Beyteinu. Then came the months of waiting for elections which soon became a long march towards mediocrity for the Likud- Beyteinu super party.
Then came the coup de grace during the campaign. For reasons which will be the raw meat for dissecting what not to do in a campaign, the senseless and viscous attacks by numerous members of Likud aimed at the Jewish Home Party, the one party that most observers would have thought would be a natural fit with Likud, inflicted harm on both parties though it appears that Likud was the greater harmed. There were the claims that the lead of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, was the difficulty as he had once been the Chief of Staff for Bibi which led to a messy split between the two. Some placed the problem with Bibi’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, as the one who had some difficulties with Bennett which drove the spite campaign. Whatever the source, the viciousness and pure undiluted bile heaped on Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home Party drove many away from the Likud-Beyteinu Party as many nationalists were put off and dismayed by the attacks on another nationalist party. The attacks also did result in lower support for the Jewish Home Party as they had been designed to be. The result in the end was a falling off from a combined total of forty-two seats for Likud and Beyteinu in the previous Knesset to thirty-one seats in the new Knesset. This loss of eleven seats not only damaged the power for the new combined party but also will force the Likud-Beyteinu Party to rely on and be susceptible to the whims of even the smallest parties who they will end up depending on to form their coalition. The damage was so complete as to have been just short of the cusp of allowing for a left-leaning coalition being formed blocking Netanyahu from making a coalition and allowing for a social issues coalition instead of what Netanyahu hopes to build, a nationalist and capitalist bent coalition. There are so many good old sayings that could be utilized to cap off this article, but in the spirit of allowing everyone their own freedoms, unlike the mistakes made by Likud-Beyteinu with their limiting attacks, we will allow you to choose your own to finish with your favorite.
Beyond the Cusp
Late yesterday afternoon Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Kadima, announced that due to unbridgeable differences between Kadima’s views and the views held by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the ruling coalition in the Israeli Knesset towards drafting new legislation to replace the expiring Tal Law, Kadima has found it necessary to withdraw from the coalition they had joined only nine weeks ago. An entirely new law was necessitated by the unconstitutional ruling striking down the existing Tal Law by former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch in the final weeks of her term of service. It is likely that the mainstream Israeli media will play up the split from the coalition by Kadima a mere two months after joining the coalition as a failure in the leadership of the coalition by Netanyahu. The reality is very likely to prove otherwise, but do not hold your breath waiting for the media to reach such a conclusion as they are heavily invested in casting Prime Minister Netanyahu as incompetent and ruining the coalition of the people by his support of the extreme Orthodox and Haredi communities and the illegal settlements in Judea and Samaria. They will use the ill-fated end to retaining Kadima in the coalition as further proof of Netanyahu, Likud, and the settler fanatic extremist parties in the coalition, especially should the Knesset vote to accept and enact as Israeli policy the recent results of the Levy Commission. This was a report on the legality of the existing settlements and any further Jewish settlement activities in Judea and Samaria under International Law, the Geneva Conventions, and numerous treaties which were signed and ratified by numerous European governments, the United States and the United Nations in its founding documents pertaining to respecting and implementing all agreements from the League of Nations, all of which defined the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as belonging to the Jewish State once it had been formed and allowed, encouraged and insisted even, Jewish settlement in order to facilitate such formation.
The real question is whether allowing Kadima to join the coalition and revealing their anti-religious fanaticism and anti-settlement dispositions served the coalition or not. The near future will prove that by allowing Kadima to join the coalition and tasking them to lead in crafting a new law establishing a universal draft, which they had demanded they be allowed in order to join the coalition, and then refusing to moderate their poisonous demands victimizing the religious communities as the Plesner Committee recommendations held. Members of the coalition accused Plesner of attempting to wage war on the religious communities while ignoring any service commitment by Arab Israelis and other minorities by pressing for severe sanction on solely religious Jews who refused service. Kadima leadership stood fast demanding near total drafting of all Hareidim with drastic penalties to be imposed on any refusing to comply without addressing the fact that a sizeable portion of the secular community also tend to go to extremes to avoid service. The end result of allowing Kadima to force this confrontation will likely be a split in the Kadima membership with the larger part leaving the coalition while a possibly sizeable remainder declining to leave with the rest and remaining in the coalition. This will result in making Likud the majority party and will reduce the size and following of Kadima. How anybody can call strengthening the coalition by making the best of an unpleasant confrontation forced by Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz who overplayed his hand in an attempt to destroy the coalition thus leaving him and Kadima weaker and Likud and Netanyahu strengthened a failure escapes me. Most rational people would look at how this will eventually turn out and congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu with pulling a virtual coup against Shaul Mofaz and the strongest of the opposition parties by allowing them to push their hand too stridently and dashing themselves against the rocks of public opinion and political realities.
The main fallout from this overstated coalition crisis is the remaining need for crafting a replacement draft law for the soon expired Tal Law. The advantage now is that the entire controversy over how to craft the new law and whether service should be strictly applied solely upon the Haredi and Orthodox communities and enforced in a vicious manner or whether the solution should be applied humanely and with reasoned and crafted steps allowing for a gradual adoption of the new standards will be discussed and implemented in an adult manner instead as by the spiteful insult of childlike adults throwing a fit. The public was treated to a full disclosure of the original intent of former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch to subvert the universal Torah Study by the Hareidim by pressing them into mandatory military or community service in place of Yeshiva studies. The debate being made public will allow a more reasoned approach which will retain the best of the Yeshiva studies of Torah, a vital and important pursuit in the service of Israeli society, while still making arrangements to allow and eventually require a larger percentage of Hareidim and Orthodox to perform IDF or community service bringing these communities into closer alignment with the service rates of the rest of Israeli society. It has also opened up the discussion on whether the Arab Israeli society should also be called to do at a minimum some form of community service if they prefer to refuse IDF enlistment. Despite the media claims which are sure to come decrying the death of Israeli democracy with the exit by Kadima from the coalition, the Israeli people will have been given a greater voice and a closer inspection of the machinations of the debate on this vital and definitive issue. If that is not real democracy and a healthy attitude of governance, then I don’t know what is. We must tip our hat and credit Prime Minister Netanyahu with having played a smarter game of politics than his opponents while also including the will of the majority of people in deciding the path for the government on of the the most vital and momentous legislations before the Knesset.
Beyond the Cusp
Kadima leader and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz with the able assistance from Tal Law Committee and Knesset Minister Yohanan Plesner have disclosed their true intent for joining Prime Minister Netanyahu and the governing coalition, namely to break up the previous coalition in order to gain the ability to force elections and use such a threat to enact their views and hijack the government. The Kadima Ministers in the Knesset have individually and collectively threatened to break away from the coalition they recently joined this May if their demands for stringent enforcement with harsh penalties for all Hareidim into IDF service. This move was designed to force Prime Minister Netanyahu to acquiesce to this demand which would cause a number of other parties from the original and much narrower coalition to quit the coalition. The parties this was aimed to tear away from the coalition included Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, Yaakov Litzman’s United Torah Judaism, Eli Yishai’s Shas, and Daniel Hershkowitz’s Jewish Home; which would leave a coalition consisting of Likud, Ehud Barak’s Independence Party and Kadima which would give Kadima the leverage to control the agenda. The only miscalculation was their believing that Prime Minister Netanyahu was so concerned about retaining the support of Kadima as a measure of moderation against the media had criticism that the original coalition as too right wing. As it turns out, Prime Minister Netanyahu appears to have little problem in having Kadima exit the coalition if they do not get their leftist extremist IDF Hareidim draft legislation worded exactly the way they proposed it.
So, what is the hang-up over between a large number of original coalition members and the Kadima proposals? Oddly enough, it all comes down to something that the left is supposed to favor, diversity. The Kadima proposal for legislation for a new draft law to replace the old and ruled unconstitutional Tal Law was to include strict enforcement with strident calls for severe punishments for any Hareidim who refused to serve when called to enlist in the IDF or participate in some form of national service. When it came to Arab Israelis and other Israeli minorities, who currently are not forced to serve similarly to the Hareidim, they had vague and undefined language which would allow these deferments to remain unaltered. Most of the rest of the coalition members were demanding that if the Hareidim were to be forced into some version of national service with few if any allowed to be deferred for fulltime Torah study as was previously allowed, they also wanted the same exacting requirements for the nearly one and a half million Arab population in the name of fairness rather than diversity. Kadima refused to allow equal treatment for Arab Israelis and Haredi Israelis, they wished only to subject the most orthodox and religious Jews to face minimally eighty percent enlistment, an even higher rate than secular and moderately religious Jews currently serve, while allowing Arab Israelis a complete pass on any form of national service. This was the wedge which Kadima had nefariously planned to divide the coalition then hijack control over the coalition and the national agenda. Now Kadima is making one last stand on their demands and it appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be perfectly content for them to fall on their swords and leave the coalition they had joined with such fanfare all the way back in May. So soon, you really have to go? Aww, we will really miss you, well, not so much.
Beyond the Cusp