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Israel’s ‘change coalition’ is slow to live up to its name – analysis

CM 28/07/2021


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The “change coalition” is how Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and other members of the current government referred to themselves in early June while trying to cobble together what looked like an impossible government.

The “change coalition” was smart wordplay and sounded so much better than the “anti-Netanyahu” or “anyone-but-Bibi” coalition, which is how it was being referred to by the Likud. It always sounds better to be for something, such as change, rather than against someone, such as Netanyahu.
So with such a vaunted name going in, expectations were high. After four elections in two years and a public debate that was almost obsessively focused on whether former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a saint or a scoundrel, a new government promising something different, promising change, was a breath of fresh air.
And in certain ways, it has provided that.
The manner in which a government made up of such disparate parts – Right and Left, Zionists and Islamists – can get the parties to check ideology at the door and look for the areas where they can agree, and focus on those areas, did inject the country with new energy. The government did what many people in their day-to-day lives do regularly: work constructively and productively in the army, in hospitals, at the office with people with whom they do not see eye-to-eye ideologically.

This wasn’t the government setting an example for society, as much as it was the government emulating what happens daily in society.
But change is more than that. Change also means changing the way political opponents outside the coalition are dealt with, and how the government conducts business. And here, after six weeks, what has emerged is a government whose modus operandi is strikingly similar to that of the government it strove so hard to defeat.
One ingredient glaringly absent in Israeli politics is being gracious in victory. This is as true at the party level, as it is at the national level.
One good recent example of this at the party level was the way that Netanyahu treated his rival Gideon Sa’ar after defeating him by a landslide in the 2019 Likud primary. He soundly defeated Sa’ar, but then in the government he went ahead and set up with Benny Gantz – a wildly inflated government of 32 ministers – he gave Sa’ar nothing.
This ended up coming back to haunt Netanyahu in the end, however, as Sa’ar’s defection from the Likud and decision to start a new list – New Hope – deprived Netanyahu of the premiership in the last election. Had Netanyahu been more gracious to his rival, Netanyahu would likely still be prime minister today.
The current government is showing a similar lack of grace in the distribution of membership in the Knesset committees. The Knesset’s work has been hampered because the coalition and opposition cannot agree on the makeup of the committees, and the coalition, which if all its members show up and vote with it (something by no means a given), has a razor-thin two-seat majority.
YET, UNLIKE accepted practice up until now, in the key committees the coalition has given itself a two- and three-seat majority, majorities that do not reflect their power in the plenum. Furthermore, in the distribution of the committee chairmanships, the coalition took all the significant committees for themselves, and threw scraps to the opposition.
Why? Because they could. But “because we can” is no way to govern – if only because one day the tables will be turned, and the side being rode over roughshod now will be in the saddle then, and it will be hypocritical for those who are trampling parliamentary norms now to yell “foul” when the other side does the same thing to them in the future. A true “government of change” means changing this way of doing business.
This is true as well regarding the ridiculously large size of the current government, and its exaggerated use of the “Norwegian Law” which allows ministers to give up their seat in the Knesset for the next in line.
When Netanyahu was in power and Lapid and Bennett were in the opposition, they excoriated him for the “shticks and tricks” he pulled to remain in power, including making ministries out of thin air to distribute to coalition partners. In 2015, Lapid described an inflated government as “government corruption,” nothing less.
The appointment of Yisrael Beytenu’s Eli Avidar this week to a ministerial position as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office for strategic affairs for the sole purpose of ensuring that the mercurial MK vote on the budget, is an example of the types of moves that the opposition – rightfully – pilloried Netanyahu for in the past.
Change means change, not using the exact same methods that one vehemently opposed and viewed as invalid and even antidemocratic while in the opposition. In addition to another minister, the government also approved Yair Golan’s appointment this week as deputy minister in the Economy Ministry.
The same is true of the “Norwegian Law.” When the nation went to the polls in March they voted for 120 Knesset members. Fully 20 of those whom they voted for – and who now have ministerial posts – have vacated their Knesset seat for the next in line, at the cost of millions of shekels to the taxpayer who now must pay an additional 20 Knesset salaries, on top of the salaries and perks for the ministers.
But it’s not about the money – though the wasted money is real – rather how slippery methods slammed in the past are now suddenly kosher because the end justifies the means: preserving the stability of the government.
But does it?
The change coalition coalesced to a large degree because of a sense among the composite parties that Netanyahu would go too far to ensure his political survival, including trampling accepted norms of democracy and good governance.
Is the Bennett-Lapid government now doing the same thing?

Source: Jerusalem Post

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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