Netanyahu And His Delicate Hold On His New Coalition

It took a while to formulate, but it came out just as most Americans expected the Re-election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  While he was able to construct his new governing coalition from among the many political parties with all different numbers of seats in the Knesset he did not end up with what he wanted.  Although he added to his Likud Party's 31 seats the 18 seats of the Yesh Atid Party and the 13 seats of the Bayit HaYehudi Party totaled 62 seats, just a slim majority of two seats.

Most interesting to everybody, both of the new coalition partner parties are brand new parties, and their leaders are both brand new members of the Knesset.

It’s obvious that the people of Israel voted for some change. We know that Netanyahu's Likud Party, after merging with Avigdor Lieberman's party, was expecting to win more than 40 seats and to have a solid hold on government control. Now, however, with the two centrist coalition partners having an equal number of seats, the Prime Minister has only a delicate hold on control. How this will work out?  We’ll have to wait and see. It seems that it is certain to affect many of Netanyahu's decisions and actions.

The Yesh Atid Party is a secularist centrist party led by Yair Lapid and the Bayit HaYehudi Party is an Orthodox religious party led by Naftoli Bennett. They have some differences, primarily concerning the Jewish "settlements" in Judea and Samaria. Bennett is a champion of the settlements while Lapid sees them as an obstacle to peace. The Orthodox are different from the Ulrtra-Orthodox. However, the main point on which they strongly agreed is that the Ultra-Orthodox parties must not be included in the government coalition. They campaigned primarily to end the Ultra-Orthodox young men's exclusion from military service and their long-standing welfare handouts from the government. Obviously the Israeli public strongly agreed with them.

For decades the Ultra-Orthodox Parties have maintained participation in the government coalitions, usually helping them to total the necessary majorities of Knesset seats. In the process they have demanded control of the important Religious Affairs and Interior Department Ministries. That gave them a monopoly over the religious affairs of the country and over immigration and citizenship activity, during which time they have angered a large portion of the nation's people.

They have controlled marriage rules and regulations, forcing most couples today to have to leave the country for their wedding ceremonies. They have controlled immigration, forcing many Christian immigrants from Europe and America to remain in the country as non-citizens. They have stipulated that their young men be exempt from military service in order to study in their yeshiva schools, making secular Israelis angry with a situation in which the Ultra-Orthodox refuse to contribute to the defending of their country. Secular Israelis are also fed up with the Ultra-Orthodox living off state welfare resources while remaining unemployed. So the voters made clear that they do not want all these Ultra-Orthodox handouts and exemptions to continue.

An interesting response concerning the election results and the new coalition came from an Ultra-Orthodox leader, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Party. He described the new government coalition alliance as "Brit Chadashah," which means, "New Covenant," or what Christians call the "New Testament." It was not meant as a compliment. The Ultra-Orthodox regard the "New Testament" as heresy. Litzman regards the new coalition as heretical because for the first time in decades the Ultra-Orthodox parties are not included in the coalition. But the Israel Today news magazine declared that for most Israelis this "New Covenant" represents new hope. It added that the general public is energized by the potential of the new government. "After so many years we now have a new and broad government that represents all citizens, with a unique opportunity to tackle important needed reforms," said Meir Dagan, a former head of the Mossad spy agency, in a recent interview.

Both Lapid and Bennett, the two new upstart leaders, have been lambasted by the Ultra-Orthodox leaders and media as traitors. But Bennett has declared that both he and Lapid are "working for greater acceptance and understanding of the nation's Biblical and Jewish heritage among all Israelis." We would like to add our congratulations and appreciation for the new "New Covenant" coalition. If it truly serves to bring Israel back to a stronger Biblical based government and society, we Christians will certainly be pleased. It is sad, but true, that many of the Ultra-Orthodox leaders have acted like the Biblical Pharisees, with a condescending attitude toward other Israelis. Hopefully the new government will serve to help all Israelis to respect and appreciate one another, and to work together better than ever before.