It's been more than a month and a half since Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected, yet Israel's government remains in limbo, its caretaker cabinet still in place as sluggish, sporadic, remarkably leisurely coalition wrangling goes on and on.
- Netanyahu says he still 'aspires' to pass anti-Supreme Court bills
- Netanyahu vs. Supreme Court
- Hurtling toward the brick wall of reality
- Netanyahu's offer to make Bennett education minister irks Likud
- Chief justice raps Netanyahu for trying to curb Supreme Court’s power
- Kahlon chalks up win with coalition agreement, but battle far from over
- Keep enemies close? Bibi practically hugging them
There are many reasons for this. There's only one reason, though, that really matters: Of all the possible governments the prime minister can eventually succeed in cobbling together, none of them can possibly come close to his ideal, far-right dream coalition – the one he already heads, this very minute.
And not only because, as an acting minister, he currently happens to personally run no fewer than seven government ministries.
For starters, he can do anything he likes, and – in what is for Bibi the best of all possible worlds - take no responsibility. Build over the Green Line, bomb over the border? Elohim Gadol, we say. Trust in the Almighty. Whatever happens, the new government can deal with the mess.
Here's U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday at a conference of the Reform Movement,issuing a stern warning to, yes, the Israeli government which has yet to be formed.
"We will be watching very closely to see what happens on this [Palestinian] issue after the new government is formed," Sherman said. "If the new Israeli government is seen to be stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution that will make our job in the international arena much tougher... it will be harder for us to prevent internationalizing the conflict."
For Bibi, it doesn't get any better than this. For a man whose guiding rule of policy is majestically cosmeticized inertia, with stage-front fear-mongering and Obama-baiting screening off the mechanisms and manifestations of a violent, oppressive and ever-deepening occupation, the non-government he's got now is nothing less than perfect.
This is the reality in which this government swims merrily along: the Israeli public has absolutely no expectations of it, wronged and dismayed allies exact no consequences of it, a toothless and under-organized opposition cannot hinder it.
Benjamin Netanyahu can do whatever the hell he wants. For as long as this lasts. On Monday, turning aside the opposition of a key potential coalition partner, Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party, Netanyahu joined hard-right lawmakers in stating that he aspires to pass laws that would bypass, override, remake and effectively cripple Israel's Supreme Court.
The interim government's hints and the legislative threats of such far-right cabinet ministry candidates as Yariv Levin of Netanyahu's Likud and Ayelet Shaked of Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party may, in fact, have already changed the court, moving its rulings rightward.
It cannot have escaped the prime minister's attention that earlier this month, with Israel's attention focused on Holocaust Memorial Day, the High Court took it upon itself to carry forward the process of unraveling Israeli democracy.
In a matter of a few days, the court handed down separate rulings upholding the controversial Anti-Boycott Law; allowing the state to confiscate and take control of property in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank or Gaza; and barring Palestinian convicts from studying in prison.
No wonder Netanyahu's in absolutely no hurry. He's got a sweet deal. Why fix it if it ain't broke?
Remember the urgency of the Iran nuclear issue and his duty to form a government as soon as possible to confront it? Suddenly it's not so urgent any more.
Suddenly, now that the election is over and it's Netanyahu who won, the Iran nuclear threat is no longer even Israel's number one security problem.
By law, he still has until May 7 to revel in all of this, before challenger Herzog is given a chance to put together a possible if extremely unlikely center-left coalition of 63 seats (Herzog's Zionist Union, the Joint Arab List led by Ayman Odeh, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, Meretz chaired by Zehava Galon and Kulanu).
In the meanwhile, the prime minister's free to offer anyone anything – several of the most caustically hardline figures in Israel's rightist pantheon, in particular.
And that's only for starters. On issues other than war and peace, democracy and racism, there's also this government's unique Rapid Non-Response Team.
A current example: Is there a critical problem of carcinogenic pollutants spewing from tycoon-and state-controlled industries in the greater Haifa area? Watch the Team go into immediate action:
Prime Minister Netanyahu orders Health Minister Netanyahu to back off, refrain from taking responsibility or making statements. At the same time, he orders Environmental Protection Minister Netanyahu to keep a low profile, Communications Minister Netanyahu and Science and Technology Minister Netanyahu to stay mum also on the issue of cellular antenna towers, Finance Minister Netanyahu to duck the questions of financial compensation, and Education Minister Netanyahu to order civics classes to focus on something else.
Just not the Nakba.
No question - if he only could, Benjamin Netanyahu would keep exactly this government going for four years. Or 14. Or at least until his elder son - now being groomed for telegenic, close-up-grabbing, North Korea-style legacy greatness - can succeed him.