The surplus-vote agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism closes a circle: The man who in 1995 ranted from a balcony and marched at the head of a procession with a coffin joins hands with the man who displayed the hood ornament ripped from the prime minister’s car and warned: “Just like we got to this emblem, we can get to Rabin, too.”
“Surplus-vote agreement” means nothing to the great majority of Israelis. Let me explain: Under certain circumstances, a vote for Likud on March 23 could put Orit Strock (No. 5 on the Religious Zionism slate), or Avi Maoz, chairman of the benighted Noam party (No. 6), into the Knesset. It means strengthening the alliance headed by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the most racist, homophobic politicians in Israel.
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It’s very simple: The vote-sharing agreement is only relevant to a party that passes the minimum-vote threshold. The latest polls give Religious Zionism four or five Knesset seats. One or two of its cabinet ministers resign their Knesset posts in accordance with the so-called Norwegian law, and Maoz – who makes even Ben-Gvir seem rational – will enter the Knesset, to the disgrace of the state, thanks to Netanyahu.
After the trick played against him by Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman (who signed vote-sharing agreements with each other), Netanyahu was left all alone. A party head with even a shred of shame, principles and self-respect would have announced that he’d rather risk losing a Knesset seat than cooperate with a gang of dangerous extremists.
That’s what Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon would have done. Netanyahu? Are you kidding? Not only did he sign an excess-vote agreement with him, he’ll sign a coalition agreement with them as well, and bring them into his cabinet and make them chairmen of top Knesset committees. The low to which Netanyahu has stooped is the result of his experience over the past year. Every party, every leader who claims to express any sanity or governmental propriety and to speak for any kind of Israeli “mainstream” is avoiding him like the plague. He’s left with the fringes: the Haredim, the Haredi Zionists and the successors to Meir Kahane. All the rest prefer to make alliances among themselves, including Bennett, who could find himself cooperating with Likud after the election despite having the same opinion of Netanyahu as the others.
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A few days ago senior Likud politicians issued a statement to the media, to reassure the plebes: Ben-Gvir won’t join the coalition, they promised. His way is not our way. They didn’t know that while they were spreading lies, the surplus-vote agreement – with a promise to appoint representatives of Religious Zionism to the cabinet – was in the works. They were silent Wednesday – ashamed, disgusted.