Israel Has a Bipolitical Government and the Ministers Have Come Out of the Closet

Carolina Landsmann
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Ayelet Shaked, left, and Tamar Zandberg in the Knesset in 2014.
Carolina Landsmann

What’s up with Ayelet Shaked? Which camp is she in?

There she is, the interior minister, smiling in pictures with the left-wing female ministers, totally into the coalition, then the next minute she’s wearing a stern expression alongside Religious Zionism legislator Simcha Rothman and whispering with Bezalel Smotrich about how to prevent Arabs from realizing a right of return.

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Maybe Shaked is bipolitical: attracted to rightists and leftists alike, a member of the coalition but also in the opposition. Maybe the government of change isn’t just another “neither right nor left” political platform but the opposite, “both right and left.” The revolution of sexual fluidity has infiltrated politics. Binary concepts are out. The government of change is an umbrella organization that unites political tendencies and identities of all types.

Still, it’s hard not to feel some understanding for the right’s displays of hatred for the government of change and the Yamina party, even if one could say they’re coming from political boomers who still gauge reality via the old categories. It’s possible to rejoice over the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule without denying that it took a kind of political fraud (if there can be such a thing) for it to happen.

Naftali Bennett and Shaked pulled a fast one on their camp, and indeed it’s unprecedented for a party with just six Knesset seats to form and lead a government. Netanyahu opponents may be very pleased with the result and feel that the political moves of Bennett and Shaked are justified given the alternative (a fifth election, the continued tenure of a prime minister under criminal indictment), but that doesn’t negate the abnormal political construction that took place here.

Do we really need Haaretz contributor Gadi Taub to tell us that this isn’t normal, or to notice the astounding fact that Meretz and Labor supporters crowned a duo they once called the faces of fascism and apartheid as prime minister and interior minister, supported the nomination of the symbol of racism and “transfer” as finance minister, and cheered as the persecutor of refugees and asylum seekers was made justice minister?

Surprisingly, there is no empathy for the right’s feeling of betrayal among those who not so long ago seethed with hatred over the decision by the head of the “Anyone but Bibi” camp, Benny Gantz, to join forces with Netanyahu, contrary to his main election promise and raison d’être. Ostensibly, the only disagreement between the Bennett haters and Gantz haters should be over whose government more deserves the dubious title “the worst act of fraud in the history of Israeli politics.”

But some also look at the government of change and justly feel that it exposes political self-deception that has been going on for many years. Haaretz contributor Ron Cahlili wrote Friday that he was impressed by the “tremendous support of the left and center for Bennett’s moves,” and notices that the “main disagreements in this ‘government of healing’ are over handling the coronavirus pandemic. On all the rest there’s a wall-to-wall consensus.”

He asked: “Is this a historic unmasking ritual, like at the end of a bal masqué, when the entire spectrum from the Zionist left to the ideological hard right is revealed to be practically conjoined twins?”

Indeed, either the forming of the government of change is the greatest fraud in Israeli political history, or its formation has exposed the great fraud that has been Israeli politics so far: the false division between ideological right and ideological left. In this case the removing of the mask is nothing but a mass ceremony of coming out of the political closet.

Maybe the members of that government didn’t deceive the public but were simply shy, fearing that Israelis wouldn’t accept them as they were; for example, leftists who oppose the two-state solution, or radical rightists who support LGBTQ people. Or Ayelet Shaked.

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