Israel Is Headed for Yet Another Rotation Government

Israel Harel
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Counted votes in the Israeli city of Shoham, last year.
Israel Harel

Israelis will go to the polls next week with a heavy heart. Among other things, they fear that the election will yield no decisive outcome this time, either, and they will be called to vote for a fifth time within less than three years.

A considerable percentage of the voters (some 13.5 percent according to the Israeli statistician Professor Camil Fuchs) is still in doubt over whom to vote for. The answer of how to prevent a fifth election round could be a significant part of the undecideds’ final decision.

West Bank, Gaza Palestinians won't be voting in Israel's election - would they if they could?

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According to most of this week’s poll results, Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, not Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, could emerge as the leading party on the right. No voter with elementary judgment could classify Benjamin “Two States for Two Peoples” Netanyahu – as a true man of the right. The same goes for his party, which is dragging after him blindly.

This development, if it continues until Election Day, brings Bennett closer to – not farther from, as some interpret it – a coalition with Netanyahu. A party of 13-15 Knesset seats would enable him to set up a bloc with Sa’ar, who is expected to receive 9 -11 seats. Such a bloc could dictate rotation to Netanyahu. The first to serve as prime minister would be the leader of the united bloc. This would also annul Sa’ar’s vow not to take part in a government headed by Netanyahu.

The main price the bloc would have to pay in return for the very reasonable dramatic upheaval would be to keep the “alternative prime minister” law. Because it is the results of the trial, not his temporary extraction from the Prime Minister’s Office, that will ultimately determine the man’s political future.

Netanyahu would be forced to agree to this, because legally it would enable him, even though he’s on trial for serious felonies, to serve as a minister without the obligation to resign from the government, which a regular minister undergoing such a process would have to do.

The ultra-Orthodox, who will have around 14-16 Knesset seats according to all the polls, prefer Netanyahu to Bennett or Sa’ar. However, due to the absence of a political alternative, they would join such a coalition, even on worse terms than Netanyahu gave them. So would Bezalel Smotrich, who is also gaining strength in the polls.

Bennett and Sa’ar aspire to a national reconciliation; to lead a government that would heal at least a few of Israeli society’s ills. Netanyahu would pile obstacles in their way and prevent them from gaining these achievements, lest they prove that decent people who hate dispute and division are worthy of being prime minister. On the other hand, as long as this government allows him to remain a part of it, if only until a verdict in his case, he wouldn’t dare bring it down.

They are not likely to achieve a significant national reconciliation. But such a government can certainly score achievements in practical and ideological issues that are important to Bennett, Sa’ar and Smotrich.

If these three concentrate on implementing the policies they promised their voters, and which could be carried out with a true rightist figure heading the government, it can be assumed that such a government will finally make the Judea and Samaria communities’ status official. These communities, like those that are 50 years old and more, will be subordinate to the government ministries, rather than groan under the Civil Administration’s irregularities.

Despite the turmoil that would ensue, this government could enact a law sidestepping the High Court of Justice. This legislation is important to all the government’s partners, especially the ultra-Orthodox. The government can also split the attorney general’s functions, as is customary in most advanced states. This is just a little of what a prime minister with a true, not fake, national orientation can accomplish.

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