To Save Israel's Soul, It Needs a Coalition of Opposites

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Protestors outside of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem in December.
Protestors outside of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem in December.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Many advocates of a so-called government of change doubt that it can be established, and doubt even more that such a government could actually function. The gaps on the core issues, it is claimed, are unbridgeable. Even if they bend over backward, each party is ultimately committed to its own beliefs and identity.

There is a deep, genuine desire to rescue the state from the havoc that Benjamin Netanyahu and his cohorts have wreaked. But even if rules are drawn up for handling the “major” disputes, which can be foreseen, the hypothetical government of change will regularly confront core issues that are dear to its members and over which these individuals of truth and faith will be incapable of significant compromise.

There is a limit to the flexibility of Meretz, the Labor Party, New Hope and Yamina (the exclusion from this list of Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu is intentional). Moreover, there are personal desires, wishes and calculations for the future: Any party seen by its voters as having conceded its main principles (the word “traitor” will undoubtedly appear) is liable to shrink and perhaps even to disappear.

The varies parties report progress in terms of parity: the distribution of power and ministerial portfolios as well as a rotation schedule for the post of prime minister. They do not report - no doubt due to an inability to reach an agreement - anything about progress on the core issues. The tendency is to circumvent or to postpone these discussions. We’ll figure out how to cross that bridge when we come to it; that’s human nature.

This is a mistake. Assuming we are not dealing with hypocrites – and, after all, it is due to the absence of truth, integrity and honor in the Netanyahu government that negotiations for a government of change are taking place – only honoring the most detailed agreements will enable the government to function. Without them, every dispute, particularly with regard to matters of principle (and these will arise daily), will threaten the government’s existence.

Moreover, the constituent elements of the government of change are also eyeing the political tomorrow. Imagine what would happen on the left if Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz were to compromise on the LGBTQ issue or if Labor Party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli were to remain in the government when the prime minister decides to recognize the unauthorized settlements in Judea and Samaria. Conversely, imagine what people on the right would say about Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope and Ayelet Shaked of Yamina if they were to compromise on issues to which they are strongly committed. For example: stopping the judicial branch’s erosion of the powers of the executive branch. The examples, on both sides, are infinite.

Pikuah nefesh is a principle in halakha – Jewish religious law – according to which the Sabbath may be violated in order to save a human life (“and speed is of the essence”). From the security perspective, in the near future the state is not facing a danger of pikuah nefesh. However, there is indeed another danger that borders on pikuah nefesh: the danger of disintegrating from within.

In order to prevent that, it is necessary for both the right and the left to suspend – but not to relinquish, heaven forfend – principles of faith that border, from the believers’ perspective, on “violating the Sabbath.” That is to say, to forge social and political alliances capable of overcoming the elements that are fanning the fires of disintegration and to extinguish, or at least to diminish, the flames of fraud, falsehood, discord and ostracism.

This is the main reason why it is essential to establish a pikuah nefesh government – to save our soul. It is hoped that the negotiators can rise to the occasion and succeed in the work of forming a government. In the current circumstances, political opposites are called upon to prevent disintegration. It is within their ability to do so.