Opinion |

A Government of Extremists, but Responsible Ones

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, sit together in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv
United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, sit together in Ramat Gan, near Tel AvivCredit: UNITED ARAB LIST / REUTERS
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

If its swearing-in isn’t thwarted at the last minute, the members of the next government won’t be compromisers, as many people claim – not in terms of their characters, and certainly not in terms of their beliefs (and these two things are apparently connected). Rather, the government will be composed of people from both ends of the political spectrum.

Nevertheless, the hope that these extremists can succeed at running the country isn’t just a heartfelt wish. For these extremists, as we have gotten to know them over the years, have another quality that is lacking in most members of the ruling party, and especially its leader – a feeling of responsibility toward all Israelis. Benjamin Netanyahu’s successive governments were held hostage, especially with regard to the budget, by narrow sectors of society like the ultra-Orthodox, who cared solely for their own communities.

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Netanyahu is a talented man, but also a weak one. His main weakness was his unbridled appetite for power.

Due to this appetite, he saddled himself – and us – with unacceptable alliances with anti-state and anti-Zionist forces; restraint (some would say capitulation) toward terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon; the abandonment of the Negev, the Galilee and mixed Arab-Jewish cities to criminal gangs; the corruption of all our public systems; and acquiescence in judicial activism that undermines the checks and balances between the judicial branch on one hand and the executive and legislative branches on the other.

The next government will have to contend with this long list of failures from its first day in office. Netanyahu would have had no ideological or practical problems stopping the Bedouin takeover of the south or passing legislation to cool the Supreme Court’s aspirations to rule. The government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid will be judged by whether it corrects these anomalies, which are just two of many examples from the very long list of Netanyahu’s failures.

After all, the coalition agreements with Mansour Abbas might well intensify the Bedouin takeover of the Negev (and the Jewish flight from it). Moreover, during the long years of Netanyahu’s (failure to) rule, the Meretz, Labor and Yesh Atid parties pinned their hopes on the High Court of Justice, which shaped Israel’s character in many value-based areas of life according to the justices’ own worldviews, in defiance of the views of the parties representing a majority of the people.

In the long run, the majority couldn’t accept this situation. Thus, this, too, is an issue upon which the mutual responsibility of the new government’s diverse components will be judged.

People who wish it well are advising the Lapid-Bennett government to postpone dealing with such burning issues and focus on “what unites us rather than what divides us.” That’s like postponing treatment of a serious illness solely to avoid undermining one’s quality of life (which will be temporary, due to the failure to take the necessary steps).

If the new government also refuses to deal with the country’s difficult problems, it will be flaccid. And it will therefore fail, just as Netanyahu’s government did.

Writing in Haaretz this week, Dani Dayan gave Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett a very valuable piece of advice: Work for the good of all Israelis, and don’t attach too much importance to what people in your own reference group say about you. This advice is equally valid for the government’s leftist ministers.

The autonomy Netanyahu gave the ultra-Orthodox community corrupted its lifestyle and left it atrophied and dependent, which harmed primarily itself. On the other hand, the moral and political support the left gives the Arab and Bedouin communities encourages violence and rebellion in both.

Now that the leftist parties are partners in the government, they must deal with the results of this mistaken support. Similarly, they should not oppose a law allowing the Knesset to override the Supreme Court in certain cases. Because the day might yet come when the court, due to changes in its makeup, turns on its creator – that is, the left.

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