Israel’s 34th government, the fourth formed and headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn in on Thursday evening. But it turns out that experience is no guarantee of improving and learning from past mistakes.
The new Netanyahu government is one of a government of degraded values and fuzzy goals. The increase in the number of cabinet members is problematic, as are a number of the appointments themselves.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein expressed reservations about giving ministerial portfolios to Arye Dery and to Yoav Galant, while stopping short of disqualifying them. In 1993, Dery contributed to Israeli legal history by having a precedent named after him: The Dery precedent holds that a cabinet member who has been indicted must resign. Dery could now find himself the namesake of a second legal precedent. Galant, who was barred from becoming army chief of staff because of building violations, would have done better had he refrained from assuming responsibility for, of all ministries, the Housing and Construction Ministry.
But the problematic assignment of ministerial portfolios doesn’t end with these legal reservations. Netanyahu insisted on giving the right jobs to all the wrong people.
Naftali Bennett, who represents right-wing, ultranationalist extremism, will be the education minister of all Israeli students. Ayelet Shaked, to whom the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence are superfluous frills, was entrusted with the Justice Ministry. Uri Ariel, who routinely acts to expand settlements and to further entrench the occupation, is to head the Agriculture Ministry, which will also receive control of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division. And Miri Regev, for whom shrillness is an art form, was appointed culture and sports minister.
All these ills come on top of a deeper problem: A new government must be grounded on principles out of which a platform with a common denominator can be distilled. For Netanyahu, these principles — which include neither a commitment to a two-state solution nor to protecting the Supreme Court — represent the sum of all the coalition constraints. They point to his only goal: survival.
Israel cannot allow itself to waste any more time. Ending the occupation and the struggle over the democratic character of the state must be at the top of the agenda of the entire leadership. The fourth Netanyahu government is one devoid of vision and of any new, positive messages. We can only hope that it will not last long.
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