Editorial |

A Knee on the Israeli Government’s Neck

Members of Yamina, including MK Idit Silman, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Knesset in March.
Members of Yamina, including MK Idit Silman, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Knesset in March. Credit: Emil Salman

The “government of change” was established with the awareness that its life depended on not dealing with controversial diplomatic issues due to a lack of “political feasibility.” This awareness rested on the understanding that these issues – including the peace process, territorial withdrawals or annexations and even negotiations with the Palestinians – are politically explosive, and that any engagement with them could crush the government, lead to new elections and return the criminal defendant and his thugs to power.

Each of the parties comprising this government, whose very establishment was considered impossible and whose comparatively normal functioning for almost a year was considered a miracle, agreed to drink its share from the poisoned cup. All conceded on fundamental principles that were their hallmarks and that had won them the support of their respective voters. They all recognized, up to now, that the government’s value for the stability of the state was much greater than the value of any of its component parts.

The government has been on the brink of collapse over matters of principle many, many times, and it managed to survive only because of its members’ shared interest in standing firm against the threats of chaos, enormous harm to the economy and a severe blow to Israel’s image.

It’s still hard to assess what the government will look like following MK Idit Silman’s departure. The Likud party’s celebrations and Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejoicing may indicate that they think they have found easy prey, and all of us will pay for it. But instead of the governing coalition closing ranks, some of its members – particularly in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party – already seem to be ready to share in the division of the imaginary golden fleece.

The ultimatum that MK Nir Orbach issued to Bennett – in which he conditioned his remaining in Yamina’s shrinking legislative ranks on the resumption of building in the settlements, on connecting “young settlements” (that is, illegal settlement outposts) to electricity, and canceling the elimination of day care subsidies for the children of married full-time yeshiva students – is the equivalent of kneeling on the government’s neck and demanding an exorbitant sum of money as a bribe.

Capitulating to Orbach’s blackmail – the government agreed Thursday to postpone the abolition of day-care subsidies for yeshiva students by a year – would unravel the last threads of the political fabric that has managed to pose an alternative to the out-of-control government that preceded it and even to rack up diplomatic achievements. It would be tantamount to sawing off the already shaky branch on which the government sits.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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