The talks to form a national unity government headed by Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett, that would put an end to the toxic regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, are cause for optimism. No one in the center-left has any illusions about such a government: Bennett is a man of the right who is the leader of a right-wing party. His partner in leading the party, Ayelet Shaked, is a woman of the right. The other senior partners are also right-wingers. Gideon Sa’ar and his New Hope party are right-wing, and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman is a man of the right.
Nevertheless, we must hope that Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid will succeed in their mission to enlist them all to a unity government. That, because it’s critical to end the rule of a criminal defendant who knows no restraint and who puts himself before the state.
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The ideological gaps between the people of the center-left on one hand and Bennett, Shaked, Sa’ar, Lieberman and their colleagues are fundamental and considerable. But the fact that they will be part of a coalition that includes Yesh Atid, the Labor Party, Meretz and Kahol Lavan, with the support of the United Arab List and perhaps even part of the Joint List, is good and hopeful news.
Bennett, Shaked, Sa’ar and Lieberman have right-wing views on annexing the territories and the solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, and think similarly about Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip and Hamas. The four are convinced of the need for a judicial revolution, believe that the state should be tough on asylum seekers, identify with the so-called nation-state law and are hostile to human rights organizations – everything that must be fought in normal times.
But these are not normal times. Israel needs political change like it needs air to breathe. After 12 straight years of the Netanyahu regime, three indictments and four elections in the past two years, Israel deserves a prime minister who is free to address national issues full-time, not only when he is not in court. Israel deserves a prime minister who does not undermine the systems of the state and incite against its institutions in order to evade justice. A prime minister who acts for the benefit of the citizens rather than setting them against each other.
Israelis deserve a government that focuses on them, on their welfare, on solving their problems and thinking about their future, rather than being devoted entirely to insuring the future of Netanyahu and his family. We can no longer allocate resources, subordinate the legal system, distort the ruling structure, dedicate public energies and exhaust the public’s attention for the benefit of one man.
The shared recognition that Netanyahu is harming the state, its institutions and its social fabric is the basis for the growing unity among the right, the center and the left. At this stage, it is the best option for Israel.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.