Poor Knesset Decisions May Unwittingly Drag Israel Into War

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at National Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem in April.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at National Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem in April.Credit: Noam Revkin-Fenton

The departure of MK Idit Silman (Yamina) from the coalition may yet drag Israel into war. This, if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett prefers to act out of political and personal considerations – to survive in office in the face of the terror attacks – rather than acting purely out of considerations of security and state.

Since Silman resigned, the sword of elections has been hanging over Bennett’s head, and it may pull him in one of two opposite directions. If his goal is to avoid elections, Bennett will try to emphasize the common ground among his coalition partners; but should elections become his grudging aim, he may be tempted to provoke his partners by displaying his right-wing bonafides and cause them to break up the coalition, given the coalition agreement between himself and Yair Lapid.

According to the agreement, if the Bennett bloc (Yamina and New Hope) is the one to cause the government’s fall, Lapid is immediately appointed head of the transition government. But if anyone from the Lapid bloc (Yesh Atid, Kahol Lavan, Labor, Meretz, Yisrael Beiteinu and the United Arab List) brings the government down, Bennett will be prime minister of the transition government until a new government is sworn in.

The potentially dangerous result of the agreement is that the policy adopted in light of the terror wave may be affected by election consultants, public opinion polls or the number of “likes” on the post of some social media influencer.

A troubling example of shallowness that could lead to a truly destructive situation is the sudden public debate on whether Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, should be assassinated. The killing of Hamas’ leader could drag Israel into war, and the security establishment itself does not recommend targeting him – but both these facts become irrelevant when the aim is to satisfy the vengefulness of the electorate, or to cause UAL to quit the coalition so that Bennett remains prime minister.

Bennett supposedly understands the danger well. This week he made it clear that “there will be no political consideration in regard to the war on terrorism. All decisions regarding the Temple Mount and Jerusalem will be made … without outside considerations.” But in the same breath, he made sure to add that “we reject any foreign interference in the decisions of Israel’s government,” definitely responding to the UAL chairman Mansour Abbas, who a day prior posted that he would accept any solution on the Temple Mount that was agreed to by both Israel and Jordan.

Bennett must disengage from the dishonest demands from the right and reject “strategic” political advice; otherwise he could drag Israel into a needless war and find that the populism he fought against has stained him too.

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

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