Israel's New and Dangerous Government

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Netanyahu and Bennett in the Knesset. February 12, 2014.Credit: Emil Salman

The government Benjamin Netanyahu will present next week appears to be, even before it has been sworn in at the Knesset, one of the worst, most harmful governments ever to have been formed in Israel. Its members’ top priorities are deepening the occupation, expanding the settlements, weakening democracy and increasing the subsidies for the Haredi society of scholars.

The big winner in the coalition negotiations is Habayit Hayehudi, which took advantage of the prime minister’s distress and, despite its election failure, succeeded in upgrading its position in the cabinet and at the head of Knesset committees. Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel will navigate Netanyahu’s fourth government, with Likud, devoid of a platform, policy or plans, being dragged along.

Shaked’s appointment as justice minister is especially troubling, due to her demands to undermine the Supreme Court’s independence and her fervent support for the racist so-called nationality law and the persecution of African asylum-seekers. Habayit Hayehudi people, like many in the Likud faction, want the justice system to serve as a rubber stamp for the coalition’s decisions and not the defender of individual and minority rights. From now on Shaked will head the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the Judicial Appointments Committee and have considerable influence on the selection of the attorney general who will replace Yehuda Weinstein.

In this situation the designated finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, who promised to protect the Supreme Court and objects to the nationality law, bears special responsibility. Kahlon and his colleagues in the Kulanu faction will have to withstand steamroller pressure from the right-wing parties' efforts to harm democracy.

Heavy responsibility also rests on the shoulders of opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Despite his public promises to fight the Netanyahu government, Herzog is acting as though he’s yearning for the prime minister’s invitation to leap from the political desert into the Foreign Ministry.

The narrow-based government Netanyahu is forming, which hangs by a thread on a one-vote majority, gives the opposition an opportunity to sabotage the government’s moves and shorten its life. Instead of spending his days waiting for Netanyahu to have mercy on him, Herzog must create the conditions that will lead to a change of government as soon as possible and end the term of a coaltion that is harmful and dangerous to the state.

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