If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?
Seriously, though. Have any of you been paying attention to the political issues we’re having over here now?
Here’s how it goes in short:
In the previous two governments, at least one National Religious (NR) party sat outside. Now the two NR parties have merged. They don’t want to sit outside the government, they want in.
Netanyahu doesn’t like the National Religious parties. They have demands. They don’t let him do what he wants, and they won’t take money as a bribe. He wants the chareidi* (hareidi) parties. As long as you give them money for their people and their schools, you can do whatever you want. Meanwhile, government-controlled prices for basic foods are rising. The housing shortage has caused every little dilapidated apartment to cost a fortune. Property taxes rose. Sales taxes rose. Gas prices rose. Electricity and water prices rose. Cell phone fees for big-time talkers dropped, but for small-time talkers, the prices rose. But it doesn’t matter – we can still bribe the chareidim (plural of chareidi) with as much money as we want, right?
Bennett, the head of the unified NR party, Bayit Yehudi, did not want to be left out. He spoke the the heads of the two chareidi parties, to see if they wanted to make a unified religious block. They said, “You’re not going to be in the coalition anyways, and we are. This is your battle to fight. And besides, you’re not religious enough for us. Go deal with it all yourself.” (This is in addition to the name-calling that the chareidi parties were doing. It is also in addition to their belief, that they unashamedly said to the media, that, “it is better to pull out of all of Judea and Samaria than to draft the chareidim.”)
So what did Bennett do? He went to Lapid, the head of the new centrist party Yesh Atid. While Bennett and Lapid don’t agree on everything, they do agree on some things, such as: changes in the economy, helping out the struggling middle class and lower middle class, social reforms, Iran, and drafting the chareidim (though their approaches differ on this last one).
They differ on: approaches to the settlements, specific security policies, and religious issues. They decided to put aside their differences and band together. Not a bad idea, considering that Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu has 31 mandates, and Bennett + Lapid = 31 mandates. Theoretically, Likud-Beiteinu, Bennett, and Lapid could have a coalition by themselves, and a stable one at that, since the less parties there are, the less people who have demands and can ruin your coalition by pulling out of it.
Again, though, Netanyahu did not want Bennett. Bennett has demands. Netanyahu wanted a leftist government that included the chareidim, who would “represent” the right-wing community.
However, Netanyahu had a problem: Labor does not want to work with him (though they have agreed to help in case Netanyahu wants another expulsion. Golda Meir would be turning over in her grave if she knew what her party had become). And Lapid does not want to work with the chareidim. And, Lapid and Bennett made an agreement: They will enter the coalition together or not at all; and neither will make demands that are objectionable to the other.
And that was the problem. Netanyahu needs at least 61 mandates to make a coalition. Here’s the math:
Likud-Beiteinu is 31.
Lapid (There’s A Future) is 19.
Labor is 15.
Bennett (Jewish Home) has 12.
Shas (chareidi) has 11.
Aguda (chareidi) has seven.
Tzipi Livni has six.
Kadima has two.
Netanyahu needs 31 mandates in addition to his own party. He can’t do that if Labor won’t work with him, and Lapid and Bennett refuse to join. Since Labor flat out refused to work with Likud-Beiteinu, Netanyahu’s only choice was to split Bennett and Lapid up. That approach didn’t work, and he had to ask for a two-week extension to form the government. (Want to hear something else? Netanyahu promised Bennett that if he joins without Lapid, there will be no more land concessions and he will build in Judea and Samaria. Then he promised Lapid that if he joins without Bennett, they will be able to destroy certain communities in Judea and Samaria and expel people from others. Sound like a hypocrite to you?)
In the end, it looks like the chareidim will be out of the government, since Lapid and Bennett come together, and Lapid won’t work with the chareidim.
I am actually excited. I would really, really like to see some social reforms, not the least of which a housing price reform. But I’m also very nervous. Here’s why:
If Netanyahu wants to make concessions, and Bennett pulls out, we’ll be stuck and in bad shape. Netanyahu could take the chareidim, instead of Bennett. But as Yitzchak pointed out, Lapid won’t work with the chareidim, so if Bennett pulls out and the chareidim take his place, Lapid will pull out, too, and the coalition will fall apart.
When Yitzchak said that, I calmed down a lot. Brilliant guy! Neither I nor my cousin even thought of that problem!
But then Labor’s head, Yechimovitch, put a wrinkle in things. She said that she would be willing to join with Netanyahu if Bennett threatened to bring down the coalition. Ostensibly, Lapid would be willing to work with Labor. So even if Bennett pulls out, there will still be a coalition.
Will Lapid and Bennett stick together, through thick and thin, even after the coalition is made? If so, there is no problem (er, almost no problem. Likud + Labor + chareidim = coalition. An unlikely coalition, but still a coalition). But if not, we could end up with a left-wing government that will give away half of Israel, and allow terrorists to rain chemical and conventional weapons down on the rest of us. Because, really, the left doesn’t care, or maybe simply doesn’t understand. They think that the Arabs will be happy if we make concessions. The truth is, the Arabs will be happy only when Israel no longer exists. And the more concessions there are, the less Israel is able to defend itself.
And if we end up with a left-wing government, I will seriously consider moving back to the Unites States. Because seriously, if this is what my country has become, if this is what is going to happen, I cannot put Shlomo through it. It’s simply not fair. And I don’t know that I have the inner strength to deal with it, either. I really, really, really do not want to do that. I love Israel with all my heart and soul. But I simply don’t feel that I can take that risk.
Hey, at least if we move back, Yitzchak’s mother will be happy!
*I happen to like chareidim. Many of them are very sweet, very normal, very simple people. Yes, there are some crazies – but there are crazies in every group, and there’s nothing unique to the chareidim in that respect. The chareidi parties, however, I happen to dislike immensely. And, they give normal chareidi people a VERY bad name. So, don’t mind my rant against the chareidi parties. It is against the politicians, not the chareidi people that you see on the street. And, in addition, remember which politician promised two contradictory things to two different groups in order to break their pact: Netanyahu. And he’s not religious at all, much less chareidi.