Scare Tactics

12.04.14 12:00 AM ET

Goodbye to Israel’s Lousy Government (Let’s Hope the Next One Isn’t Worse)

Given the mix of personalities and ambitions, there was never much chance that Netanyahu’s government would last very long. What’s surprising is how long it did.

The collapse of the Netanyahu government was not a surprise; what is surprising is why it took two years for its languishing demise. The government was bound to fall because the coalition was a marriage of convenience of five political parties led by leaders with an insatiable hunger for power, different political agendas, and personal ambition—the only things they all have in common. Otherwise, they disagreed on just about every major issue confronting Israel. This was manifested in how little this government achieved on the political, social, and economic fronts, and in particular, the zero progress—if not the reversal—of the peace process with the Palestinians.

To understand why this government was doomed from the start, one has to look at the personality of the leading figures, who came together only by agreeing on the lowest common denominator to run the country when Israel was instead in desperate need of strong and visionary leadership.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is an egomaniacal politician, a zealous ideologue who is committed to Greater Israel, and a hypocrite who uses Israel’s national security as a cover for continuing the occupation and harsh policies toward the Palestinians.

He is a blind nationalist who stops short of nothing to realize his political agenda—to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution—and willingly bends any rule to enshrine the exclusive right of the “Jews to their homeland.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a convert from journalism to politics and a centrist who focused on social and economic development, has no particular conviction about a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was complacent on the settlements.

He was given the critical portfolio of the Finance Ministry, which was far beyond his abilities to lead, and quickly revealed his lack of experience. He was constantly at odds with Netanyahu on fiscal policy and vehemently opposed Netanyahu’s proposed bill that would define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people—a bill that ultimately led to the collapse of the government.  

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, is closest ideologically to Netanyahu on the Palestinian conflict. Although he sided with Netanyahu to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, he disagreed with him on the prosecution of the war in Gaza. He wanted to go all the way.

He was ill suited to be in charge of Israel’s foreign policy, and after a short hiatus to clear his name of corruption charges, he resumed his position only to distance himself from Netanyahu. He made little secret of his ambition to become the next prime minister, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu.

Once she lost the chairmanship of her Kadima party, Tzipi Livni resigned and formed a new party—Hatenua. She was assigned to head the Justice Ministry, although she fundamentally disagreed with Netanyahu on the question of the Palestinian conflict and was a vocal opponent of the settlements.

Nevertheless, she was eager to join his government if only to become, as she prides herself, the chief negotiator with the Palestinians. Little did she know that Netanyahu was not about to give her free reign in the negotiations. He charged his trusted advisor Yitzhak Molcho to act as a watchdog to prevent any progress.

Naftali Bennett, the Economy Minister, is a rightist to the core. He entered in an awkward alliance with Lapid to join the government but quickly distanced himself from it. He largely agreed with Lieberman but considered Netanyahu too timid towards the Palestinians.

Bennett pushed hard to annex Area C (representing 60 percent of the West Bank) and is a strong proponent of the settlements, but has no clue where Israel will be in 10 or 15 years. It is as if his fixation on the settlements will cure all of Israel’s ills.

Despite these differences, the four leading ministers joined the government to solidify their political positions while hoping against hope that they could influence policy from within rather than sit idle in the opposition.

So, the dysfunctional nature of the Netanyahu government was evident from the start; every leading member knew that, including Netanyahu. For him to serve for a fourth time as prime minister, however, it is central to prepare the political ground to form a new government that will follow his dictates.

Netanyahu’s efforts to keep the government together were obviously superficial, as he demanded an end to criticism of his policies by any of its members, funding for affordable housing and defense, resuming the peace process only on his own terms, and the backing of his most controversial bill to define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

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Netanyahu decided to dissolve the government and the parliament with the confidence that there is no other leader that can fill his shoes and that the electorate will turn back to him to save Israel from this wild bunch of would-be political leaders who seek to replace him.

In the final analysis, however, only the people of Israel can send Netanyahu to a permanent retirement. One can only hope that Netanyahu and his bandits, who have systematically dragged Israel toward a black hole, will be soundly defeated.

Netanyahu’s reign has run its course. The new election offers Israelis a historic opportunity to elect new visionary and courageous leaders who will first and foremost commit themselves to seek peace with the Palestinians and preserve Israel’s democratic principles.

That is where Israel’s national security and future prosperity rest.