It could’ve been so simple. All they needed to do was take a vote on two representatives – one from the coalition and one from the opposition, both of whom would work together, along with seven other panel members, to find a compromise solution for the selection of judges. But it didn’t happen.
What could only be described as a day filled with angst and great stress, coalition members could not come together to decide on their own candidate to be part of a panel tasked with selecting judges. Amazingly, opposition candidate Karine Elharrar from the Yesh Atid party managed to squeak through, in a 58/56 vote, but the irony is that the failure to agree on a coalition candidate will now delay the commencement of any work from moving forward, at least for a month, when a second election will take place.
Perhaps the most interesting thing which came out of the vote was the finding of a secret ballot, which clearly revealed that a number of coalition members independently decided to support the opposition candidate. Breaking ranks can only be done in secret, but once it happened, the result was a total embarrassment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because it proved that some in his own coalition chose to go rogue.
What were some of the reasons for this outcome? Likud member, Tali Gottlieb, defied her boss Bibi, who requested that she withdraw her name from being a candidate because he likely knew that she would never be acceptable to the other members. He was right, as she was resoundingly defeated, only gaining 15 votes in her favor with 59 against. Gottlieb, a bit of a controversial figure, claimed, back in November 2022, that “the court has no authority to strike down legislation and intended to ignore rulings from the High Court of Justice.” Those were the remarks that got her into hot water with judicial officials, to the point where she was accused of “calling for anarchy.”
Gottlieb had also been sanctioned back in March, by the Knesset Ethics Committed, “for blaming High Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut on social media, in February, for a terror attack in Jerusalem that killed three people.” In short, she is seen as a bit of a loose cannon, who doesn’t always use a filter when speaking her mind. Consequently, a group of coalition party leaders ended up blaming Gottlieb for what happened, saying that they had no choice, but to cause a month-long delay, because they were not prepared to support her candidacy.
Another important takeaway from yesterday’s fiasco is that it proved that Netanyahu was not successful in managing to control his own coalition which now speaks to obvious cracks in the mix. Such was the comment of opposition leader, Yair Lapid who was quoted as saying, “the prime minister has lost control of his government and is a prisoner of extremists.”
But he’s had his hands full, trying to keep the very strong personalities, who make up the coalition, in check. That would include National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir who has tried to strong-arm the prime minister, at every turn, in order to get his own private militia to finally have the ability to arrest whoever he wants and wield the kind of power that generally does not belong to coalition members.
Add to that, extreme coalition members who wanted the panel to be made up of only members on their side, while opposition members threatened to abandon all talks should that happen, and you have a recipe for disaster. How did the prime minister ever expect to corral so many diabolically opposed voices to come to any sort of compromise deal which would be acceptable to the people of Israel? It was an apparent miscalculation, on his part, when he chose this coalition – not considering the massive headache he would endure from individuals who are incapable of working together.
One other threat came by way of former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who didn’t mince any words when he said his party would end talks and not be part of any future negotiation if two coalition members were selected for the panel rather than allowing for an opposition member to join the talks.
This panel is of utmost importance, though, and the individuals chosen to enter into talks must somehow be able to come together and work towards a reasonable compromise that would be acceptable to most citizens because they, in the end, along with a group of seven others, including members of the Israel Bar Association and three Supreme Court judges, will decide on a backlog of judicial appointments as well as two Supreme Court vacancies.
For now, though, nothing will go forward, and maybe the proverbial “kicking of the can down the road” isn’t such a bad deal for Bibi who has bought himself a bit more time to remain in power. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that week 24 of massive protests will not take place on Saturday night, because the one thing that is clear to most Israelis is that their government is not functioning in a way that works for them.
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.