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Is the Israeli opposition stubborn or principled?

Heads of opposition parties (right to left): National Unity leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Labor leader Merav Michaeli, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, hold a joint press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An impassioned plea was made by Strategic Consultant, Moshe Klughaft, in his recent article entitled, “A Country with Long Covid.” In it, he implores Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to “stand up and openly announce that they are ready to enter a national emergency government, a broad central government.” He, likewise, encourages Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to willingly “be happy to include them in such a government.”

Klughaft is not the only one who believes this is the best solution to putting an end to the impasse, which has left our country in shambles with a non-stop protest movement for 32 weeks. Yesh Atid party member, Elazar Stern, at great peril, broke ranks with his own party leadership, offering to enter into the government, should he be asked to do so, in order to help moderate a more compromised position in an attempt to alleviate the massive split which has threatened to destroy our country’s future.

So, the question really comes down to whether or not the opposition is right to refuse joining forces with this government, in a last-ditch effort to work together and find a viable solution for all parties, or if they are wrong to appear to stubbornly remain on the outside?

It might help to understand the thinking of opposition leader and former prime minister, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid who has explained why he is unwilling to enter the government. It was just last Thursday, when he unequivocally stated on Channel 12 news, “There will be no emergency government with Netanyahu. We will not give in to corruption.”

Furthermore, in that televised interview, Lapid said that, while he is against the decision of citizens refusing to serve their country, he also understands that these young men and women feel that they did not agree to serve a country that is not democratically run or a country that has a private militia operated by a coalition member. He also said these prospective soldiers are not willing to fight for a country that allows a certain sector of its population to evade being drafted. It is these sentiments to which Lapid relates, saying that it’s not difficult to understand their reasoning as to why they are not willing to support such unacceptable positions. 

When asked by the interviewer: “But isn’t this a time to put aside politics and approach the prime minister, stating that this is an emergency situation which necessitates our coming together for the good of the country?” Lapid responded by saying that he has, on several occasions, done what was good for the country, even though it ended up not being good for him from a political standpoint.  

He went on to say that he was, indeed, willing to do this before the Reasonableness Law was passed but then saw National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Justice Minister Yariv Levin go into a meeting with the prime minister, who pacified them after their relentless table-banging. It was that kind of persistent obstinance that resulted in their calling the shots to determine the future of the country.  

Consequently, Lapid believes that there is no use. Joining such a coalition would be tantamount to being a party to the corruption which exists in this government coalition. He says, “It is “Netanyahu’s government” and points to the fact that no coalition members are willing to fight for democracy. Yet, as he says, someone must stand up for all of the values upon which this nation was founded. 

In truth, the idea to expand the coalition, to include more centrist voices, could be suggested by many, but until Netanyahu makes overtures in that direction, it’s not even a consideration and, according to Yesh Atid, he hasn’t. 

Of course, in order to extend an invitation for opposition leaders to join the coalition and widen the dialogue, there would have to be an agreement by other ministers, who now stand an excellent chance of passing all of the legislation they introduce. Because they know that they have the power to cause the government to fall if they back out, and while they have a lot to lose, no one has more to lose by laws being changed, (another word for “reforms) than the prime minister, himself, since those new laws will protect him from the kind of judicial consequences he is hoping to avoid as it relates to his criminal cases. 

Not only that, but the changing of laws, such as the Reasonableness Law, paves the way for his allies, one of them being twice-convicted Aryeh Deri to, once again, enter politics and play a high-profile role in the government. Deri will appoint whoever he wants to whatever office he wants and make no mistake about it; those appointments will only benefit the ultra-Orthodox and supporters of his Shas party.

So, what motivation does Netanyahu have to invite opposition members to join the coalition in the hope of finding a viable solution for the present stalemate? Absolutely none, because it will not help him in any way. The great pity is that the citizens of Israel are the big losers in all of this.  

However, it’s not even the possibility of receiving an invitation to join the coalition. To the opposition, the principle of participating would be the same as aiding and abetting a system that has a prime minister being tried for corruption charges. The fact, as Lapid says, “that he is able to stand on the courthouse steps and threaten the judges,” or the fact that there is “racism and messianism” within the coalition is a disqualifying non-starter. Lapid has simply come to the conclusion that he cannot be trusted.  

Ironically, even Moshe Klughaft, who floated the idea, admits that the “reforms, which may be justified, were born and marketed with unrestrained gluttony.” So where can the gap be filled when government ministers with insatiable appetites seek to bring about legislation that will grievously discriminate against more than half of the country’s population, trampling on their freedoms?

It’s easy to write articles suggesting that a broader government is the answer. It’s even easy for Elazar Stern to try to crash the party without an invitation, however, the sobering reality is that there are heavyweight bouncers at the door, blocking its entrance, so no opposition members are getting in.

But in this case, does it really matter? It’s not a party they want to be at anyway.

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.

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