Is the right-religious bloc starting to disintegrate? – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on May 22, 2020

At the time this article was written, it wasnt yet clear whether the new government would be sworn in, or whether the crisis within Netanyahus right-religious bloc would finally lead to the Knesset dissolving on Thursday, leading to a fourth election. Nobody really knows whether Netanyahus preference at this juncture is to resolve the crisis and get Israels 35th government sworn in, or new elections, which opinion polls predict would probably end with a clear victory for the right-religious bloc, not least of all because the center-left bloc has broken up into pieces. One thing is clear: Forming a solid unity government, which will seriously contend with Israels many current economic, social and political problems, while temporarily setting aside all issues on which there are serious ideological differences, is not on the list of Netanyahus priorities. His choices all appear to be a function of his attempt to wriggle out of his legal predicament, and his reported preoccupation with leaving a significant heritage behind after he finally steps down due to circumstances or his own choice.What I find most bewildering is the conduct of the Likuds more senior MKs and ministers; those who emerged in high places in the most recent Likud primaries (February 6, 2019), and those promoted by Netanyahu himself to serve as loyal henchmen in the three successive transition governments since April 2019. If the Likud were in a position to form a government without any partners, there would certainly be a sufficient number of jobs to go around for all of this crowd, most of whom are unimpressive and even mediocre, with only a few of its members showing any real charisma or leadership qualities.Even though Netanyahu himself keeps insisting that a majority supports him, both he and his colleagues understand that it is a Jewish majority that he commands, and that such a majority does not suffice to form a government in Israel. In the current situation in which only half of the original Blue and White Party opted for an emergency unity government, and this half, together with two of the three surviving Labor MKs and the two MKs who formed the Derech Eretz parliamentary group insisted on parity in the new coalition despite the numerical disparity between the two sides it was clear that in order to keep his own right-religious bloc more or less intact, Netanyahu would have only crumbs to offer most of the seniors in his own party. Add to this Netanyahus method of cutting the political wings of any potential contenders to the Likud leadership, and you emerge with a situation in which many of the Likud MKs with any visible talent and leadership potential are either shipped off to embassies abroad, or left in the Knesset to rot as backbenchers, unless, of course, they are willing to act as loyal servants to Netanyahu.An outsider looking at this concoction would start looking for signs of revolt: the sort of revolt that the center-left has been expecting to break out since the beginning of 2019, and even more so after the three indictments against Netanyahu were served at the end of January 2020. But besides some murmurs of dissatisfaction there are no indications of a burgeoning revolt. Not yet.NO LESS bewildering is what is happening within the National-Religious camp. Before the September 2019 and March 2020 elections, Netanyahu was willing to pay an exorbitant price to get the National-Religious camp to run in the elections united, including the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit led by Itamar Ben Gvir. Netanyahu finally failed to create the union, and in the last round Yamina actually lost one seat (going down from seven to six Knesset seats).Nevertheless, in the transition government formed after the March elections, Yamina was given three important ministries: defense, education and agriculture, so that all three leaders of the three parties that made up Yamina Naftali Bennett, Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich commanded significant ministerial posts. That apparently caused them to lose all sense of proportion, and when Netanyahu offered them only two ministerial posts in his new government, one major and one minor, they rejected the offer out of hand. Finally Peretz, the head of Bayit Yehudi and its only MK in the 23rd Knesset, who had reneged on Itamar Ben Gvir, reneged on Yamina, and agreed to join the new government as minister of Jerusalem, Heritage and National Projects, one of around a dozen ministries that in normal times would constitute at most departments in real ministries. The remaining members of Yamina have decided, with a huff and a puff, to stay in the opposition in the company of Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, the United Arab List and what remains of Labor and Meretz. Yamina refuses to accept the fact that Netanyahu was unable to form a government without Blue and White, and that the principle of parity was a condition Blue and White was not willing to give up. The fact that Netanyahu is fed up with Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, whom he never really favored after they left his service back in March 2008 (before Netanyahus return to the premiership), allegedly because of a row with Netanyahus wife, Sara, hasnt enhanced their negotiating status.There are those who predict that Yamina will join the government later on, if the government will survive. The question is whether Yamina, as the successor of the National-Religious Party, has any chance of recovery in a situation of more chiefs than Indians, and total lack of ideological flexibility in choosing what sort of government to join. There are those who believe that Yamina should have opted to go with Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman. But they were apparently unwilling to seriously consider such an option.These days, the only members in the right-religious bloc who appear to be content with their lot are the ultra-Orthodox religious parties, which have not increased the number of their ministerial posts. However, Shas gained the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee (which in the past was usually given to one of the opposition parties), thus giving the haredim control of the two economic committees in the Knesset.Meanwhile, Yaacov Litzman from United Torah Judaism is to switch, at his own request, from the Health Ministry to the Housing Ministry. This is despite his far-from-satisfactory performance as health minister during the peak of the coronavirus crisis, and the prospect of two indictments on serious charges being submitted against him. Political commentators disagree as to whether the right-religious bloc is currently in the process of disintegration, with 12 MKs from the secular and religious Right (Yisrael Beytenu and Yamina) actually sitting in the opposition, or whether the crisis is only temporary. The center-left bloc is certainly in far worse straits at the moment.But at least we have a new government (or were supposed to have one). We are also in the midst of a heat wave, and in the midst of an uncontrolled return to normalcy from a two-month shutdown. What we really need at the moment are lower climatic and political temperatures, and greater stability.

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Is the right-religious bloc starting to disintegrate? - The Jerusalem Post

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