The Games Begin

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitanu party, that received 5 seats in the recent elections, has agreed to join the coalition government being formed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu,  But, almost immediately afterwards he gave a press conference in which he warned Netanyahu not to change one word in the draft law for the induction of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews into the IDF, or he will resign again and cause a new election.  This is precisely what happened before, since Netanyahu put this Bill on hold because he received similar threats from the haredi political parties, Shas (now with 8) and United Torah Judaism (with 7), that totally oppose such a policy.  This led Lieberman to resign, causing the government collapse.

The final vote tally from the election commission is that Likud just nosed out Blue & White to gain 36 seats to 35, and with these other small parties, plus the Rightist Union (5) and Kulanu (4) this leaves Netanyahu clear to form a majority coalition with 65 seats in the Knesset out of 120.  But, to illustrate the split in Israeli opinion and the situation as it was before, this coalition could collapse over this one issue among others. This  represents a secular/religious split which is not unexpected in Israel.  Although ca. 70% of Israelis are not religious, nevertheless they tolerate religious influence on political matters because of the past history and because they want to live in a Jewish State.  I for one agree with Lieberman, the haredim should serve in the IDF like everyone else, because the IDF protects them too.  But, this is a divisive political issue that cannot be simply resolved .

Another divisive issue is the question of annexing the parts of the West Bank (generally Area C controlled by Israel under the Oslo Accords) where there are large Jewish settlements.  Netanyahu stated this as a campaign promise.  Even the Palestinians admit that this area is expected to be included into Israel in any negotiation.  But, given that there has not been any negotiations for years and there is not likely to be, it is about time that Israel took the necessary step to break the stalemate.  Even if Pres. Trump’s plan comes out soon and does not include Israeli sovereignty over these areas, nevertheless, this is the reality.  Israel controls these areas, they contain ca. 500,000 Jewish settlers, who are never going to be moved, and there is only a tiny minority of Arabs living in these areas, since the majority of them are in Area A that constitutes the Palestine Authority (and Gaza),

Netanyahu has shown himself to be a master of the political game, out-maneuvering the left, the center and the extreme right.  Note that three of his rivals on the right, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked who formed the New Right Party and Moshe Feiglin of Zehut (identity) all failed to enter the Knesset.  So although there has been a move in Israel from the left to the center in the opposition, the center right still controls the government.  However, the differences between the secular and religious right still remain a potential source of future schisms that Netanyahu will have to use all his political mastery to overcome.

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