Monday, May 11, 2015

Israeli Election Post-Partum: Bernard Avishai's Take on the New Israeli Government

Bernard Avishai is an astute observer of Israeli politics.  Here is his assessment of Netanyahu's new government, published in the New Yorker. 
Late Wednesday night, with less than an hour left until his mandate as Prime Minister of Israel expired, Benjamin Netanyahu managed to build a coalition government of sixty-one members of the Knesset, the absolute minimum needed for him to remain in office. Thirty come from the increasingly strident Likud Party, eight from Naftali Bennett’s ultra-nationalist Jewish Home, thirteen from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and, crucially, ten from Moshe Kahlon’s centrist-populist Kulanu. One negative vote or abstention from a rogue member of this majority—a settler upset about delays to settlement construction, an Orthodox leader upset by a cut to support for Yeshiva students—and the government might well fall. (Emphasis mine)
The real story of this election was the growing influence of young voters, especially young Mizrahi and Russian voters, who are reflexively hawkish but less burdened by old ideologies and resentments than their parents—more interested in “eichut haim,” or quality of life—and who swelled the center. Although Netanyahu was widely (and rashly) assumed to have had a decisive victory in March, the parties that would have given him the government he wanted won only fifty-seven seats, down four from 2013. As predicted by many, the centrist Kahlon, who had recently left the Likud, held the balance of power.
It was easy to get caught up in the machinations of these politicians, and ... almost forget what this emerging government stands for. It stands for uncompromising militancy on the question of Israel’s borders, preĆ«mption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, preferential treatment of Jewish Israelis, and Kulturkampfagainst secular Israelis. ....
[Now that] Kahlon ... finds himself in a position of power in a government of the right, he will almost certainly drive it to pass his economic reforms quickly. Once he succeeds, he might well consider pulling out, and pulling the government down. What cannot be doubted is how vulnerable this new coalition is, how full of contradictions, and how repellent to the leaders of Western democracies on which Israel depends. Barring war, which Netanyahu’s allies never bar, it is hard to see how it survives for long.
Read more here. 

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