Head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett gives a press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

By Larry Gordon

This new government in Israel may not work out even over the short term, but it is an interesting experiment.

It is difficult to say that this is what the people of Israel wanted and that this is how they voted during electoral campaigns over the last two years. What we have in Israel is very similar to what is going on politically in the United States—the country is split down the middle.

The people on the right in Israel to whom I’ve spoken feel like Naftali Bennett lied to and double-crossed them. And they are justified for feeling that way because they were indeed deceived. Bennett was recently recorded saying that he would never join in a government with Yair Lapid. The two have significant political differences, but at this point anyway, they seem determined to compromise on the key issues that divide them. If that is true, it might be worth recalling that this is the way government in a democracy is supposed to function.

As I write these words on Tuesday, Bibi Netanyahu has not yet taken his last gasp. He is still hoping for a last-minute deal of some kind. Earlier this week, a somewhat desperate proposal called for Netanyahu to step aside for one year and for Gideon Sa’ar to form a right-wing bloc with the parties who share those political positions. The effort is a stab in the dark that is most likely too little, too late. If Netanyahu, who was a great prime minister for the last 12 years, would have gracefully stepped aside, Israel would be in safer hands than they will be next week when the new government takes over.

That said, I believe that Bennett and Lapid have the best interest of the country at heart, though some policies that would have been easily passed with a Likud-led government will have to overcome some obstacles.

But we do not have to look too far back to recall that some of the most important right-wing priorities did not come to fruition under a Netanyahu government either. Chief amongst those was the expectation that Israel was going to extend sovereignty over Judea and Samaria heading into last summer. Of course, at the time Netanyahu was trying to patch together a ruling coalition and the anticipation was that Donald Trump was going to win a second term. Neither of those efforts was successful. At the time, new peace deals with the Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco were being signed, and expanding sovereignty at that particular juncture to the territories may have impacted negatively on those new treaties and understandings.

So today Israel and supporters of Israel will have to adjust to a new political reality. Bibi Netanyahu had a great run and made extraordinary and vital contributions to strengthening the Jewish state.

One of the things that is really new is the fact that the religious parties in the Knesset are not part of the new Bennett-Lapid government. What that means, amongst other things, is that the parties like Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) will not have the type of influence that can channel unlimited amounts of money into yeshivas and to families living on the threshold of poverty.

The religious issues that are important to these parties and their significant constituency will not be neglected or disregarded in the new government. It’s true that if he had his way, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman would drastically reduce funding in the chareidi sector. Lapid himself is notoriously critical of the fashion in which government in Israel has supported chareidi lifestyles. However, the good news is that this will not happen with the current coalition structure.

With all the changes at hand, it is most interesting to note what the top priorities of the incoming government have been. The Jerusalem Post reported the other day that one of the first orders of business is to legalize the egalitarian prayer area at the southern end of the Kotel area. Additionally, a pathway will be constructed so that foot traffic can flow from the traditional areas of the Western Wall to the new area where men and women will be able to pray together.

Further, the Women of the Wall will be able to hold their monthly prayer service at the Kotel. They will no longer have to sneak in a mini sefer Torah but will be able to carry a Torah scroll to their area openly and read from it as well.

In 2014 Bibi Netanyahu established this exact prayer area at the southern end of the Kotel, but the religious parties in the Knesset were successful in creating legislative obstacles that prevented the area from being utilized accordingly. Now that prayer area will be government funded and the Women of the Wall will be government sanctioned as well. In all likelihood, now that there won’t be hundreds of yeshiva and seminary students at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh to heckle the women who want to pray with their definition of a minyan, the WoW will eventually lose interest in attending the services.

On the important matter of protecting the land of Israel and not caving into Palestinian demands as left-wing governments have done in the past, Israel can be considered safe on that count, too. Bennett and Lapid and the other party leaders are not Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak who both agreed to hand over more than 93% of Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat in their days.

The new government, even with encouragement of the U.S., will not collapse under any pressure and hand over tens of miles of territory adjacent to Israel the way that Olmert and Barak did. No one wanted the establishment of a Palestinian state more than Barack Obama, and Bibi did a great job of deflecting the Obama designs for eight years.

It is important to recall that, somewhat surprisingly, even Donald Trump called for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu had no choice but to go along with that plan, which was designed by Jared Kushner along with Ambassador David Friedman and Special Assistant to the President Jason Greenblatt.

They knew what Bennett and Lapid and even Sa’ar and Lieberman know well—that it is OK to enter negotiations with a feckless Palestinian Authority because nothing substantive will ever happen. There may be movement in negotiations, if they ever begin, but rest assured that any movement will be sideways.

This is the beginning of the post-Netanyahu era. Someday there had to be a leader who would emerge after Bibi. But make no mistake—there is still a great and important role for Netanyahu going forward. It is not dissimilar to the political role that Donald Trump will have in American electoral politics over the next year and beyond that.

The rhetoric from the right and the chareidim is blistering. MK Yaakov Litzman of UTJ said the other day that Bennett should remove his yarmulke from his head. That’s just silly. While as an effective opposition they cannot relent and are doing what they are supposed to be doing, it does not serve anyone’s interest to behave sophomorically. This Bennett government has the ability to accomplish great things. When you analyze the priorities of the key and leading members of the coalition, it is essentially a right-wing agenda. And at this point there is nothing better for Israel than what looks like a center-left government with a right-wing agenda. 

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. B”H Shocked, shocked I am that the silly, shallow, frequently-lying Larry Gordon —- yes, the same now fully undressed, unprincipled character who promised me he will reform —- accuses a politician of Naftali Bennett’s ilk of shading the truth! Yet, he’s ready to concede that we shall indeed have a successor to the politically-legally deteriorating Netanyahu on Sunday, 6/12, even if the new Israeli leader will have a paper-thin coalition with which to govern. Gordon, as he does with non-extreme Orthodox Jews, devalues the conviction and character of women who seek a public space to perform their worship services, wrongly believing that once they have been granted the right under the incoming Bennett-led rule, they will simply vanish. Typical of an unreconstructed sexist who still lives in the pre-1960’s women’s liberation mode; reactionary to the hilt, a socio-political reactionary to be roundly condemned and shunned! Meanwhile, and with an open mind, let us welcome the new day dawning in the Holy Land; a promise to cleanse the blot in the society, spread to poison public administration, and the stalled talks for peace with the Palestinians; finally, the prospect for a less martial existence for the benefit of both peoples. Amen. With fraternal affection, Asher 🙏😀🇮🇱🌹🇺🇸🔯👋🎶

  2. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef 8 years ago stated publicly who Bennett and his secular partys is.
    Quote: Motzoei Shabbos shiur at the Yazdim Shul in Yerushalayim, Rav Ovadiah said, “There are certain people who many mistakenly [think of] as religious Jews. They call themselves ‘Habayit HaYehudi.’ [I hereby tell you that] they are not representing a bayit shel Yehudim. They are representing a bayit shel goyim! They want to uproot the Torah! They want to permit civil marriages. They want to permit public desecration of Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel… They are sonei Torah umitzvos and are chotei umachti es harabbim who cause assimilation… How can anyone mistake them as [being] religious, G-d-fearing Jews?”
    His eyes are way larger than his Kipah-He will give up everything to get the Premiership.

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