The right-wing parties that won a clear victory in Israel’s recent election need to get their act together and establish a government.
It has been four weeks since the recent election in Israel. Half the time that Prime Minister Designate Benjamin Netanyahu was granted to form a government has passed. Pressed in multiple directions, Netanyahu has still not been able to form a government.
The parties in Netanyahu’s prospective right-wing-religious coalition are haggling over both policies and who will get what position.
Prophets of doom in Israel are proclaiming that democracy and the rule of law are in danger and that they have lost their country.
Large segments of the American Jewish community are predicting that a right-wing-religious government will create an inevitable divide between Israel and American Jewry.
The Biden administration has urged Netanyahu to appoint people it “can work with” to key national security positions, a thinly-veiled warning against appointing Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionists and Itamar Ben-Gvir of Otzma Yehudit.
While Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won a clear victory in the election, they did not win a ringing mandate. Allies of Prime Minster Yair Lapid and the Israeli Arab parties between them received close to half the votes. The left-wing Meretz party and the Arab Balad party fell just short of the threshold to win seats in the Knesset. Some 290,000 left-wing and Arab votes were wasted. If Meretz had run together with Labor, and Balad had run on the Joint List with other Arab parties, or had Meretz and Balad met the threshold, the election would have been another dead heat.
Likud and its allies need to understand that while they have won the right to govern, nearly half the population voted against them. The duty of the government is to serve all the people. The needs and concerns of those who voted for the opposition need to be addressed.
The left wing needs to understand that they have lost an election, largely due to their own faulty strategy. Netanyahu served as Prime Minister for 15 years and the world did not come to an end. Democracy means that the results of an election need to be accepted. The left should oppose policies they disagree with. But they should stop whining about the results of this election and try to win the next one.
Israel is central to the identity of many American Jews. The support of American Jews is critical to Israel. The bond of solidarity between our two communities is of paramount importance. The parties in the incoming government need to be sensitive to the feelings and concerns of American Jewry. American Jews need to understand that, while they are entitled to a voice, they do not get to call the shots. The crucial decisions about the future of Israel will be made by the people of Israel through their democratically elected government.
Security cooperation between the United States and Israel is more intense and more critical than ever. The Ministers dealing with national security in the government must be people who can collaborate constructively with their American counterparts. Yet it is Israel that has the right to choose the Ministers in its government, without American interference.
It is critical for the parties that make up the potential coalition to form a government as quickly as possible. Failure to form a government can lead to another election. We can be sure that the left has learned a lesson from the last one. Meretz will run with Labor. Balad will run as part of the Joint List. There will not be another 290,000 wasted left-wing and Arab votes. The result will likely be another inconclusive election, and the opportunity to form a stable right-wing government will be lost.
It is time for the right-wing parties and their leaders to put personal ambitions and ideological purity aside, and to make the decisions and compromises necessary to form a stable right-wing government. It is time for critics of the potential coalition to realize that democracy means respecting and abiding by the results of an election even if you don’t like them.
By Manny Behar