t’s over six weeks since Israel’s second elections, and there’s still no government. The line of bureaucrats on Tuesday outside the Knesset Finance Committee headed by Moshe Gafni was a sign of a paralyzed country. They were there to plead for stopgap funding to keep the lights on in their respective ministries – forget any long-term thinking.
While Gafni approved funding requests of nearly five billion shekels, I asked Degel Hatorah politician Yitzchak Pindrus the million-dollar question:
Will there be a coalition, or are we heading for the country’s third elections?
Nothing will change for another month at least, and that was clear from the day after the elections. Gantz has about two and a half weeks left of his twenty-eight days to form a government, and then there’s another twenty-one days after that during which any MK can form a government. Only in the last ten to fifteen days of that period will anything change. To be clear, neither side wants elections, but under pressure, things could change. Until then, both sides think that the other will give way.
How will rolling the dice in another election help – the right wing-religious bloc doesn’t have 61 seats without Lieberman?
Short of Gantz or Lieberman bowing to the pressure, nothing will change in the math, and we could go for a third or fourth elections.
What’s going on in Israel now is that the Arab parties with their thirteen seats are not realistic coalition partners. Then there is what people call “Medinat Tel Aviv”, the very secular voters who want to bring down Bibi, and want religious reform. Gantz needs to deliver on at least one of those things, but he can’t get 61 seats to do that. So he’s under pressure and he could figure that he’ll get to be prime minister in a year’s time if he accepts Bibi’s coalition offer. But that will only be at the last minute.
So far the right-wing bloc of fifty-five has held, but will there be an internal Likud putsch against Netanyahu, for example from the secularist “New Likud” faction?
I don’t think that the Likud will topple Netanyahu – that’s not their style. And the New Likud faction is a fake - they’re left-wingers who infiltrated the Likud knowing that there’s no hope of the left gaining power.
Has something changed in Israeli society that issues of religion and state are now defining politics, or will the uproar die down again soon?
I think that the issue is here to stay. Two things have changed: number one is that the Oslo peace process is dead and buried, and so there’s no issue with which the left can attack the right to come to power.
The second is that hard-core secular Israelis – Medinat Tel Aviv – are very worried about the rise of religion in Israel. The government statistics office just published a survey showing that there are a quarter of a million baalei teshuvah in Israel. For every one of them, there are three other Israelis interested in Judaism. You see it in the 1.5 million people who came to the Kosel for Selichos. That is why the left is fighting for the Kosel, transport on Shabbos and civil marriage - they see the religious change of the country as a major challenge.
(Mishpacha Web Exclusive)
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