Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli National Unity Government Owned by Sheldon
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 13, 2015
MY FIRST reaction after the election was: Oh, no! Not a National
Unity Government, please!
In my first article after the election, I
devoted a large part to the danger of a "national unity" government, though
at the time the possibility of such a government, based on Likud and the
Labor Party, seemed very remote indeed.
But, looking at the figures,
I had a gnawing suspicion: this looks like something that will end with a
Now, suddenly, this possibility has raised
its head. Everybody is talking about it.
All my emotions rebel
against this possibility. But I owe it to myself and my readers to examine
this option dispassionately. Though pure logic is a rare commodity in
politics, let's try to exercise it.
Is A "national unity
government" good or bad for Israel?
Let's look at the numbers first.
To form a government in Israel, one needs at least 61 seats in the
120-seat Knesset. Likud (30) and Labor (24) have 54 between them. It can be
assumed that Binyamin Netanyahu almost certainly wants to renew his party's
historic alliance with the two orthodox factions, the Ashkenazi Torah Party
(6) and the Oriental Shas (7) together 67, quite enough for a stable
Netanyahu seems to be determined to add Moshe Kahlon's
new party too (10), as a kind of subcontractor for the economy. Together an
Who would be left outside? First of all, the Joint Arab
Party (13), whose new leader, Eyman Odeh, would automatically assume the
title of "Leader of the Opposition" a first for Israel. No Arab has ever
held this title, with all its prestige and privileges.
Then there is
Meretz (5), reduced to a small leftist voice.
And then there are the two
extreme rightist parties: the one of Naftali Bennett (reduced to 8) and the
even smaller one of Avigdor Lieberman (now a mere 6).
between is the star of the previous elections, Yair Lapid, (now reduced to
The initial prospect seemed to be a far rightist coalition,
consisting of Likud, the two orthodox parties, the two far-rightist parties
and Kahlon altogether 67. (The orthodox refuse to sit with Lapid in the
These then, with minor variations, are the two
WHY DOES Netanyahu prefer as it now seems the
National Unity option?
First of all, he detests his two co-rightists
Bennett and Lieberman. But you don't have to like someone in order to take
them into your government.
A far more important reason is the
growing fear of Israel's isolation in the world.
Netanyahu is now
engaged in a ferocious fight against President Obama. He opposes the Iranian
deal with everything he has. But this deal is also underwritten by the
European Union, Germany, France, Russia and China. Netanyahu against the
Netanyahu has no illusions. There are hundreds of ways
Obama and the European Union can punish Netanyahu. Israel is almost totally
dependent on the US as far as weapons are concerned. It needs the US veto in
the UN, and US subsidies also come in handy. The Israeli economy is also
heavily dependent on European markets.
In this situation, it would
be nice to have Isaac Herzog on board. He is the ultimate fig-leaf, a nice
liberal leftist as foreign minister, son of a president, grandson of an
Irish chief rabbi, well mannered, European looking, English speaking. He
would pacify the fears of the world's foreign ministers, cushion Netanyahu's
rough edges, prevent diplomatic crises.
Labor in the government
would also block the deluge of anti-democratic bills which accumulated in
the last Knesset. It would also halt the planned onslaught on the Supreme
Court, Israel's last bastion against the barbarians. The leading group of
Likud extremists make no secret of their intention to castrate the Court and
to enact the bills they hold in store.
Labor might also mitigate
the economic policies of Likud, popularly known as "swinish capitalism",
which have made the poor poorer and the ultra-rich even ultra-richer.
Housing might become affordable again, the decline of the health and
education systems mighty be halted.
The prospect of becoming
ministers again makes the mouths of some Labor functionaries water. One of
them, Eytan Kabel, a close ally of Herzog, has already published a statement
totally supporting Netanyahu's Iran policy, raising many knowing eyebrows.
The Labor Party has yet to take a critical position towards
Netanyahu's Iranian stand. It only criticizes halfheartedly, if not
quarterheartedly the Prime Minister's attacks on Obama.
THE other side, what's so wrong about a National Unity Government?
Well, first of all, it leaves the country without an effective
In order to function, democracy needs an opposition that
develops alternative policies and provides a choice at the next elections.
If all the major parties are in the government, what alternative forces and
ideas can provide the necessary choice?
A cynic may remark here that
the Labor Party was not much of an opposition anyway. It supported last
year's superfluous Gaza War with all its atrocities. Its ally, Tzipi Livni,
has dragged the Palestinian negotiations on and on without coming an inch
nearer to peace. Labor's opposition to the rightist economic policies was
Truth is, Labor is not built for opposition. It was in
power for 44 consecutive years (from 1933 to 1977, first in the Zionist
Organization and then in the new state). To be "governmental" is deeply
ingrained in its nature. Even under Likud governments, Labor was never a
determined and effective opposition.
But for Leftists, the main
objection to a Unity Government is exactly what may induce Netanyahu to
install it: because it provides the big fig leaf.
Labor in the
government will blunt all foreign criticism of Netanyahu's policies and
actions. Israeli Leftists, who despairingly pray for foreign pressure on
Israel, such as an all-inclusive boycott (BDS) and pro-Palestinian UN
resolutions, will be disappointed. To get such a campaign moving, you need a
far-right government in Jerusalem.
Under the National Unity
umbrella, Netanyahu can continue to enlarge the settlements, sabotage the
Palestinian Authority, conduct endless negotiations that lead nowhere, even
make war from time to time.
After four such years, the Labor Party
may cease to be an effective force in Israeli politics. Some might think
that this is a good thing. With this degenerating force out of the way, a
new generation of political activists may have a chance to eventually create
a real opposition party.
PERHAPS THE decision on this will not
be shaped in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in Las Vegas.
I have a
lurking suspicion that in reality Netanyahu takes his orders from Sheldon
Adelson owns Netanyahu as much as he owns his casino in
Macau or the US Republican party. If he wants to install a Republican
president, in order to add the White House to his portfolio of assets, he
needs to widen the chasm between the Obama administration and the Israeli
government. This might cause US Jews to flock en masse to the Republican
If this suspicion is true, Netanyahu will not really woo the
Labor Party, but only use it as a trick to beat down the price his
prospective far-right partners are demanding.
are on a cruise.
In the middle of the night, one of them wakes the
other: "Quick! Get up! The ship is sinking!"
The other only yawns.
"Why do you care? Is it your ship?
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