Last night I went to listen to former Finance Minister Yair Lapid (above left) speak in English to about 1,000 Anglo-Israelis. He started off the evening by telling a personal story.
He takes his daughter on a coffee date every Tuesday. During a recent coffee time, after ordering an espresso, he received a phone call. Normally he lets nothing interrupt these special dates. His office knows not to interrupt him. However, looking at the phone, he saw it was Prime Minister Netanyahu and felt he should answer. He did and the Prime Minister informed him that his services would no longer be needed—he was fired from his post as finance minister.
He hung up the phone just as the waitress was returning with his espresso. He looked at her and said, “When I ordered this espresso, I was the finance minister of Israel. By the time you brought it to me, I was fired and am now unemployed.”
Netanyahu and the Orthodox
While Netanyahu has long been the darling of evangelicals for his strong stance for a secure Israel, warning the world about Iran, and willingness to stand up even to Barack Obama, it appears that his primary goal now is merely staying in power. He dissolved his government and is forcing new elections in hopes that he can bring the ultra-Orthodox parties back into his governing coalition. The ultra-Orthodox, most of whom don’t serve in the army or work (in favor of studying all day), are a huge burden on our economy. They take as much as they can get and they don’t give back.
So why does Netanyahu want them back so bad? Because, for the right price, they will allow him to govern without opposition. In my opinion, it is political prostitution. If this happens, it will be a huge step backwards for the country and that is why I have become disillusioned with the man I once supported. To me his political survival comes first. The nation comes somewhere after that.
Governing with your Enemies
On the other hand, because of the way the Israeli political system operates, it is extremely difficult for a prime minister to implement his agenda. With over a dozen parties in the government, a potential prime minister must forge a coalition with his “enemies.” Ego-driven politicians fight over cabinet posts. In the U.S., the president is able to pick the most qualified people to serve in his administration. In Israel, the Prime Minister must choose from a group that was cursing him just before the elections and are gunning for his job. Not long ago, a former labor union boss was our defense minister!
So Netanyahu’s willingness to bring in the Orthodox parties can be seen as a desire simply to govern. For instance, the Prime Minister of Israel could never unilaterally make peace with Communist Cuba, let five senior Taliban prisoners go free in exchange for a deserter, or grant amnesty to millions of illegals. He would need the support of other parties in his coalition.
As a result, in recent years, it has been very difficult, if not impossible, for a P.M. to finish a full four-year tenure.
What about the Middle Class Mr. P.M.?
I would be willing to give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt, but he has done virtually nothing to alleviate the pressure on Israel’s middle class. The emcee last night said, “I have a good job and I know I will never be able to afford a house here in Israel.” I have watched prices of groceries steadily rise since making aliyah 11.5 years ago, mainly due to the monopolies in the food industries. Netanyahu only reluctantly was willing to pass legislation that would force the Orthodox to serve in the army. And that was only due to the pressure from newcomers, Yair Lapid and Naphtali Bennett.
And while I don’t think that there is presently anyone on the Palestinian side that is can be a true partner for peace (the ones we can trust, will never gain power), the fact that there are several million Arabs without a country, a passport, or a vote, is not a tenable situation. We can’t give them their own country because of the plethora of jihadist groups like Hamas that will most definitely seize power. And we can’t make them citizens of Israel for same reason (we can’t bring in 500,000 ISIS-like terrorists into our nation). Plus, that would lead to the end of a Jewish majority in Israel in a short order—crushing the idea of a save haven for Jews.
So where does this leave the average Israeli? Confused. With so many parties to choose from, you don’t want to waste your vote on a smaller party you may agree with, because even if they gain some Knesset seats, they will have little influence. And, you don’t want to vote for the establishment parties, who, as stated, seem far more concerned with staying in power, than strengthening Israel. I have heard many Israelis simply say, I am sick of it. I don’t care anymore. I am not voting.
On the other hand I was impressed with what Lapid said last night. “I don’t care about being Prime Minister. I want to do what is best for the country.” That is often the sentiment of new politicians. However, over the course of time the love of power becomes so addictive that, like Anthony Wiener, one will endure the most horrific embarrassments to maintain power. It is probable that a young Netanyahu once felt the same way.
Or maybe Lapid was hinting at something else. Former Likud welfare minister, Moshe Kahlon, who left politics a few years back, has reemerged with his Koolanu (All of Us) party. The Jerusalem Post is reporting that, “polls have indicated that a joint list [of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Kahlon’s Koolanu party] could become the largest Knesset [bloc], especially if the list is led by Kahlon.” Is Lapid saying that he is willing to be number two to Kahlon, if it is for the betterment of the country? If so, I think many Israelis would be attracted to such a teaming.
And while this article speaks about Lapid, Netanyahu, Bennett, Kahlon, etc., let’s not forget the waitress who brought Yair his espresso—the first Israeli to find out that he had been fired and new elections would be coming. The politicians go to Jerusalem to serve her. They work for her. Netanyahu has lost touch with her, while Lapid still sees her every Tuesday.