Israeli Mega-Coalition Collapses

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Not long ago I lauded the advent of Israel’s new mega-coalition government. That development surprised everyone, being announced on May 8 just as the country seemed headed for new elections.

Instead the largest opposition party, left-of-center Kadima—which according to all surveys would have declined steeply in the elections—joined the coalition led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-of-center Likud Party. The coalition thereby expanded to 94 Knesset members out of a total of 120.

Along with enhancing national unity at a time of growing Middle Eastern instability and threats, I saw, as did many, a rare chance to legislate two key, much-needed changes. One would involve equalizing the draft in Israel so that its haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) and Arab communities would have to do either military or civilian service instead of being largely exempt. The other would involve changing the country’s parliamentary system to enable stable coalitions and an end to the blackmail power of small parties.

In what turned out to be its short life, the mega-coalition government never even got around to addressing the second issue. It had, though, been wrangling intensively over the first one—drafting haredim and Arabs, particularly the former. This week, though, Kadima claimed it had unbridgeable differences with Likud over the draft issue. On Tuesday Kadima voted 25-3 to leave the government, bringing it back down to a much slimmer 66 MKs.

As is natural in Israeli and other politics, recriminations are flying.

The ostensible unbridgeable gap involved Kadima’s desire to go rougher and Likud’s desire to go easier on the haredim. Kadima’s point man, MK Yohanan Plesner, insisted that all of them be drafted by age 23, with harsh penalties including jail for those who dodged enlistment. Likud’s point man, Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, favored giving them options of waiting till age 26 and also pushed lighter penalties for shirkers.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff whom Netanyahu had also made a deputy prime minister for the mega-coalition’s brief duration, claimed Likud was merely putting its longstanding political alliance with haredi parties over the national interest. As Mofaz wrote in his resignation letter:

I had hoped that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would go beyond petty politics and make a historic decision together with us. But unfortunately…the prime minister decided to stay put rather than go forward and chose the interests of the minority over that of the majority.

As Netanyahu wrote to Mofaz in reply:

I am sorry you decided to give up on a chance to make a historic change. After 64 years [of statehood], we were on the cusp of introducing real change in the division of the burden. I presented you with a proposal that would have led to the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs from the age of 18. I explained to you that the only way to implement this was through a gradual process that would not tear apart Israeli society, particularly in this period, when the state of Israel is facing many momentous challenges. I will continue to work toward the responsible solution that Israeli society expects.

Likud point man Yaalon, for his part, said Kadima had sought to “declare war on a whole sector of the population” and noted that the “gradual change” Netanyahu had called for has already been underway for years, with a small but steady growth in haredi enlistment after decades of leading a cloistered life as state-subsidized yeshiva students.

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  • SHmuel HaLevi

    I recall it as it was today…
    Years back don Mofaz, retired general of the type usually produced by the "israeli democatiahhh", sent us a letter, us meaning LIKUD Central Committee Members, fervently declaring his alliance with the LIKUD… forever…
    Twenty four hours later he had joined with another 13 LIKUD mandate usurpers, the Sharon gangs that destroyed major core elements of the State of Israel. Many of those later found guilty of a multitude of crimes and some still serving jail terms.
    Nothing has changed since. What was political trash remains trash.
    Anyone placing any trust on those elements is obviously disconnected from reality.
    Mofaz, Halutz, Barak, Ramon, Olmert, Livni , Sharon and family, Peres and groups of others "belong" in the same sack.

  • Ain't No Dhimmi

    It might be counterproductive for Israel to have Arabs fight in the military.

    • Stern

      The Druze? They serve willingly, with honour and distinction.

      As for the others, the whole idea was to give them other options, such as doing some sort of non-military national service. This would give them more of a stake in the country, make them feel less of an "us vs. them" syndrome. All of these options would have been explored and probably will be eventually.

  • Nehama, UK

    Let's put another angle in the mix shall we. During his short stint as Israel's VPM, Mofaz had a unscheduled meeting with Obama while in Washington; Obama just happened to "drop in" on Mofaz's meeting 21st June meeting with US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. We all know about Obama's coolness for Netanyahu, yet he "drops in" and gets all chummy with Mofaz; then, less than a month later Mofaz pulls out of the coalition on less than convincing grounds. But no one twigs that Mofaz is dancing to his new master's drumbeat? Obama has offered his goodies, and Mofaz is swooning.

  • bubbaland1

    Frankly who cares. Israel is led by a total blowhard, Netanyahu. A man who made a career as an opposition member advocating a strident no negotiations with terrorists. Look where that went once he became Prime Minister, Wye River accords, etc. The man is constantly barking about Iran and as recently as yesterday Netanyahu said that Israel would carry out a “strong response” against Iran. Who believes this guy? I mean really. Netanyahu is always talking and doing absolutely nothing. Moreover, Obama says sit, and Netanyahu sits. As long as Netanyahu and Obama are both in office there is not going to be a strike on Iran. Iran will have, or has the bomb, and the West will whine how did this happen, ooo they hide the facilities from the UN.
    Put the fork out of the West/Israel they are toast.

    • mlcblog

      That's your opinion. Go back to bubbaland and stay there.

      • bubbaland1

        What is wrong with expressing one's opinion? Frankly, could you tell me what is wrong my post? You don't like it fine, but don't whine about it. Offer something substantive. Such as I disagree with your perspective, and propose the following perspective …Alternatively, perhaps you are unable to do so, or perhaps you like social environments where dissenting views are silenced. As for my handle it is a tongue in cheek comment on the dullards who live in the southeastern United States. That's my opinion.

    • HoR_Emperor

      I'm guessing you're one of those crackpots who thinks that it doesn't matter who gets elected because we're all doomed, right?

      Go away, this is a site for grown-ups.

      • Mensch Keymelon

        "…grown-ups." it says.

      • bubbaland1

        If you are attempting to express some sort of smug superior tone by the use of the phrase "grown-ups" get real. I am guessing that you are probably one of those "crackpots" that sits at home with a can of bud in both hands watching the 1980 US-USSR hockey game chanting USA, USA, USA.. Or perhaps you are one of those individuals who thinks that the Israel of today is the same Israel that conducted the raid on Entebbe. News flash, Israel of today is not the Israel of yesterday.

        Israel is in peril, and it is lead by an individual who may be a good orator, however, his threats to Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah and others is a long as a torah scroll and yet he has not made good on them. In the mean the West gives Islamofascists a past. Look at Boko Haram in Nigeria, they kill christians with impunity. Where is the outrage?

  • Mensch Keymelon

    "I presented you with a proposal that would have led to the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs from the age of 18."

    I'll take strategic ways to destroy an occupied people for $500.

    Answer: What is an insidious plot to destroy social unity by further alienating occupied Palestinians ( "Isralis" ) and Ultra-Orthodox Jews?

    • HoR_Emperor

      Shut up, anti-Semitic troll.

  • Ghostwriter

    Mensch Keymelon,you wallow in anti-semitism like a pig wallows in mud. You both like it.

    • Mensch Keymelon

      "Anti-semetism" is meaningless…just another "race card" for weak people to attack those they disagree with.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The one thing about politics that sickens me is the proclivity of leftists to imperil the citizens
    by playing nice with the devil. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Mofaz, at this time of peril the mouse
    chases pieces of fetid cheese, what a shmuck………………..William