Israel’s unity government has long since lost its public appeal, but now it is threatening to unravel completely. With government infighting breaking records on a daily basis and with a state budget nowhere in sight, the question of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will trigger another general election has again been raised, but still has no definite answer.
One thing is clear: The prime minister has done nothing over the past few weeks to maintain the coalition. Instead, his Likud Party and coalition partner Blue and White have developed a culture of “penalizing” each other by supporting or opposing various legislative proposals presented by the respective coalition partners. Blue and White has also supported several bills presented by the opposition, leading to one thing: chaos in government.
The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism are furious at this. They believe Netanyahu could easily keep Blue and White in check but chooses not to, and as far as they are concerned, the only reason for that is that Netanyahu wants to prompt general elections.
Shas and UTJ are not amused, to put it mildly.
Blue and White’s decision Wednesday to side with the opposition and vote in favor of a bill banning gay conversion therapy may have been the last straw for the haredi parties.
Shas and UTJ’s outcry over the vote had less to do with the bill itself and more to do with the fact that, once again, they realized that Blue and White is no one’s bulwark.
The low-key conversion therapy bill, which had little chance of passing had Blue and White heeded coalition discipline, was thus turned from a dreary legislative proposal into the biggest political story of the week—and one that seemingly proved that the newfound public aversion to the government is justified.
The haredi parties were wary of a national unity government from day one and signed off on it over what can be described as election fatigue in the wake of three consecutive campaigns. For them, the coalition deal was akin to entering the political promised land.
Any cooperation between the haredi parties and Blue and White was rooted in mutual interest—mainly the desire to avoid early elections. They now find Netanyahu’s ambiguity over whether he plans to call for a general vote very troubling.
Officials in both haredi parties said Wednesday that the damage Blue and White leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz has caused to their political relationship may be irreversible. Rolling back moves that have rendered Gantz untrustworthy will be virtually impossible, they said.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate