Friday, March 15, 2013


I do not think that President Obama will find Israel’s new government any different from the previous government when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians. Its domestic policies are likely to bring about unwanted and unpleasant changes for ultra-Orthodox Jews, while its foreign police will probably stay the same.


Israel Today
March 14, 2013

With just a day until his deadline, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday managed to cobble together a majority coalition that could change the way some things are run in Israel.

The new coalition will be anchored by Netanyahu's Likud and the allied Israel Beiteinu party. But Netanyahu's new government will enjoy majority status thanks to the right-wing Jewish Home and the centrist Yesh Atid parties.

Just days after January's eleciton, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid forged an alliance vowing that they were either going to join the government together and bring Israelis the changes they have been demanding, or go hand-in-hand into the opposition.

Bennett and Lapid didn't have all of their demands met, but they did achieve enough that the new government could potentially bring unprecedented changes to modern Israel.

The two main aims of the Bennett-Lapid alliance were to end ultra-Orthodox hegemony over all things religious in Israel and to bring about better fiscal management.

To that end, Lapid will be Israel's new minister of finance, while his #2, Rabbi Shai Piron, will take the education ministry. The Ministry of Education controls the enormous amount of money that streams into ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.

Bennett will head three ministries - Economy and Trade, Diaspora and Jerusalem, and Religious Affairs. As the new minister of religious affairs, Bennett will be able to bring reforms to Israel's Jewish conversion process and possibly enable civil marriages.

The one ministry Lapid and Bennett failed to capture was the Ministry of the Interior, which Netanyahu's Likud will keep. Lapid also had to compromise on his demand that the new government have no more than 18 ministers.

In the end, including Netanyahu himself, the cabinet will number 22 ministers and deputy ministers, still a major decrease from the 30 ministers that sat in the last government.

Both Lapid and Bennett also agreed that Israel's large ultra-Orthodox sector cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of state welfare while failing to share the burden of military service. The final agreement on that front states that religious Jews can defer military service for three years in order to study the Bible, but that at age 21 they must, like all Israelis, serve in the Israeli army for two years.

Naturally, Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties, in particular the powerful Shas Party, were furious over the deal, and vowed to work vigorously against the new government from the opposition.

Nor were all the members of Netanyahu's Likud pleased by the arrangement, noting that the prime minister had left very few ministries for senior Likud figures.

The new government will certainly have many hurdles to overcome, but many Israelis are also excited by the potential changes the new forged coalition represents.

No comments: