Israel’s New Government Is Hamstrung by a Byzantine Agreement between the Parties. But Maybe That’s Not a Bad Thing

April 27, 2020 | David M. Weinberg
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The deal cementing the Jewish state’s recently formed governing coalition is intricate even by the standards of such documents, and includes a complex set of stipulations, most of which are unprecedented, meant to prevent both Benjamin Netanyahu (slotted to serve as prime minister for eighteen months) and Benny Gantz (who will serve for the subsequent eighteen months) from outmaneuvering the other. Echoing the opinion of several other analysts, David M. Weinberg complains that these terms force both Netanyahu and Gantz into “straitjackets that deliver punishing and painful electric shocks the split second either of them steps out of line.” But Weinberg believes this may be for the best:

Israel cannot afford a fourth consecutive election amid the coronavirus pandemic. And Israel’s most critical challenges—including the possibility of military conflict with Iran and/or its proxies—can best be tackled by a broad right-left government.

Even more important is the absolute and urgent need to tone down this country’s political heat; to restrain Israel’s raging political fevers after eighteen months of furious campaigning. Thus, handcuffing Knesset members into near paralysis may be a good thing. Muzzling and manacling them by super-rigorous coalition discipline could be good for [the] political system and a balm for our national soul. Israel needs a year or two—or three—of relative quiet and recuperation.

Compromise may not be possible [on many issues], but at least the new government can lower the flames. Indeed, bringing about a climate of relative calm is the greatest contribution the hybrid Netanyahu-Gantz government can make. The coalition may be a quasi-democratic, quasi-autocratic behemoth—a weighed-down, self-flagellating, and illogical creation—but national “unity,” however temporary and fragile, is necessary and worthwhile.

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