Jonathan Feldstein on What Israelis Have Learned From Their New Government So Far – Part 1

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Reuters)

Editor’s Note: This is a two-part article. Watch for part 2 tomorrow on

For a country of news junkies, Israelis sure have had a lot of news the past week. Maybe I am projecting, and admittedly I don’t ride buses that much anymore, but it’s not uncommon to be on a public bus at the top of the hour and have the driver turn up the volume of the radio so all can hear. Unlike the U.S. and other representative democracies with fixed terms for their political leaders, Israel’s parliamentary democracy “allows” for the up-until-now unprecedented four elections in two years. It also “allows” for the scenario that the outcome of these votes are indecisive and tenuous, and even makes it unclear that a new government will emerge, even down to the breathtaking Knesset vote to do so.

Watching the Knesset vote, I felt like I was watching a close basketball game, with two- and three-point shots scored alternatingly by the home and visiting team, in our case the incoming coalition and the opposition. The vote was a roll call of all 120 members and went back and forth until it was clear that it was not going to flip or flop any longer. And though it was anticipated that the new government would win, the paper-thin margin of 60-59, while a majority, was astounding all the same. The difference with a basketball game is obvious: there’s a winner and a loser. Yet in the Israeli political system, the opposition made it clear from the moment the last vote was cast, that it exists to overturn that vote. Already this week, two votes of no confidence have been called.

The unfolding news is as divergent as the parties that make up the new coalition, which is news in and of itself. It is an unlikely coalition of eight parties ranging from left to right, including an Arab Islamist party, and any number of parliamentarians now sitting in a government with people and ideologies with whom they said they’d never sit in a government. Which parties ally with others and on what issues is not clear cut. There’s a right-wing party that said they’d never sit in a government with an Arab party, but which is socially liberal and opposes religious coercion and many of the underpinnings of the Jewish character of the state. One would think that the Arab party would be in the left-wing camp, which it is regarding peace with our neighbors. However, as an Islamist party they not only reject, but openly contradict, many of the knee-jerk social policies of the left-wing parties. And this continues on multiple levels in many dimensions.

Other news was that the formal introduction of the new government before the vote was as disrespectful as it was. Dozens of opposition lawmakers heckled incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, showing a side of Israel that was once common but is not now, and is never, acceptable. It debased the shouting lawmakers, former Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Knesset as an institution.

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SOURCE: Charisma News, Jonathan Feldstein