Hebrew University Political Science professor Ira Sharkansky evaluates the latest happenings in Israel.
Fri,May 24,2013 15 Sivan 5773
As I begin to write this note the latest news is that coalition negotiations are stuck on the highly nonprincipled issue of which party will get to name the Ministers of Education and Interior. That may be solved by the time I've done my final editing and clicked on Send. The parties are up against a deadline likely to reduce the importance of principles and even ego.
More interesting than these details is a looming fight simmering only a bit under the surface, and likely to bother this government and especially its Prime Minister.
The issue does not concern what Barack Obama will say when he gets here next week. It does not concern Iran's nuclear program, and what Israel or the United States will actually do to stop or delay that. Nor does it concern the Palestinians or what threats might emerge from Syria, Egypt, the American Jewish left, or Israel's likely Finance Minister's.lack of education in economics.
Most pressing is what may be a boiling up as a revolt by Likud's Young Jews. They are a group of younger than average Knesset Members, returning after what may have been their first Knesset 2009-12, who did better in the party primaries than some of those who held ministerial positions in Bibi's previous government. Their weight in the results reflects the right-wing surge among party members. Some of their voters were religious settlers who cast their ballots in the final election for Naftali Benet and Jewish Home.
Several of these youngsters are squawking about the prospective line-up of ministers Bibi has signaled as Likud's representatives in his new government. Most outspoken is Tsipi Hotovely, a bright, pretty, and articulate 34 year old with a doctorate in law. She is saying in interview after interview that she finished #15 in the party primary and is not mentioned as a likely minister. Hotovely has focused on Limor Livnat, who finished #27 in the primaries, is 62, has been in the Knesset since 1992, has served in a number of ministerial positions, most recently close to the tail end of those with governmental prestige, and has been mentioned for another such appointment in the next government.
Hotovely says that she accepts the authority of the Prime Minister to decide who will be Likud members in his government, and that she respects Ms Livnat and has learned a lot from her. However, she has been no less intent in saying that the Prime Minister ought to recognize the preferences of Likud members who voted in the primary, as well to give some of the party's young blood the beginnings of ministerial experience that will serve the party and the country in years to come.
Unknown is how comments like these from Hotovely and other young and right of center Likudniks (Danny Danon #9 in the primary voting, Zeev Elkin #14 and Yerev Levin #17) will affect Bibi's final list of ministers, and his continuing problems with his own party.
Involved in the tension is Likud's poor showing in the final election, dropping from an expected 42 + seats to 31, Netanyahu's need to coalesce with unwanted partners, and fewer slots available for Likud ministers than in the past. Pundits salivating at the possibility of a government crisis are pondering not only rebellion against Bibi from the parties of Lapid and Benet, but fomented from within his own party by youngsters thinking that they deserve more of the goodies.
While seething Likudniks have been prominent in the local news, I have received several indications about what has been worrying overseas Jews. The indications are sporadic and unreliable in suggesting anything like "public opinion," but they do point to the distance between here and there.
Some Jews are wrapping themselves around the problem of whether Israel ought to exist, insofar as it does not measure up to their standards of democracy and humanism. A learned and extreme example comes from a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts via a letter in the New York Times. Another cluster is more overtly worried about Israel's existence, in the face of Arab armies that have threatened the state since its founding, and are now better equipped and better trained than ever before.
The distance between such concerns and Israeli reality is profound, and much greater than that measured between American Jews and the internal squabble among Likud parliamentarians.
Both clustets of worriers ought to see more of what floods our media from just over the borders in Syria and Egypt. Arab armies are busy fighting their own people. Syria has gone a long way toward tearing itself apart, and is not finished with the task of destroying a country the French and British created after World War I and the demise of the Ottoman Empire. Egypt is nowhere near the level of civil war as Syria, but its mobs, police and army are dealing with mass unrest having something to do with the Muslim Brotherhood government established in place of Hosni Mubarak.
Experts are quarreling about what is likely to emerge in both countries, with the wisest of them admitting that they are far from sure.
Jordanians, Lebanese, Iranians, and Palestinians are also restive, although not yet beyond the control of their countries' politicians and security forces to the extent of the Egyptians and Syrians.
Those Jewish and other leftists who are concerned that Israel is not humane or democratic enough to warrant its continuity ought to recognize that its qualities of democracy and humanity--for all its citizens--are far beyond what exists in any of its neighbors. It also does not fall below what is available to Americans and Europeans, especially to the underclasses and minorities. But those are details not likely to penetrate the circles questioning Israel's right to exist.