Who is Really to Blame for the Need to Hold Elections & Today’s Worrisome Situation?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin and his wife Sarah casts their votes at a voting station in Jerusalem on September 17, 2019. Israelis began voting Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite a looming indictment on corruption charges. (Heidi Levine, Sipa, Pool via AP).

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According to many, the current situation following elections is worse than following the April 2019 election for the 21st Knesset, in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was given the presidential mandate but was unable to form a national unity government. Netanyahu however did not give Benny Gantz a chance to form his government, which according to most he was unable to do, but decided to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections, which were held yesterday, the election for 22nd Knesset.

Once again, the prime minister finds himself in a dilemma, as Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party hold the key to any coalition. Clearly, as per statements by Lieberman to the media on the morning following elections, he will not sit with the chareidi parties, because they cannot and will not accept his ultra-secular terms.

So, let’s go back to the previous election. After Lieberman refused all offers to enter a Netanyahu-led coalition, he became the fall guy, the scapegoat if you will, as the chareidim and the right-wing blamed him for the need to call for new elections. But, if we backtrack a bit, to the 20th Knesset, we see that in fact, it was not Lieberman who caused the problem but Yahadut Hatorah’s Deputy Minister Yaakov Lieberman.

The prime minister entered into exhaustive talks with the chareidim towards meeting a Supreme Court deadline to legislate a new draft law. At that time, Lieberman, who was instrumental in formulating that law with former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott said he was not willing to amend a single letter of that law, and the chareidim would have to accept it ‘as is’. The chareidim; Shas and Degel Hatorah, agreed to accept “the lesser of the evils” available, as per instruction from HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, but Litzman insisted he was not going to budge and he prefers to go to elections and permit the voters to decide.

MK Moshe Gafne, the chairman of the Degel faction of Yahadut Hatorah, together with Shas’ chairman, Minister Aryeh Deri, did their utmost to persuade Litzman, warning him, “This is the best government we will have and going to elections will not result in a better situation”. Litzman however decided to play his hand, and the frum tzibur lost. While it may be preferable to blame Lieberman, who champions the non-religious agenda, he said from the start that the draft law was a deal-breaker and he was unwilling to amend the draft version of the draft law, sending a clear message to the chareidim, “take it or leave it”, however, Litzman decided to call his bluff.

Now, some six months later, Lieberman’s party is even stronger, the Likud has been weakened, and the future of chareidi Jewry hangs in the balance. One can only hope the chareidim will enjoy the required Siyata Dishmaya to form a coalition with PM Netanyahu that will permit a continuation of the religious status quo, but today, even if he wishes to do so, it will be significantly more difficult for Netanyahu to accommodate the chareidim to the same measure he did in the past.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)