Credit: Nick Brundle Photography/Getty Images
Israel inducted a historic right-wing government Thursday, led by three-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s return to power and the formation of a strong right-wing government is a tremendous achievement for a nation that has increasingly turned towards the right-wing values of strong security and protecting the Jewish character of the state.
The 64-member Likud-led coalition, joined by Netanyahu’s loyal right-wing and religious allies, puts to bed years of electoral instability wrought by politicians who attempted to will Israel’s longest-serving prime minister out of power. Ultimately it was the voters themselves who tired of prosecutorial and political tricks aimed at removing Netanyahu from office.
In November, the Israeli voters spoke out in resounding fashion, with over 70% voter participation during a fifth consecutive election, to send the destabilizing forces a powerful message: that Israel is overwhelmingly a proud, right-wing, nationalist country.
The series of five elections had brought the Israeli electoral system to a breaking point. Ending the political standoff proved to be a battle of wills.
The will of a desperate opposition about to be relegated to the backbenches of political irrelevance: definitely not. The will of Israeli media who have colluded for the last several years with Israel’s political left: not a chance. The will of a heavily politicized prosecution and judiciary, hell-bent on removing Netanyahu if the voters wouldn’t: not even close.
The installation of Israel’s right-wing government is not the will of Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir or any other member of Israel’s expanded political realms. Rather, it is the will of the voters and democracy at its best. It is the will of a voting public that has had its right-wing leadership pulled out from under it for nearly four years, by selfish and misguided politicians who have used every available parliamentary maneuver, prosecutorial misconduct and media spin to produce electoral instability.
The right-wing won in overwhelming fashion, with 64 Knesset seats, compared to just 46 for left-wing parties–practically an electoral landslide.
And while the left-wing opposition is lamenting what it falsely calls “the end of democracy,” the overwhelming majority of Israelis disagree with the left’s assertion.
Rather, it was the left, led by now-opposition leader Yair Lapid, that threw Israeli democracy into peril. It was Lapid who used a mandate he could not fulfill to crown Naftali Bennett prime minister when Bennett had received barely 5% of the popular vote. The bare one-seat majority government formed by Bennett and Lapid, and held together with an anti-Zionist Islamist party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, barely lasted one year.
Not only does Netanyahu’s government aspire to bring Israel four years of much-needed electoral stability, it will also focus on fixing critical components of Israel’s political system and careful liberal-traditional balance, to ensure the Jewish state is not once again thrown into chaos by destabilizing progressive forces
Speaking at the Knesset as he introduced his sixth ruling coalition, Netanyahu stated, “This new government is determined to restore governance, peace and personal security to the citizens of Israel. I hear the opposition’s constant laments about ‘the end of the state’ and even ‘the end of democracy.’ Members of the opposition: Losing the election is not the end of democracy. It is the essence of democracy.”
While the left says that the new government is anti-democratic, those claims are part of a classic left-wing spin designed to change the meaning of the word: The incoming government is not anti-democratic. The incoming government is most certainly anti-progressive.
The coalition will quickly get to work reversing many of the progressive policies introduced by the outgoing government in key ministries, including the health, energy, environmental protection and education ministries.
And while Israel’s progressives, led by Lapid and an activist left-wing judicial system, believe they are the flag-bearers of democracy, it is the voters who decide who rules and ultimately, what rules are created.
Incoming Speaker of the Knesset Amir Ohana, who will control Israel’s legislative agenda said in his maiden address, “The sovereign is the people and not the court. The Knesset is the place to make decisions, it and no one else.”
The new government will attempt to alter the selection process for Supreme Court justices, who until now have essentially held a veto on their replacements, guaranteeing that the left-wing court remained homogeneous. The government will also seek to counter the court’s ability to shoot down legislation at will, by installing a parliamentary override clause. These maneuvers will create checks and balances that are standard in democracies but have long been absent between Israel’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.
And while the left accuses the new government of representing only a narrow portion of society (though that portion happens to be the majority), the government is committed to maintaining long-held status quos in the public realm that balanced Israel’s concurrent traditional and liberal tendencies.
Incoming Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, of the nationalist Religious Zionism Party, stated, “The people of Israel are wise and understand that all the campaigns conducted over the past few months that were designed only to instill fear have no truth to them. Rather, they reflect a lack of responsibility and a rift in society, and unfortunately, there are those who make a living out of such rifts.”
Smotrich insisted that the government “will serve everyone. With responsibility and out of a sense of mission to you all.”
As finance minister, Smotrich will have his hands full reeling in the rising cost of living due to inflation and soaring housing prices. And while concurrently serving as a minister within the Defense Ministry, Smotrich will act to strengthen Israel’s presence in the biblical provinces of Judea and Samaria–commonly known as the West Bank–where Palestinians have been carrying out illegal land grabs without repercussions. Smotrich will also remove the Civil Administration which governs the territories from the Defense Ministry, placing each administrative issue–such as housing or transportation–within its appropriate ministry.
The new government will also seek to restore security, which broke down during the short rule of the Bennett-Lapid government. Incoming National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has vowed to loosen overly strict rules of engagement for police officers, which have often put lives at risk and failed to prevent attacks before they take place.
As part of the coalition agreement, Ben-Gvir has demanded that overarching policy decisions be removed from an independent police force and handed instead to the government that was elected by the voters to implement policy.
The new government will also work to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, and to further isolate a corrupt, terror-sponsoring Palestinian Authority, after the outgoing government opened its doors to the P.A. Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz went as far as to invite P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to his home, and called him yesterday, on his final day in office.
Netanyahu also pledged to build upon the historic Abraham Accords he signed with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. In an interview with JNS ahead of the election, Netanyahu said he “intends to “make peace with Saudi Arabia” and “end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.”
Most important, the government will focus on strengthening Jewish values. It is the Jewish character of the state that makes it strong and unique. Progressives on the other hand seek for Israel to be a secular extension of Western Europe on the Eastern Mediterranean.
In his address at the Knesset, Smotrich noted that “it is both our obligation and our privilege to continue to strengthen our rich and glorious identity….We must never lose pride in who we are and what we are, or where we come from, or where we are headed.”
He added that “our Jewish identity is what gives us the right to live here and my prayer is that we should know how to deepen this identity, how to rejoice in it, ourselves and our children.”
The new government has the potential to score major accomplishments for a Jewish state that has come under progressive attack in recent years. The attacks continue even with the firm election of a right-wing government. Progressive politicians and left-wing media have been working tirelessly to sour liberal American Jews on the new government. These efforts serve no purpose other than to delegitimize Israel, in an era of increasing anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
Hopefully, American Jewry will recognize the folly of this strategy and return to its strong support of the State of Israel as the past, present and future of the Jewish people.
That said, angry progressives are likely to stay bitter and stay vocal, giving the incoming government a mouthful at every opportunity.
Addressing the opposition, the media and the overly loud and disappointed minority, Netanyahu stated, “A democratic regime is tested first of all by the willingness of the losing side to accept the majority’s decision.”
By Alex Traiman, JNS