We are now seeing an amazing and unprecedented situation in Israel. We just had full parliamentary (“Knesset”) elections on April 9, 2019. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not able to form a coalition government and a working majority within the allotted time. New elections are set for September 2019! The sticking point was the conflict between former Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman and the Ultra-Orthodox parties that Netanyahu also needs in his government.
Lieberman is on the side of the secular on several issues, which reject the Orthodox control over citizenship and Israeli life.
What does Lieberman want?
First, an easier conversion process for Russian Jews who are not accepted as sufficiently Jewish by the Orthodox establishment.
Second, allowing necessary transportation construction work on Shabbat and allowing stores in secular areas to open on the Sabbath.
Third, the egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall for Reform and Conservative Jews.
Fourth, reducing the level of welfare support for Ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not want to work but rather study the Talmud and Jewish texts full-time. Work requirements are a crucial point.
Lastly, the one issue on which he “went to the mat” is the conscription of the Ultra-Orthodox in the Army. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Ultra-Orthodox cannot be exempted in so many instances. However, the coalition Netanyahu almost formed, had legislation ready to over-rule the Supreme Court by a majority vote in the Knesset! In addition, they had legislation ready to preclude all parliament members from being indicted. This is a push-back against the looming indictment of the Prime Minister for bribery. Yet Bibi’s Likud party got elected with the population knowing all this. Many Messianic Jews are troubled by these matters.
The Israeli public is angry about the level of control that the Ultra-Orthodox are able to wield over the whole of Israeli society. If we have a similar result in the September election, Bibi will again need to include the Ultra-Orthodox in a coalition government, and they will continue to have undue influence over Israeli society as the ‘price’ for their cooperation. As time goes by, the Ultra-Orthodox will be an ever increasing percentage of the population, and if they do not work or serve in the Army, this will be a problem. However, the April election result suggested that the Israeli secular public is not as worried about the Ultra-Orthodox as we have thought.
Another big question is about Benjamin Netanyahu. Does he care about the issues of Ultra-Orthodox control? Does he not see the danger? Blue and White, the main opposition party, is really a center party, maybe even right of center. There could be a strong unity coalition with Likud, Bibi’s party, and Blue and White under Benny Gantz. This would then lead to a stable government without the control of the Ultra-Orthodox. However, Blue and White say they will not enter a government with Bibi facing indictment. If they did enter they would prevent a bill to provide Bibi with immunity.
We need to pray, pray and pray some more!
Daniel Juster, Restoration from Zion of Tikkun International