Rivlin: Israel democracy facing an emergency, calls for unity

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As he swore in the 22nd Knesset on Thursday, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said Israel is facing a crisis and that the nation needs a clear and unified government more than ever.

“We are facing a time of crisis for the House of Jacob, an emergency for Israel’s security and for Israeli society, an emergency for Israeli democracy: all that is dear to us. Forming a government is not only the wish of the people. More than ever, in times like these, it is an economic and security need the likes of which we have not known for many years.” —President Reuven Rivlin

Earlier this week, Rivlin tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with getting the first stab at building a coalition after the Sept. 17 elections. Rivlin gave Bibi the first shot after 55 members of Knesset recommended the current prime minister to continue his term while only 54 members supported Benny Gantz whose Blue and White party earned the most votes in the election.

Now Netanyahu has 28 days to try to form a government and can ask for an additional 14 days if needed.

Israel is essentially in the same situation as after the April 9 election which resulted in a dissolved government and reelections. Netanyahu, who gathered all the right-wing religious groups, couldn’t get enough seats to form a coalition (he needs at least 61).

Yet again, Avigdor Lieberman who heads the Yisrael Beytenu party, can help Netanyahu get over the threshold of the minimum seats needed. However, the secular right winger has refused to sit in a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties over major differences in policy including the drafting of Orthodox religious men into the army. And the Israeli people are with Lieberman, as his party nearly doubled in size since the April election. Most Israelis want a center right government without the religious parties. The religious parties seek to use their influence to 1) keep their young people for serving in the army and  2) get millions of shekels in entitlements, so their people do not have to work.

Over the recent holiday I was in Jerusalem. I cannot tell you how many orthodox men and women asked for a handout on the street. Instead of helping our economy by working, they prefer to beg, so they can study Torah all day. And they have no shame—in their mind, secular Israelis should support their holy work.

Meanwhile, most Israelis are desperately hoping for a unity government between Netanyahu and Gantz. Neither party, however, has accepted the other’s terms including for a leadership rotation for prime minister. Netanyahu will not leave our the arthodox and the Blue and White will not serve with Netanyahu leading his Likud party, as he is under indictment.

Immediately after Blue and White canceled its meeting with Likud, Netanyahu reached out to Lieberman and will meet with him on Thursday. Lieberman said he has not changed his mind about serving with the religious parties and that he would try to persuade Netanyahu to form a unity government with Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu, leaving the ultra-Orthodox parties out.

“We will not be partners in any other government,” Lieberman wrote.

To add to the comedy, amid all the negotiations and what is a real crisis in our democracy, the 22nd Knesset was sworn in on Thursday with pretty much the same faces as last time. With only eight new members and nine are returning from past terms, 103 members are to be sworn in for the second time in 2019. And all of this comes with a buzz that a third round of elections might just be around the corner.

“The last thing the country needs is another, third round of elections,” Lieberman said, according to a Yisrael Beytenu press release.

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