Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Change is good

It used to be simple, the head of the party that got the most votes and seats in the Knesset would hold negotiations with each of the other parties he wanted in his coalition and they would agree on a price (so much money, so many ministries) and that would be that.  But, now things are different.  The two parties, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, that are respectively to the left and right of Likud, have ganged together and have agreed not to join Bibi's coalition unless their basic requirements are met. They actually want policy to be decided in advance.  I am sure this is not entirely new, but the fact is that since they have a combined number of seats equal to those of Likud-Beitanu, the two leaders, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet, by agreeing to a policy together can basically force Bibi to accept their dictates.  He knows they want to join his coalition government, but they are holding out together for an agreement, they are blackmailing Bibi.
The main policy that they want agreed to is a universal, equitable draft, i.e. no exemptions for the ultra-orthodox (haredi) and for the Arabs, well maybe a few exemptions.  But, they mean business, they want "change," they want the middle class to feel that they are not treated unfairly when their sons and daughters go to fight for the country.  Everyone who is a citizen should be treated equally, and they are right.
What has prevented this happening in the past?  Mainly the involvement in the coalitions of the religious parties who are against equal treatment for the haredim.  So the two leaders are saying, we should get first dibs, let us join the coalition on our terms and if any religious party then wants to join they must accept this new policy.  So the religious parties for the first time cannot blackmail the government to continue the status quo. It is clear that the two parties Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi out-number the religious parties, so this is the first chance for fundamental change for a very long time. 
Also, Bayit Yehudi seeks to prevent the policy of a "two-state solution" by preventing any withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and any limitation on construction in the settlements there.  It is unlikely that Yair Lapid would agree with Naftali Bennet on this, but Bibi has to placate the right wing within his own party that is comparatively stronger than it was in the last election.   By the time Pres. Obama gets to visit, things may be quite different here in Israel and he might not like the changes.  On the other hand he too ran under a slogan of "change" and so change must be good.


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