Israel Update

Israeli Politicians Try to Put Together a Coalition

by Shira Sorko-Ram

“It’s not unreasonable at the end of an election campaign, when the polling stations close and three television stations in Israel release highly sophisticated exit polls, to expect that you will know definitely who has won. “That modest hope was denied the Israeli electorate on Tuesday night, [February 10].”

So began a mournful analysis of the nation’s elections by editor David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post as he bemoaned the reality of what virtually everybody agrees: Israel’s government system is absolutely, incurably, intolerably dysfunctional. (12Feb09)

For the last 25 years, Israel has muddled through a series of prime ministers who rise and fall every couple of years. The coalitions - needing 61 seats out of parliament’s 120 - are so wobbly, so untenable, that any prime minister who finally puts together a coalition must continually spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to stay afloat rather than governing the nation.

Long-term critical needs such as an adequate water supply for the nation or a national railway infrastructure simply go unattended. Often cabinet ministers play musical chairs; systematic planning and strategizing of long-term goals is non-existent.

Imagine! We now have 12 different parties in the current Knesset. (Another 18 failed to get enough votes to make the threshold.)

Of course the Knesset could change the laws of this dysfunctional coalition-type government. But until now, the ultra-Orthodox parties, afraid they might lose seats, have always blocked all parliamentary attempts. Accordingly the crippled lawmakers continue their pitiful attempt to govern the nation.

So - to the current situation. Coalition negotiations could go on for another four to six weeks. What possible combinations for a new coalition do we have at the time of this writing?

If a potential prime minister succeeds in putting together a minimum coalition of 61 Knesset seats, his government would still be unable to sustain itself for long with this borderline number - the reason being that any party within the coalition could demand the moon - on threat of pulling out of the coalition - which would cause the government to instantly fall.

Therefore, a candidate for prime minister wants in his coalition a couple of extra parties over the 61 seat minimum. Theoretically (but not always true) the larger the coalition, the more stable the government.

In past elections, the party that won the most Knesset seats was always given the opportunity to form the next coalition as prime minister. Now, here comes the joker. In the February 10 elections, the centrist Kadima party won the most seats, but the Likud rightist party has a larger block of rightist parties than the Kadima center/leftist block.

Even though Tsipi Livni gained one more seat than Bibi Netanyahu, because of his larger rightist block, he will almost certainly be asked by Israel’s president to form the new government.

According to the opinion of most commentators, the dream team in the present case would be for the three most moderate parties to form a coalition:

Kadima             28
Likud                 27
Labor                13  
            Total: 68 Knesset Seats

Or, instead of Labor, possibly

Israel Beiteinu    15            Total: 70 Knesset Seats

In our opinion Bibi Netanyahu could make the best prime minister and control the financial ministry.

Tsipi Livni would probably be the best person for foreign affairs because of her extensive experience under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the many foreign leaders with whom she is acquainted.

Ehud Barak of the leftist Labor party would make a good defense minister, the position he held under the last administration. He certainly has the most experience as a military man, and having directed the recent war against Hamas, did the best possible job in Gaza, given the few days he had to minimize Hamas’ power (because of the UN and world pressure on Israel to cease attacking Hamas). But right now Barak says he wants to remain in the opposition so that his party can build up its power base in order to win in the next election!

In other words, in this case, Israel’s politicians could swiftly bring about a stable government even under this unwieldy structure were it not for the immense egos of the political leaders of these parties.

If Tsipi Livni will not join Bibi Netanyahu in a unity government, then Bibi has only the possibility of a narrow rightist block with powerful ultra-Orthodox partners - who will be easy enough to please as long as they get money and “keep the status quo,” meaning control of who can marry whom, who can receive citizenship, and who can convert to Judaism, and under what circumstances. They have used their power, often illegally, to keep many Messianic Jews from immigrating to Israel. Only after intense legal suits in the Supreme Court against the ultra-Orthodox, have some Messianic Jews won their citizenship.

But that brings to the fore another difficulty for Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud party. The fourth largest party, Israel Beitenu (Israel our House), and its leader Avigdor Lieberman won many of his 15 seats through the votes of Russian immigrants who want to end the stifling control of the ultra-Orthodox over their civil rights. In short, it would be difficult for Lieberman and Shas and the other religious parties to serve in the same coalition.

Furthermore, Netanyahu could not be excited about facing the world with an extremely narrow rightist block perceived both in Israel and abroad as inflexible and obstinate as regards to progress with the Palestinians. This type of coalition would probably not last long.

We, of course, cannot leave out the three Arab parties who garnered 11 seats, although they cannot be depended upon to be coalition partners with any Jewish party. When it suits them they can vote for or against or abstain on an issue, but no ruling government would want to count on them for support.

Since Israeli governments fall with ease and are formed with enormous difficulty, the best thing to come out of this fiasco so far is the public campaign gaining momentum to call for a long overdue reform of the defunct electoral system.

The Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan group, is gaining traction calling for electing individual Knesset members who represent regions, instead of voting for national parties.

Of course, while the players play the game, the world around us doesn’t stop at all.

1. Hamas continues to dig tunnels.

2. Hizbullah continues to arm for the next round.

3. The U.N. continues to blame Israel for the violence in Gaza, and is looking for real ways to punish Israel, such as through devastating sanctions.

4. Teheran continues to build nuclear bombs.

5. Mahmoud Abbas, the “moderate” head of Fatah in the West Bank, on whom all the hopes of the world rest to make peace with Israel, is diligently working to have the International Court of Justice in The Hague indict Israel for war crimes over its war against Hamas.

Truly, Israel does not have the luxury of squandering precious time on coalition bargaining.

On all fronts we need leadership of the highest caliber. It is clear, says the press, that the two top winners need to join forces in a national unity government. And, they are quick to point out, if Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beitenu will assure civil rights and equality for all Israel’s citizens, including Arabs, he could play a very valuable role in the new government.

As a Messianic Jewish believer, I firmly believe that the most important need for Israel today - from God’s point of view - is to have a government that will give to its population freedom of religion and freedom to preach the Good News to all Israel. A government that will give us rights on radio, television and all the media to acquaint our people with what the Bible really says.

God has promised that His people will return to their own Land - specifically the area that the Muslim populations are claiming as their own.

God has promised in His written word that His people will return to their own God - specifically through the atonement made by Yeshua, King of the Jews.

Israel will not receive her physical inheritance without her spiritual inheritance. But when Israel turns back to the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, the Lord of all the earth will give back the land that He promised 4,000 years ago to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He will cause it to happen - but not until his people repent and return to Him.

Let us pray for help from the Guardian of Israel that He will come to our aid in this critical hour.

Thank you for your fervent prayers,
Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram

Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are the founders of Maoz Israel Ministries. The mission of MAOZ is: 1) To declare the Message of Messiah and make disciples in the city of Tel Aviv and throughout Israel. 2) To raise up Israeli leaders to prepare for the coming spiritual awakening among the people of Israel. 3) To educate and inform Christians world-wide of the strategic importance of Israel and the Jewish people in God's plan for world revival. The MAOZ web site is



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