Netanyahu can  prevent Israel from imploding
Netanyahu can prevent Israel from imploding

Israel is in serious danger of self-imploding as a political, legal, and constitutional crisis of epic proportions is set to erupt. It can be averted if Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - and head of Yisrael Beyteinu – Avigdor Liberman – resolve the issue of the haredi men doing military service - raised by Liberman 12 months ago. 

The looming crisis has been created following the Speaker of the Knesset – Yuri Edelstein – rejecting the advisory opinion of the High Court of Justice that he declare his position as speaker open when the Knesset resumes on 25 March and resigning.

In his official response to the High Court – Edelstein stated:

 “I won’t agree to ultimatums. I can’t agree because that would make the Knesset’s agenda determined by the High Court and not by the Speaker of the Knesset, who is assigned this role.”

Today a Blue and White MK will almost certainly take his place. Edelstein’s resignation comes amidst the uncertainty caused by the ongoing political negotiations to form a government.

The High Court had overstepped its purview and ordered Edelstein to convene the Knesset by 25 March and hold a vote that could see him replaced. The High Court did not say what actions it would take if Edelstein attempted to ignore the ruling.

Front and centre in this crisis has been the attempt by:

  • 33 Blue and White members,
  • 7  Labor-Meretz-Gesher members
  • 7 Yisrael Beyteinu members and 
  • 15 Joint List Arab bloc members 

to advance legislation barring a Knesset member facing criminal charges from forming a government - effectively disqualifying Netanyahu, ignoring the fact that over 2 million Jewish voters want Netanyahu as prime minister and that this legislation is unprecedented.

This bloc of 62 members make strange bedfellows:

  • Joint List does not recognise Israel as the Jewish National Home 
  • Blue & White leaders Gantz, Lapid and Ya’alon have personal grievances against Netanyahu going back years
  • Liberman has a fractured relationship with Netanyahu, has refused to sit next to Joint List Knesset members and favoured transfer of Israeli Arabs into a new Palestinian state.

Liberman had made non-negotiable demands for entering into Government with Netanyahu after the February 2019 indecisive election –which if accepted – would have seen no need for the two elections that followed and this current crisis. 

The principal issue was Netanyahu’s refusal to accept a bill drafted by Liberman calling for all yeshiva students to do military service. Although Netanyahu may have seemed captive to the haredi Jews in his then coalition who threatened to bolt if he wavered, there was also Netanyahu's belief that this had to be done by agreement with the haredim and Religious Zionists (some of whose rabbis would be against a move not agreed upon by all religious parties).as it would have a profound effect on the Torah learning population. 

Liberman would not budge.

A second election followed in September 2019 - when an expected increased turn out by the religious parties to oppose Liberman’s bill did not reach the required level. The religious parties’ votes only increased by 91650 whilst Liberman’s party vote increased by 137684.

Can they allow their personal antipathy towards each other let them miss this golden opportunity?
Liberman again would not yield in his demands – emboldened by his increased vote exceeding that of the religious parties.

Israel held its third election this month.

The religious parties are on weaker ground this time as they are locked in to a single negotiating bloc now containing 58 members. It is time to negotiate with them on this issue.

Liberman is also in a weaker position – having lost 46789 votes and one seat whilst Netanyahu gained 238882 votes and 4 seats.

Cutting a deal between Netanyahu and Liberman remains the only option to prevent Israel entering into a period of complete political and constitutional upheaval once the Knesset sitting commences.

Liberman and Netanyahu’s shared dream could be the circuit breaker: Both want to see Jewish sovereignty immediately restored in Judea and Samaria after 3000 years - in tandem with President Trump - whilst Blue & White do not.

Can they allow their personal antipathy towards each other let them miss this golden opportunity?

Netanyahu and Liberman have only a very short time to reach agreement. They cannot afford to fail.