Marc Schulman


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March 13th -Coalition Talks Reach Conclusion

Well... It seems that the same night we have a new government in Israel, we also have a new Pope. I will not write about the Pope, as I do not have anything new to add on that topic. Conversely, I can report that the new government in Israel is being received with significant optimism, and a twinge with concern.

First, from a political perspective, it's been an interesting few weeks. The experienced Prime Minister has been totally out maneuvered by the political “novice” Yair Lapid. Netanyahu wanted a large government with the Haredim. Instead, he has gotten a much smaller government without the Haredim. Netanyahu did not want Naftali Bennet in his coalition, and received Bennet as a key member. The Prime Minister wanted a large government, leaving himself plenty of jobs to give out. Instead, Netanyahu was forced to agree to a small government of 22 ministers. Up to the very end, Netanyahu insisted that Gideon Saar would remain Minister of Education. Instead, Rabbi Shai Piron from Lapid’s party now has the job. Lapid won on almost every point (other than not managing to separate Liberman from holding the job that Liberman is least suited for (but more on that later.) So, in terms of politics, no one can now speak about Lapid– who took a party from nothing to 19 seats, and will now be Finance Minister, and leads the second largest faction in the government, as what Israelis called a "Tiron", (slang for an 'inductee'- someone with no experience.) Lapid emerges as the second most powerful leader in Israel, right after a much diminished Prime Minister, who has made every political mistake possible this past year.

OK, so what sort of government do we now have? It’s a government that is hard to quantify. At first glance it seems like a right-wing political, liberal-economic government. After all, we now will have Bougi Ayalon as Defense Minister (considered to the right of Ehud Barak), and we have a much stronger religious Zionist party, HaBayit HaYehudi as part of the government. Liberman remains the Foreign Minister, at least if he beats his criminal charges. On the other hand, we have a much more diverse government from a civil standpoint. We have a government that is much more committed to liberal values. We do not have the combination of the Likud- Yisrael Beytanu faction, who together with the Haredim did not care about liberal values and could pass any such bills. Today, Yesh Atid, a party filled with interesting and talented people will be the key faction in a government. They together withTzpi Livni heading the Justice ministry, will be able to end the attack on Israeli democracy. Can we expect this government to take major steps in a “peace process”? That is unlikely. We can expect to see some major changes in education– both in terms of the courses that will be forced on the ultra-orthodox, as well an an attempt to eliminate most of the Bagrut tests, to name a few. 

Expect there will be much more to come... We will see if the new government will be able to accomplish more than the previous one did.


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