For an exhausting fifth time in three and a half years, Israelis will once again be going to the polls to elect a new government in the Knesset. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced they would move to dissolve their doomed ruling coalition, just over a year after it was formed.
In a related article following a prior impasse this writer postulated eight scenarios that could possibly ensue that would provide 'a critical constitutional moment' for reflection:
- The Knesset will become increasingly reliant upon the Supreme Court to address matters of controversy that were traditionally provided for by statutory instruments.
- Heightened voter apathy and demands to change the electoral system to first past the post, in the hopes that this will lessen the chokehold of smaller parties on governments and overall return a more decisive majority mandate.
- Re-evaluating the notion of Israel having an uncodified constitution, merely consisting of its Declaration of Independence and some ‘Basic Laws’ guaranteeing certain freedoms. Calls to replace this with a written comprehensive constitution which will clearly delineate the separation of government and Rabbinate.
- Momentum to finalize Israel’s status and no longer live in limbo concerning what it practically means to be a Jewish state.
- This may lead to a general reconsideration of the role of religion in society, beginning with the organs of the state: education and the judicial system (with emphasis on Rabbinical involvement in family law and personal status). But it will then go on to broader sociological issues as diverse as burial.
- Popular support for constitutionally defined executive term limits.
- A fresh political economy taking shape, with traditional parties imploding (like Labor has already) resulting in a new reality – distinctly different from the left-right divide.
- A push for the powers of the Knesset Ombudsman to be strengthened in order to robustly tackle corruption among members of the Knesset.
Needless to say, none of these measures materialised. This goes a long way to explain why the current government has hit a dead wall and collapsed yet again in such a short period of time. Without addressing these fundamental flaws in its system of government, Israel is destined to forgo political stability. With a politically volatile climate, Israel can scarce afford a precarious security front. Iran has of course been fully aware of the fragile coalition and has attempted to exploit its weakness. The Israeli public is distressed and disappointed by recent Iranian progress toward enriching uranium for nuclear proliferation. Bennett's government failed to take the decisive, robust actions that his predecessor Netanyahu took to thwart Tehran's ambitions. Netanyahu was in favor of a substantial build-up of Israel's armed forces. The Israeli electorate longs for the security that Netenyahu afforded. The difference between Netanyahu and Bennett is not substantial in terms of general policy, however. The election of Netanyahu would take the veil away from the common policies.
A similar nostalgia persists in the U.S. for Trump's strong leadership. Trump shook up the system and undermined the status quo. Given the arrival of Biden, large swathes of the electorate miss Trump. In hindsight, they look back with fondness on what Trump did. With the Afghanistan debacle, Biden turned the U.S. into a laughing stock in the world. You can understand why the Democratic Party managers want to find somebody to blame for the way they utterly mishandled the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sooner or later this con game is not going to work. Biden is not bringing back jobs. What happens at that point? Something has to be done to maintain control. The obvious technique is scapegoating. Blame it on Putin. But that can only go so far. The cost of living crisis and inflation are further signs that society is in trouble.
Trump has talked about reducing tensions with Russia - the most dangerous flash point in the world. In Russia, most Americans support a reset of improved relations. Anything that would reduce the growing, dangerous and severe threat of nuclear war is wise. William Perry, who is a distinguished nuclear strategist (who is no alarmist) says that we're back to some of the worst moments of the Cold War. Efforts to try to calm this down are very welcome. A major war between the U.S. and Russia would spell the end of organised human existence. The tensions are developing. Both sides are carrying out provocative acts, with close confrontations in Ukraine. Steps were taken to reduce tensions and return to more amicable relations bode well with the public. To get a good estimate of the danger, take a good look at the best thermometer of the global security situation that we have as a simple measure. Namely, the atomic scientist doomsday clock. This is set every year since the beginning of the nuclear age in 1947 by a group of serious specialist scientists, political analysts and others who try to give a measure of the danger that the human species faces. Midnight means we're finished. In 1947 the clock was set from seven minutes to midnight. In 1953, right after the U.S. and Russia tested hydrogen bombs it went to two minutes to midnight. That's the closest it's been to total disaster. Right now it's set at two and a half minutes to midnight because of the nuclear threat with Russia. This is overwhelmingly the most critical question that faces us. Everything else pales in insignificance, as it's literally a question of survival. Two and a half minutes to midnight means extraordinary danger. This should be the major focus of attention. It's astonishing to see how Biden ignores this issue. There is practically no mention of it. The fact that it's barely discussed is a shattering commentary on the calibre of the incumbent administration. The opportunity to move towards a negotiated diplomatic settlement does not seem outlandish. Most significantly there is a record of partial success in diplomatic initiatives, while there is total failure with sanctions and harsh moves. Russia is not going to back down on its fundamental demands concerning Ukraine. A lot of what Russia is demanding is not acceptable. But so is NATO barking at their gates.
Given the impending arrival of Netanyahu in office the Israeli public can once again feel that their future is in a safe pair of hands. The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. But there is also a reasonable chance that he will be returned to high office, given the frustration and justified anger at Biden's record.