Thursday, March 14, 2013

The New Israeli Government

Jodi Rudoren highlights aspects of the new Israeli government:
Mr. Netanyahu will lead a government that, for only the third time since 1977, excludes Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties. Mr. Netanyahu left them out under pressure from Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, two dynamic first-time politicians who represent vastly different constituencies but who teamed up to increase their negotiating power,
The new housing minister, from Mr. Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home Party, will be a former chief of the council representing Jewish settlers in the West Bank, complicating prospects for a promised return to negotiations with the Palestinians.
Mr. Lapid, from the centrist Yesh Atid Party, will be finance minister. He faces a $10 billion budget deficit, raising the prospect of drastic cuts in subsidies to poor people — mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs — whose leaders predicted class warfare on Thursday. His party will also control education, and has promised to overhaul the curriculum of religious schools...
Ultra-Orthodox leaders and others who were left out of the coalition vowed to form a vigorous opposition, denouncing the government as a bourgeois one dominated by settlers and “tycoons.” 
I can definitely see the point of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and left-wing parties that this is an upper class government which we can expect to do little to address the social and economic inequalities that led to Israel's 2011 protests.   The lack of religious influence in the government, and in fact the prominence in the given ministries of Lapid's aggressively secular party, represents the biggest break with the past in government, even as it arises out of an anti-religious backlash that's been building for many years.  Cutting the subsidies that allow Haredi men to be primarily religious students their whole lives, putting more modern subjects in the Haredi schools, and the unmentioned reform of the Tal Law that will require national service of the Haredi should be the beginning of the end for that community's ability to be a world unto itself in Israeli society, and world that had the capacity to dictate aspects of policy to the rest of the country because of Israel's multiparty political system.

As far as the portfolios gained by Bennett's religious Zionist party, I don't expect there to be much difference from what the previous Netanyahu government did.  Both want(ed) to move toward permanent Israeli control of much of the West Bank, and stasis on the peace process front simply advances that goal.  The biggest question is how Tzipi Livni will fit into this coalition, and how long she will remain a member.  He real goal is probably to arrive at an understanding with the Palestinians which she can then take to voters in the next election.



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