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 Beiteinu – Avigdor Lieberman – resolve the issue of the ultra-orthodox doing military service – raised by Lieberman 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.
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.”Edelstein’s refusal to commit to any set date comes amidst the uncertainty caused by the ongoing political negotiations to form a government.
The High Court – unmoved by Edelstein’s submission – 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 Yisrael Beiteinu members and
•15 Joint List Arab bloc membersto advance legislation barring a Knesset member facing criminal charges from forming a government – effectively disqualifying Netanyahu.
This bloc of 62 members make strange bedfellows:
•Joint List does not recogniseIsrael as the Jewish National Home
•Blue & White leaders Gantz, Lapid and Ya’alon have personal grievances against Netanyahu going back years
•Lieberman 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.Lieberman 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’srefusal to accept a bill drafted by Lieberman calling for ultra-orthodox Jews to do military service. Netanyahu was captive to the ultra-orthodox Jews in his then coalitionwho threatened to bolt if he wavered.
Lieberman would not budge.
A second election followed in September 2019 -when an expected increased turnout by the religious parties to oppose Lieberman’s bill never eventuated. The religious parties’ votes only increased by 91650 whilst Lieberman’s party vote increased by 137,684.
Lieberman again would not yield in his demands –emboldened by his increased vote exceeding that of the religious parties.Israel held its third electionthis month. The religious parties areon far weaker ground this timeas they are locked in to a single negotiating bloc now containing 58 members.
Lieberman is also in a weaker position – having lost 46,789 votes and one seat whilst Netanyahu gained 238,882 votes and 4 seats.
Cutting a deal between Netanyahu and Leiberman remains the only option to prevent Israel entering into a period of complete political and constitutional upheaval once the Knesset sitting commences.
Lieberman 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.
Neither can allow their personal antipathy towards each other to miss this golden opportunity.
Netanyahu and Lieberman mustdo a deal before the Knesset sits. They cannot afford to fail.