As The Daily Wire noted last month, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was seemingly re-elected to serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister — thus placing the Likud leader at the precipice of surpassing iconic national founder David Ben-Gurion as the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the Jewish state. At the time, here is how I explained Israeli voters’ collective decision to once again trust their nation’s fate in Netanyahu’s sturdy hands:
[I]t is … Netanyahu who, admirable prudence and occasionally excessive restraint aside, demonstrates an intuitive understanding of the threats that Israel — and, by extension, all of the West — ultimately faces. Netanyahu famously sparred with the pro-Palestinian Obama, but, as Quin Hillyer put it in 2015, Netanyahu “spent far more of his formative years on the American mainland than Obama did, … took enemy fire at the age when Obama was openly pushing Marxist theory, and … earned and practiced free enterprise at the same age when Obama was practicing and teaching Alinskyism.” He is a hardened man — his character forever shaped and his fortitude forever calcified by the tragedy that befell his dear older brother Yoni in Entebbe. He intuitively grasps the nature of genocidal, irredentist sharia supremacism in a way that perhaps no other Western leader can — and he is hardly shy in sounding the alarm, when need be.
In the election’s immediate aftermath last month, all seemed well for Bibi and his right-of-center Likud Party. It seemed all but inevitable that there would soon be yet another durable Likud-led conservative Israeli government.
Alas, it now seems that that purported inevitability may have been a mirage. Specifically, an ongoing and still-unresolved debate regarding a longtime hot-button Israeli political issue — whether Haredi (or “ultra-Orthodox”) Jews should be mandatorily conscripted, as are most other Jews, into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) — may topple the new governing coalition before it has even started.
Reuters reported yesterday on the looming Wednesday deadline for Netanyahu to successfully thread the needle and solidify a governing coalition:
In power for the past decade, Netanyahu has unexpectedly struggled to seal an agreement with a clutch of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would align with his Likud party and ensure him a fifth term following Israel’s April 9 election.
Divisions between former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and United Torah Judaism over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students have plunged the coalition talks into stalemate.
Lieberman has long said ultra-Orthodox men must share other Israeli Jews’ burden of mandatory service. Ultra-Orthodox parties say seminary students should be largely exempt from conscription as they have been since Israel was founded in 1948.
As Reuters notes, Avigdor Lieberman, who has long headed the secular right-wing Russian Jewish-centric Yisrael Beitenu party, is a longtime adamant opponent of a Haredi exemption for IDF conscription. And as The Times of Israel noted over the weekend, Lieberman seems positively obstinate on holding his ground this time around:
“Both in the election campaign and after the elections, we said clearly and publicly that we would only support Netanyahu as a candidate for prime minister … Even today, we say unequivocally that we will not endorse any other candidate for prime minister,” Liberman wrote on Facebook.
However, he said, Yisrael Beytenu has also made it clear “before the elections, during the elections and after the elections” that the party “would not move an inch” on its demand for the passage, unamended, of a long-discussed bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students, a condition rejected by ultra-Orthodox parties.
Netanyahu, for his part, seems none too happy with Lieberman right now.
Regardless of the outcome, this will undoubtedly be a fascinating week for all observers of Israel’s rambunctious political system.