March 18, 2013 – Today was established in Israel an extremist right-wing government in which settlers and their allies hold all the key positions: their Minister of Housing will construct settlement housing; their Minister of Industry will divert industries to the settlements; their Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee will provide them with plenty of funds. The Minister of Defense – who is, in effect, the military dictator holding sway over the Occupied Territories – is opposed to any gesture towards the Palestinians, even the smallest and most symbolic. It is a government which appointed a minister to take charge of conducting negotiations with the Palestinians and an entire ministerial team to oversee such negotiations, but would not be able to conduct any such negotiations in reality.
The primary responsibility for Israel being saddled with such a pernicious and dangerous government does not rest with PM Netanyahu nor even with Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party. The main responsibility lies squarely upon Yair Lapid, the man who scored a big victory in the elections and frittered it away, who dealt a crushing blow to the right-wing block in Israeli politics and then single-handedly restored this same bloc to great power. Lapid’s supposedly “left of center” party won many more votes than Naftali Bennett’s extreme-right formation, but the alliance of these two parties worked entirely in favor of Bennett and his settlers.
Bennett had taken sober, well calculated steps, focusing on gaining the commanding positions in order to strengthen and bolster the West Bank settlement enterprise. Lapid wasted the incredibly strong position which fell into his hands in the aftermath of the elections, using it to advance marginal and insignificant objectives such as a reduction in the number of government ministers or recruiting members of Haredi Ultra-Orthdox community into the Israeli Army (an aim which would not be achieved in practice, anyway). Moreover, Lapid promoted some manifestly negative and harmful aims, such as steeply raising the electoral threshold which parties would need to cross to gain parliamentary representation – thus violating the democratic right of minorities in Israeli society to be represented.
Lapid only paid faint lip service to the need of negotiations with the Palestinians. But he even gave up without a struggle such major objectives of his constituency as civil marriage and public transportation on the Sabbath. Now he is getting ready to run the Ministry of Finance and implement austerity policies and severe budget cuts which would hurt the same middle class which Lapid purports to represent.
Hopefully, Lapid’s voters will remember all this at the next elections.