This week saw a coalition of unlikely partners join together to overthrow Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel was just at the center of world news with the Gaza war, now it returns to the forefront withe a political earthquake, which if the alliance holds with bring into power a completely diverse group, unlikely to be able to hold together.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister for the past 12 years, is about to be replace by Naftali Bennet if the coalition government is confirmed in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The Washington Post owned publication Foreign Policy reported the following:
Barring any last-minute defections before the official investiture vote in parliament, the new government will be a narrow and complex power-sharing coalition among some eight parties, spanning the ideological gamut. Their only common denominator? The goal of toppling Netanyahu after 12 straight years—and 15 total—in power.
Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Yamina party, is set to serve as prime minister for the first two years, after which Lapid—head of the centrist Yesh Atid party—will rotate into the top spot from the foreign ministry for the remaining two. The incipient government will also include left-wing parties Meretz and Labor, centrist faction Blue and White, and additional right-wing factions Yisrael Beiteinu and New Hope. The Islamist United Arab List is set to join the coalition as well, marking a historic first for an Arab Israeli party.
This will be one of the strangest coalition’s governments Israel has ever seen if it comes to birth.
The Israeli’ Electoral System
The Israeli electoral system is a very fragile system. Israel uses proportional representation with a “closed list” form of democracy. Each party sets out its list of candidates in order. Votes are cast for the party list, not individuals, and when the party gets enough votes, a candidate gets elected. The first person on the list becomes the first one to get a seat. Each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes it receives. A party must have 3.25% of the vote (or 4 seats) to be able to sit in the Knesset.
To form a government in Israel a party, or coalition of parties, must hold 61 seats. A government can recruit other members of parliament to maintain its coalition if any member drops out.
This has resulted in two things, a very volatile election system where 24 elections have be held in Israel’s 72 year history, with four held since 2019.
Israel’s style of proportional representation democracy is considered “pure” and goes to show that democracy is purely flawed. No party in Israel has ever won a majority of seats and has always had to make alliances to form a government.
The problem in Israel is the vast and various divisions of opinion both political and religious. The party with the most seats has often been held hostage by a smaller party, deemed the “king maker” that decides if the government stands or falls.
The Shaky Alliance
Just about every commentator and analyst concur the alliance that has been cobbled together in Israel has only one thing uniting them, unseating Netanyahu. Ironically, it is an ancient Arabic proverb that stated:
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
This is what has happened in Israel this last week. Enemies have become friends to overthrow the enemy they all hold in common - Netanyahu. It is a bizarre group spanning the spectrum of Israel’s political world.
Yesh Atid (17 seats 13.93%) is a centralist party led by Yair Lapid. He was once a TV anchor who left his job in journalism to become a politician. Yesh Atid claims it represents the center of Israeli society and the secular middle class. It is against military draft exemption allowance made for the ultra-Orthodox Jews so their can study Torah. It forms the biggest party in the block to unseat Netanyahu.
Blue and White (8 seats 6.63%) is also a considered centralist party led by Benny Gantz, a retired army general who has been the minister of defence in Netanyahu’s government since forming an alliance in 2020. Blue and White defines itself as a pluralistic alliance representing all citizens on the political and religious spectrums. Gantz was supposed to become prime minister in October of this year, but his hopes were dashed when the government collapsed in December 2020.
Yamina, meaning “rightwards” (7 seats 6.21%) is an alliance of right wing parties. Its policies include Israel as a Nation State of the Jewish People, Unity of the Land (opposing a Palestinian state) and developing settlements throughout the country, extending sovereignty over the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, defeating terrorism, encouraging Jewish immigration to the land (Aliyah), economic competition and liberty, the right to work (anti-union) amongst others… It’s leader is Naftali Bennett, who although he only has seven seats is set to become the prime minister for the first two years of the alliance’s mandate (if it can survive). Bennet is a son of US immigrants. He served in a special forces commando unit of the IDF. He sold his software company for over $100 million to enter politics. He was Chief of Staff or Netanyahu’s government from 2006 - 2008. He was the director-general of the Yesha Council (the organization representing the settlements) from 2010-2012. Bennet held ministerial several seats in Netanyahu’s governments including Education, Economy, Religious Services, as well as Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. In 2019 Netanyahu dismissed Bennet from the government. Bennet’s new part Yamina became part of the opposition in 2020.
The Israeli Labor Party (7 seats – 6.09%) is a social democratic and Zionist political party. It was formed when three leftist political parties merged in 1968. Until Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in 1977, all Israeli Prime Ministers were affiliated with the Labor movement. The Labor party supports the Israel-Palestinian peace process. The leader is Merav Michaeli, a former journalist for the Haaretz newspaper. She is a feminist and activist.
Israel Beiteinu, or Israel Our Home (7 seats 5.63%) grew out of the secular Russian speaking Israeli base. It is a secular center-right to right wing nationalist political party. The party takes a hard line on the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Its main platform includes the recognition of the two state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel Beiteinu is led by Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, who has held a host of roles in various governments including Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Defence (amongst others). Lieberman was once Director-General of the Likud party.
New Hope (6 Seats 4.74%) is a centre-right to right wing political party. It’s policies include a strong capitalist mixed-economy focus. It supports reducing Israel’s bureaucracy. Gideon Sa’ar is the leader of New Hope. He was a member of Likud from 2003 to 2014, holding positions as Minister of Education and the Interior. Saar was an intelligence officer in the Golani Brigade. Saar opposed the Gaza disengagement plan. Saar had been considered to be Netanyahu’s replacement. Saar left Likud and formed New Hope in 2020.
Meretz (6 Seats 4.59%) is a left wing secular social-democratic and green party. It’s platform emphasizes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, social justice, human rights, religious freedom and environmentalism. Its leader Nitzan Horowitz was a journalists for several Israel News companies. Horowitz became a Knesset member for the Meretz party in 2009, making him the second openly gay member of the Knesset in the history of Israel. Horowitz became the leader of Meretz in 2019.
United Arab List or Ra’am (4 seats 3.79%) is an Arab party, the political wing of the Islamic movement. The party supports the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital, along with equal rights for Arab citizens in Israel. It’s leader is Mansour Abbas, supports conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth to reform them away from the gay lifestyle which is not in keeping with Islam. This is the first time an Arab party will join an Israeli governing coalition.
This group of very diverse political parties including the ultra-right, ultra-left, communist, capitalist, Islamist, gay, anti-gay, secular and religious has nothing in common to build an alliance on except its united purpose of bringing Netanyahu down. The shaky house of cards has razor thin majority of 61 seats. It may succeed in destroying Netanyahu, but how it will remain past that is hard to see.
The Price of Kingship
Bennet defended his decision in the midst of a massive backlash from the religious right in Israel. He stated:
“Over the past 30 months, the State of Israel has been in chaos, with one election campaign after another. This political crisis is unprecedented…. Two thousand years ago, there was a Jewish state which fell here because of internal quarrels. This will not happen again -- not on my watch."
Bennett has referred to Netanyahu’s struggle to hold onto power as his personal Masada.
Bennet negotiated his way into becoming prime minister, even though he only has the support of 6.21% of voters, 4.19% of the eligible voters in the country.
Netanyahu had 24.19% and Lapid had 13.39%.
There are two big questions:
- Will the Knesset vote to approve the government (ie. will the alliance hold until next week)
- How many weeks will the alliance last past its goal of unseating Netanyahu?
The mix of policies amongst the brothel of bizarre bed fellows makes it the most insecure government Israel has ever seen.
The Economist stated of Naftali Bennet:
In order to effectively lead the new government Mr Bennett will have to suppress some of his more right-wing views. In the past he has opposed a Palestinian state and favoured annexing much of the West Bank. He is an ardent supporter of settlers, once leading the council representing them (though he is not a settler himself). Some regard him as more right-wing than Mr Netanyahu, though not nearly as ruthless. He is also an observant Jew. If sworn in, he would be the first prime minister to wear a yarmulke, or Jewish skullcap.
But Mr Bennett notes that he is not the only coalition member with what some might consider extreme views. “For the new government to succeed, all the partners will need to exercise restraint,” he has said. “No one will be asked to give up on their ideology, everyone will have to postpone the realisation of some of their dreams. We’ll focus on what we can do, instead of fighting over what we can’t.”
This might be a little more difficult than believed. Bennet’s base supports annexing Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and he stated in February 2021,
"As long as I have any power and control, I won't hand over one centimetre of land of the Land of Israel. Period."
Bennet rejects the idea of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, which the other parties in the alliance support. This is THE ISSUE the Bible indicates will draw all nations down:
“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, When I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, And will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, And will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” (Joel 3:1–2)
One wonders how the alliance can possibly stand. The Lord made the observation:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:” (Matthew 12:25)
This has been Israel’s issue since its conception.
Democracy is a dirty word. It is government of the people by the people. This is a human construction that runs under the assumption that man is basically good, and if you get enough “good people” together then the outcome of the decisions made by them will be “good”. If this notion is true, how is it that Hitler was voted in? How could Hamas have been democratically elected? This is man’s invention and ignores the principles made clear in the Bible. Man does not do well ruling himself:
“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
The reason is clear:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
This is reiterated by the Lord Jesus Christ:
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21–23)
Some of the democratic decisions made in the Bible included building the tower of Babel, stoning Moses and Aaron and appointing a captain to return to Egypt, rejecting God and making a king for Israel, and crucifying Christ to name a few. Democracy is flawed because man is not basically good, but evil, and collective decisions often default to evil thinking.
The alliance in Israel is a perfect example why Christadelphians cannot involve themselves in politics. To achieve anything, principles need to be compromised.
The righteous cannot make an alliance with the wicked, as the proverb states:
“An unjust man is an abomination to the just: And he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.” (Proverbs 29:27)
How can the Jews who believe in the God of the bible make an alliance with an openly gay politician? Or those who believe in the Torah make an alliance with those who believe in the Koran? The logic is refuted by Paul who states:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Politics is a game of pushing oneself to the front and typically doesn’t attract faithful men:
“Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: But a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)
While proclaiming their own goodness, few remain trustworthy. Politicians descend into mud-slinging with a goal of destruction of the opposing party, or compromising their principles:
“An ungodly man diggeth up evil: And in his lips there is as a burning fire. A froward man soweth strife: And a whisperer separateth chief friends. A violent man enticeth his neighbour, And leadeth him into the way that is not good. He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: Moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.” (Proverbs 16:27–30)
Trying to defend an alliance with men who live wicked lives, is on a par with destroying the righteous:
“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, Even they both are abomination to the Lord.” (Proverbs 17:15)
If the alliance holds up, the God fearing Jews will have to yield to secular Israel society in 2 years. During the first two years, many principles will need to be compromised if the alliance is to hold. The Proverbs warn:
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)
The buying and selling of “allegiances” to form and maintain governments is not God’s way:
“The king by judgment establisheth the land: But he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.” (Proverbs 29:4)
The reality is, no politician knows what the outcome will be:
“Boast not thyself of to morrow; For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)
The Real Power in Israel
Thankfully, somebody else is really in charge. God’s sovereignty over all nations is undisputed:
“For the Lord most high is terrible; He is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, And the nations under our feet.” (Psalm 47:2–3)
Any ruler owes his position to the God of heaven, as Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar:
“Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” (Daniel 2:37)
Daniel recognized who was in control of the governments of the world:
“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: For wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings: He giveth wisdom unto the wise, And knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: He knoweth what is in the darkness, And the light dwelleth with him.” (Daniel 2:20–22)
Nebuchadnezzar would come to learn this by his removal from power for 7 years:
“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17)
There is no other country in the world that God takes more interest in:
“But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:11–12)
Any ruler in Israel is only there because God, in his infinite wisdom is furthering his purpose:
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.” (Jeremiah 27:4–5)
Comfort lies in knowing God is in control, but more so in knowing that his son, the Messiah will soon come to install a righteous government in Israel:
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, Neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, And faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11:1–5)
No alliance of left, centre, right or wrong will be able to withstand this change:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)
This government will eventually extend to fill the planet:
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)
All corrupt governments will be replaced by the Lord and his saints, ruling from Jerusalem and bringing all the earth’s inhabitants under God’s righteous laws:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, That the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; And he will teach us of his ways, And we will walk in his paths: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, And shall rebuke many people: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2–4)
So, while we watch the Bible in the news, we don’t put our trust in man, but rather in the purpose of God that is on the cusp of being a reality, when the entire world is going undergo the biggest political earthquake in history.
“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Yahweh, Art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)
For the Bible in the News, this has been Jonathan Bowen joining you.