There is white smoke today not only at the Vatican but also in Jerusalem. The lengthy negotiations to form a new coalition seem to be at an end, and the new government should be announced shortly.
Several friends of mine are reporting feelings of elation and jubilation at the result of the negotiations. They say that the young star duo – Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett – have taught King Bibi a lesson by forcing their agenda on him. Some of them express regret at not having voted for one of the two promising parties – Yesh Atid and HaBayit HeYehudi.
There is some truth in what my friends say, but I am reluctant to join the rejoicing just yet. The real test will be in what Lapid and Bennett achieve in government, not what they purportedly made Bibi sign in the coalition agreement. Many a government started with pompous declarations of “change” and “reform”, only to end up being “more of the same”. Time will tell, so I’m not uncorking the champagne yet.
In the general euphoria, a “minor” point has escaped the attention of my jubilant friends. Most of them are not right-wing and yet they seem to believe that Lapid et Bennett (and Tzipi Livni, with her token 6 seats) will bring about a change not only on the socio-economic front, but also on the peace process front.
This is a misguided belief. Let’s take a quick look at the list of ministers in the new government who will have impact on our relations with the Palestinians:
- Prime Minister – Bibi, whose ongoing inaction and steadfast stubbornness is beginning to make Yitzchak Shamir, of 1980s inertia fame, look like an energetic peacenik.
- Defense – Ya’alon, who sees the Palestinians as a “cancer” that requires amputation or chemotherapy and the Peace Now movement as a “virus”.
- Treasury – Lapid, who calls for resumption of the talks with the Palestinians but declares up-front that Jerusalem shall never be divided, which is a bit like giving a speech about gun control at an NRA convention. In other words, a non-starter.
- Commerce – Bennet, whose infamous “solution” for the Palestinian problem was quickly shelved under the category of “not-very-funny jokes”.
- Construction – Ariel, a settler (almost) from birth who, for ten years, was the head of the Yesha council. I can’t wait to see him implement “freeze plans” on new construction in the West Bank.
- And finally, the Foreign Ministry, being kept open for Lieberman until he’s done fighting corruption charges in court.
In short, despite the optical illusion, this is a right-wing government. A far right-wing government. Good luck to my friends who believe we are witnessing a turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Disillusionment is around the corner.