36. Israel's Implausible Government: Can It Do Anything?

The new governing coalition in Israel defies the laws of gravity; it encompasses stunning internal contradictions. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, can any government so conceived and so dedicated long endure?

Maybe. That is because, as unlikely as it seems, there is an agenda that may hold its warring components together for a while. Behind the common opposition to Netanyahu, supposedly the only glue binding the coalition, are a host of Bibi-related issues that could provide focus for agreed common action.

First, consider the things that the government will NOT be doing. It will not be interfering, as a Netanyahu government would try to do, in the ongoing trial of the former Prime Minister for fraud, corruption, and breach of trust. Netanyahu's appointment with justice can proceed without impediment, which was not a given.

Also, the previous government's pressures on the press (part of the indictments in the trial) will cease. Likewise, attempts to politicize the judiciary will presumably stop; there is even talk of codifying the role of the Supreme Court in invalidating violations of human rights.

In short, the new government can halt the erosion of Israel's democratic institutions, which had caught the attention of scholars around the world who assess nations on democracy.

And although Prime Minister Bennett himself favors it, there is no real prospect of annexing parts of the West Bank to Israel under this government.

Regarding what it will do, the new government can begin by adopting a state budget, which Israel has not had for the last two years. It is sbolishing superfluous ministries established by Netanyahu to reward allies. It may consider a law limiting Prime Ministers to two terms in office.

Despite paralysis on broader Palestinian issues, the presence of an Arab party in the government comes with promises of greater equality in local budgets, recognition of unrecognized Beduin towns, and a more serious effort to curb a wave of criminal violence in Arab localities.

Even on religious issues, there is hope for some action. The 2016 compromise giving liberal Jews space at the Western Wall, shelved by Netanyahu, may be revived. With modern Orthodox figures such as Bennett in the government, procedures for election of Chief Rabbis might be reformed to remove those offices from Ultra-Orthodox control.

And finally, there is even a suggestion that Israel join other jurisdictions, such as my state of Washington, in decriminalizing marijuana. Think of it! Legal pot in Eretz Hakodesh! What more could you want?

An addendum to my last Perspective, on efforts in U.S. state legislatures to give themselves ways of overturning election results: updated information is that such bills have been introduced in 41 states and have been enacted in 14.