Two years ago Israeli had what could have been a revolutionary election. With the rise of Jewish Home and Yesh Atid along with the collapse of Labour and Kadima, Bibi Netanyahu had an opportunity to form a government free of coercion from Chareidi parties for the first time in a couple of decades. To his credit he went ahead and did that and for a brief, shining moment it seemed that Israelis society might finally move towards a more fair model in which all citizens participated in their civil duties.
But the moment came and went. Some politicians are successful because they're inspirational speakers, some because they're grand visionaries and some because they know how to play the game of politics better than their opponents. Bibi Netanyahu is one of the latter. His success isn't due to his great speaking skills and he seems to lack any sort of a grand vision for Israel beyond "We've gotta doing something about Iran" but boy, does he know how to maneuver himself into power and keep himself there.
For two years he sat at the head of a progressive government representative of a broad swath of Israeli society. Then suddenly he torpedoed it and threw the country into unnecessary elections. Why? What benefit for Israel was there?
In a word: none. For Bibi, however, there was plenty.
Keep in mind that the leaders of Jewish Home and Yesh Atid have prime ministerial ambitions that they're quite open about. Also keep in mind that the Israeli electorate always seems to vault a previously unknown party into a position of influence, only to send it back to near-obscurity in the next general plebiscite. On the other hand that same electorate consistently sends 10-13 Chareidi MK's into each and every Knesset.
Now if you're Bibi and thinking ahead to the next election, which is something the successful politician always does right after winning the last one, what are you going to consider? Your two main coalition allies want your job. Odds are they're also flashes in the pan. If you follow their agenda you wind up harming the Chareidi community's interests what do you get? After the next election they may not have the seats to support your next government. They might decide to support Labour instead of you if the seat totals are close. But if you need the Chareidim and you've jilted them they might also support Labour instead of you. What to do?
Well what Bibi did was spend two years sabotaging his own government's initiative like the universal draft, like any tax incentives to encourage Chareidim to leave their yeshivos and enter the workforce, or like giving Relgious Zionist rabbonim more power within the Rabbanut. He give his biggest rival the one post where he can't possibly succeed, finance, and watched as his poll numbers drop. And when things look just right he called an election, fear-mongered his way into a good number of seats and then turned to the Chareidi party and reminded them that for two years he was the only thing standing between them and meaningful social reform in Israeli society.
That's why no one should be surprised that reports from the coalition discussions have revealed that the Chareidi demands of a return to previous level of funding with the corresponding absence of social obligation. For all those who are expressing frustration with the situation I reiterate: Bibi made his intention to re-establish this situation crystal clear over the last 2 years. This should come as no shock.
The real shame is the damage this will do to the average member of the Chareidi community. By capitulating to the politicians' demands Bibi is ensuring that the vast majority of Chareidim will remain ignorant, unemployed and impoverished. All the social ills that are battering the Chareidi community will continue and probably worsen over time. Their economic drain on Israeli society will grow as will resentment against them. A decent community full of intelligent and motivated men and women with the potential to improve Israel immendese will be shunted away from progress and into quiet desperation without hope for the future. And for what? For Bibi to remain prime minister.
We should think of the damage Bibi and his Chareidi friends are doing to that community and be angry at the waste.