[Israel 101] The Challenges for PM Netanyahu of Building a Coalition in the Knesset

Now after the recent elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from the Likud party, now has the responsibility of building a governmental coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Members of the Knesset (also called MK’s). Knesset is the Hebrew word for parliament.

However, the recent Passover holiday has prevented the building of any coalition as this is typically the time when the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox (comprising a large percentage of the prime minister’s former coalition partners) go on vacation with their families – enjoying the Israeli landscape, free entrance to parks and museums and all that the country offers at the full height of the ideal spring weather.

In Israeli politics, putting together a strong and robust coalition made up of, oftentimes, ruthless, cutthroat individuals with few, if any, principles is very challenging. Politicians can make or break a prime minister’s hold on power. Netanyahu, who has been the Prime Minister (which in Hebrew literally means “head of government”) for the last 10 years, and he has expressed a desire to return to the same coalition which had served him in his previous administration – and why not? They got what they wanted, and so did he.

This week, potential coalition partners lined up this week, each making their special demands and hoping that they will be seen as enviable power brokers selected for this next government by the first deadline of May 15, 2019. Each of the vying parties will boldly declare their portfolio wish list, whether it be the Interior Ministry, Justice, Education or any other coveted position that offers the particular advantage that specific party is seeking.

For example, URP (The Union of Right Wing Parties), headed by Bezalel Smotrich, has expressed his desire to be appointed as the Justice Minister. In this position, he could change laws which have already been adjudicated by the Supreme Court. The court ruled against a proposed law granting automatic immunity for Knesset members. Yet, if it was revisited and enacted into law, the embattled Netanyahu who faces the possibility of criminal prosecution which could carry, along with it, a jail sentence, could get a big break. Other Knesset Members (MK’s) would also stand to gain from such legislation, including Arye Deri, the present head of the Interior Ministry who is also entangled in his own corruption allegations. 

Another candidate being considered for Justice Minister is Likud party’s Yariv Levin, the current Tourism Minister, who is a friend and ally to Netanyahu. He believes that all the important ministries should be held by the Likud and not the smaller parties.

This kind of deal making would be unacceptable to non-religious political parties who view such manipulation of laws as seriously weakening Israel’s legal system.

Coalition hopefuls have made other demands including the status of settlements in Judea and Samaria, issues of religion and state, conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, what qualifies as legitimate conversion and marriage laws in Israel. 

Some of the competing parties have already been the recipient of pre-election promises, and there is speculation that this could result in one of the largest doling out of ministry positions in recent years – possibly as many as 33 cabinet ministers.

All this politicking is expected to consume the next couple of weeks, with the likelihood of media leaks followed by endless speculation. While most Israelis patiently wait for the final results of this next coalition, the Messianic believing community in Israel is praying for a favorable outcome, especially as it relates to who controls the Interior Ministry, since the present minister has been hostile to Messianic Jewish immigration.

In fact, this is a key prayer point for those of you who support the idea of Jewish believers freely returning to their ancient homeland. Please commit to praying along with us that the Lord Himself would make the necessary changes and place a person over this very important ministry who would not be averse to the immigration rights of our community.

May the Lord continue to faithfully and sovereignly reign over the Land of Israel, our leaders and our people.