Understanding the tumultuous week of Israeli politics

A week of political unrest left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a razor-thin majority in the Knesset which brings the government closer to the possibility of collapse and early elections.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is comprised of 120 members. The prime minister, in order to maintain his hold on the government, must have a majority of at least 61 members in his coalition. Right now, with the withdrawal of the defense minister’s party from the coalition last week, Netanyahu’s majority has been reduced from 66 to 61.

While the government can keep running on a slim majority, if another party withdraws from the coalition it would be dissolved and early elections would be scheduled. Currently the coalition is comprised of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ). Yisrael Beytenu, the party of former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, had five members in the coalition until Liberman resigned last week, reducing the stability of the coalition.

This present government was sworn in on May 14, 2015. The next election is scheduled for November 2019, but could happen earlier if another party leaves the coalition. Netanyahu has been the prime minister for four non-consecutive terms.

After Liberman resigned last week, political jockeying began immediately. Education Minister Naftali Bennett threatened to pull his Bayit Yehudi party if he wasn’t given the defense minister position.

But Netanyahu managed to cast the issue in his favor. He accused Avigdor Liberman of deserting the nation’s key security post at a crucial time. He called Bennett selfish for making his demands. He claimed that because he was privy to all the information he was “obligated to complete” in order to ensure Israel’s security.

“As I said yesterday, we are still in a military campaign. During this sensitive security time, it is irresponsible to bring down the government,” he said. “Even if people try, we will continue to work for Israel’s security.”

Liberman’s resignation came after Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, launched nearly 500 rockets at Israel in one day. He called Israel’s response, by reaching a ceasefire, “weak.”

“What happened yesterday with the ceasefire with Hamas was a surrender to terror. There is no other word for it,” Liberman said.

Netanyahu now holds the position of prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister.

Kehila News spoke to Messianic believers around Israel regarding these recent events. Although not everyone agreed, the general consensus was that early elections would be harmful, but a stronger response to Hamas would’ve been helpful. Here are some of their responses:

I think this was the right decision not to have early elections and Bibi (nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu) has absolutely come up on top. My feelings are one thing and my knowledge, that I don’t know what the PM knows, make me trust the cease fire. Beside possibly many casualties and the fact that Gaza is Judah’s inheritance. We do not want to control Gaza or turn it over to the PA. We are between a rock and a hard place, so we will see.” E from Jerusalem

I do not see any benefit for an early election. It’s a waste of time, money and increase of confusion. I do foresee that in the next election, Bibi will lose much of his power. I do think that the need to crush Hamas is long overdue. This is a brood of vipers which enslaves the people they control. The only reason it has not been done, and we continue to tolerate rockets fired at our civilians, is that we have been manipulated by world public opinion. We fear that if we use our power to break the power of the terrorists, that the world will come against us. I believe there were other factors which prevented Bibi from striking them.” D from the Galilee

I was against the withdrawal from Gaza in the first place (when Israel removed Jewish residents in 2005). What was the result? We’ve had a wide variety of weapons raining upon us every time Hamas (and Iran or Qatar, or whoever is pulling the strings) thought it expedient to do so. I’ve thought that the Israeli government has shown too much restraint EVERY SINGLE TIME we’ve been attacked. (My strong feeling about that is the only reason I voted for Bennett.) I’m displeased that Netanyahu has kept the defense portfolio for himself, and would have liked him to appoint Bennett. That said, I’m aware there are other influencing factors that we are kept in the dark about. I concede that it’s possible it’s not just cowardice that keeps Israel from retaliating to such a degree and in such a way that no one would dare to attack us in the future. Or maybe it is.” J from Jerusalem

I am In favor of early elections, although I do think that Israel should have agreed to a cease fire. But, sadly, there will be more opportunities to take out Hamas. It’s most important to remember and to apply: 1Tim. 2:1,2 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” H from Haifa

In terms of early elections, since Bennet reconsidered, it’s good the way it is. I would have liked to have seen us move against Hamas, but I allow for the fact that there might have been compelling reasons I am unaware of which persuaded the government not to do so.” C from Jerusalem

If this is a political tactic in order to pull the government right and then return to work … it seems a bit extreme. If this is from God to bring down the government and transfer it to Yair Lapid, that could work. But in my perspective Lapid will be more leftwing. In the meantime 1. it weakens the government 2. divides the people 3. belittles the prime minister 4. strengthens Hamas immensely and 5. brings us to another round of elections that are a waste of time and money.” A from Jerusalem