2 Israeli Lawmakers Resign From Government Over Unfulfilled Coalition Deals
Binyamin Netanyahu's government is facing both civilian protests and the discontent of coalition partners
Israeli government minister Meir Porush from the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism resigned Tuesday from his role as minister in charge of managing the annual Mount Meron pilgrimage due to what he called a lack of authority over the event. Earlier this week, Avi Maoz, head of the far-right Noam party, also quit his governmental position as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, declaring that his coalition agreement was not being honored. Both resigned from their governmental roles but remained as lawmakers supporting the coalition.
Porush, also the Minister of Jerusalem and Tradition, kept these two positions.
A poll released on Friday indicated that if new elections were held now, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition would lose the majority, dropping by nine seats, a sign that Netanyahu is at the receiving end of dissatisfaction from both the Israeli public and his coalition partners.
Dr. Ilana Shpaizman, a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, says that the Maoz resignation came after the government did not fulfill the coalition agreement in its totality.
She told The Media Line that the agreement with the Noam party led by Maoz is very detailed and straightforward. The first part of the deal was indeed implemented – the transfer of the unit in charge of external programs from the Ministry of Education; the rest was not realized most likely because of the growing protest from the municipalities, schools and the public, Shpaizman explained.
The fact that Maoz’s coalition deal was not completely fulfilled, according to Shpaizman, “is a sign that the government is trying to pacify the protesters at least in some way.”
At the same time as Netanyahu’s coalition is experiencing trouble from within, tens of thousands of Israeli citizens took to the streets on Wednesday in what they called the nationwide “day of disruption.”
This government, with many ministers who do not have clear jurisdictions and units moving around, is going to cause a lot of problems with coordination which eventually will look like chaos
This is part of the protest movement against the controversial judicial reform that the government is currently legislating, as well as other disputed proposed laws. Protests have been taking place in Israel for eight weeks in a row and, during the demonstrations in the last week, violent clashes have taken place between the protesters and the police.
Shpaizman says that Maoz’s coalition agreement has gone unfulfilled also because the agreement costs money and the Ministry of Finance is in the process of passing the budget and looking for places to cut spending.
Porush resigned because the authority over Meron was not his alone, but also falls under the purview of the Minister of Religious Affairs, Shpaizman says, explaining that this kind of struggle takes place when it is not clear who is in charge of what.
“This government, with many ministers who do not have clear jurisdictions and units moving around, is going to cause a lot of problems with coordination which eventually will look like chaos,” she continued.
Dr. Maoz Rosenthal, senior lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University, says that this government is based on politicians who have the most extreme views on every subject that relates to state and religion. He tells The Media Line that it is natural to see government members quitting as a result of some of the government’s moves.
Rosenthal explains that quitting a governmental position but staying in the coalition is a strategy to balance a Knesset member’s base of support while remaining in a position of power.
“They know that if they keep their (governmental) position, they might get negatively affected because they will lose support within their political base. They do not want to lose support within their parties, but, also, they cannot really leave this government,” he said adding that the Netanyahu government’s current configuration might be the best-case scenario for the parties of these lawmakers.
Rosenthal adds that governments in Israel tend to be unstable, usually over some sort of ideological debate among the coalition partners.
“Israeli coalitions, on average, tend to survive two and sometimes three years, not more than that,” he said, noting that in Israel no government is expected to survive its full term in office, “especially not when you have these type of radical political views within the government.”
The previous government is another example cited by Rosenthal, who said it was the fusion of left- and right-wing politicians that caused its collapse.
However, he believes that the current government is still not on the verge of collapse. In order for it to have a big crisis, there needs to be “a complete party defecting and leaving the coalition,” he said, claiming that there are no signs of this happening in this government yet as both the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist factions are receiving more than would get from any other government configuration.
But Shpaizman says that the coalition’s future is uncertain. She believes that while these coalitional disputes are normal, they are happening way too early. “After two months the coalition should be running smoothly; we usually see conflicts like that and such public objection much later down the road,” she said. “The first couple of months are usually the honeymoon and we do not see that here.”