It is still difficult to assess how Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will govern in his next government. The public has little interest in begging the Palestinians to return to negotiations.|
But then the Israeli public has rarely had much interest in pursuing fruitless deals with unreformed Palestinian terrorists. The only reason we continue to chase deals with them is because the US is obsessed with supporting Palestinian anti-Israel demands in the name of peace.
To a significant, if not necessarily determinative degree, whether the Palestinians continue to be a salient issue in the coming years will be a function of events in the wider Arab world. The collapse of the Egyptian state, Syria's civil war, and the potential collapse of the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan will all limit President Barack Obama's ability to press Israel to give away land to the Palestinians.
...Where the next government is likely to move ahead are in two other significant, if under-discussed areas: economic reform and religious reform.
ISRAEL RECENTLY conducted its first successful test pumping of natural gas from the offshore Leviathan natural gas field. In the next four years, Israel will become a major natural gas exporter and will make great strides in developing its recently discovered shale oil deposits. Israel's emergence as an energy exporter will have a transformational impact on Israel's economic independence and long-term viability.
Moreover, as the surrounding Arab world becomes more unstable, violent and fanatical, Israel's economic independence and vitality will emerge as our most important diplomatic asset and a hugely important domestic trump card.
Under the economic leadership of Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett, as Israel stands at the cusp of this economic breakthrough, it will be led by its most powerful, and -- at least in the cases of Netanyahu and Bennett -- ideologically committed champions of free market economics.
Yair Lapid's emergence as the leader of the second largest party will lead to one of two possibilities -- Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party, will join the coalition and have no power, or it will be kept outside the coalition and have no power. Either way, both in terms of Israel's ability to capitalize on its economic opportunities, and in terms of its ability to transform the country's religious institutions, Shas's demotion from political kingmaker to political deadweight is a major and possibly transformative development.
...The fact that most ultra-Orthodox men do not serve in the IDF, while receiving government handouts to study in state-funded yeshivot is one source of social friction.
Another source of friction is that while its members do not participate in either the common burden of national defense or in the economic life of the country, due to Israel's proportional electoral system, the ultra-Orthodox minority has managed to maintain control over the state religious institutions and so dictate the (sour) relationship between religion and society in Israel.
Both Bennett and Lapid ran on platforms of universal male conscription or national service and ending the ultra-Orthodox community's monopoly on control over the state rabbinate. A Netanyahu-Lapid- Bennett government could enact major reforms in the religious establishment that would lead to a national-religious takeover of the rabbinic courts and the chief rabbinate of the country. Such a government could also require the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the IDF, and enable the community's members to integrate into the economic life of the country.
...We will learn a great deal about Netanyahu's plans to contend with Iran's nuclear project, the hostile Obama administration, the rapidly expanding and metastasizing campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state in the West, and the rise of genocidal anti-Semitic regimes in neighboring countries through his choice of defense minister.
After the prime minister, the defense minister will be the most important member of the government, on nearly every level and every sphere of national endeavor.