Israel coalition negotiations gridlock: Circus Netanyahu

After the latest elections in Israel gave neither the pro- nor the anti-Netanyahu camps a clear majority, it was up to the (largely ceremonial) President of Israel, Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin, to appoint somebody to try and form a coalition. Bickering between the bloc around Yesh Atid [There Is a Future, centrist] chairman Yair Lapid and the heads of the Yamina [Rightward] and Tikva Chadasha [New Hope] factions left Netantahu still with the largest number of MKs expressing confidence in him, 52, still 9 short of a majority in the 120-member Knesset.

Rivlin eventually charged Netanyahu with the formation task, but basically said he only did so because the law and jurisprudence gave him no other options; that he had grave misgivings about appointing somebody who was under indictments for corruption; that he wished he could turn the task over to the Knesset; etc. In an unprecedented (AFAIK) snub, he did not even invite Netanyahu to the announcement, and left the Knesset afterward rather than pose for the traditional photograph with the [caretaker] PM and the Chief Justice.

Is Ruby Rivlin some sort of postmodern woke leftist? Heck no. He’s a born-and-bred Likudnik himself who earned his spurs as first a Likud caucus chair, then as the longtime Speaker of the Knesset. He is actually in some important respects to Netanyahu’s political right — but he is also somebody who has always firmly believed in law and order, and like so many of us has gradually become alienated by Netanyahu’s egomania and increasingly desperate maneuvers. (Trying to assemble a coalition ranging from neo-Kahanists to Islamists sets a new benchmark in political absurd humor.)

Unlike many of my colleagues, I actually admire “Bibi” Netanyahu in many respects, and still believe he has done great things for the country (most recently the successful vaccination drive and the Abraham Accords). But lately, in his desperate clinging to his office when it is well past time to retire (rather than negotiating a graceful exit in return for closing or plea-bargaining down the corruption cases against him) he has tarnished what would otherwise be a great legacy.

Netanyahu is widely assumed to be henpecked by his insufferable spouse Sara Netanyahu, for whom I have heard quite colorful nicknames.

After Rivlin’s announcement that Netanyahu would form the coalition after all, Mrs. Arbel quipped that Sara Netanyahu would now “do a naked happy dance”.

Me: “I need brain bleach for that image.”

Mrs. Arbel: “The whole country needs brain bleach.”

We’re laughing at the circus unfolding in front of us, because it hurts too much to cry.

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