In these kinds of controversies, the left wing of this patchwork government will find itself in a structural and permanent disadvantage. It all began with the endless process in which the left in Israel drifted towards the center, submitting to the terms of discourse dictated by the right. Subsequently, replacing Netanyahu became the overarching goal of this camp, more than the realization of an ideology. That’s how Naftali Bennett, a leader with six Knesset seats, became prime minister; this was how the possibility of adding the Joint List to the coalition was rejected out of hand; and that is how the right-wing nature of this coalition was predetermined.
From that point on, the center-left continued paying a hefty price for the ousting of Netanyahu from the official residence on Balfour Street. In terms of the allocation of portfolios, the placement of Gideon Sa’ar as justice minister, of Ayelet Shaked as interior minister and of Ze’ev Elkin as minister of housing will give the center-left serious and daily headaches. Another volatile portfolio has not been handed out after Habayit Hayehudi MK Hagit Moshe rejected it, leaving the post in Bennett’s hands. This is the new ministry for settlement, established after a previous election cycle by Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely and Tzachi Hanegbi. This ministry is in fact the one responsible for settlements beyond the 1967 borders.
There are a few other land mines facing the left lurking in the shadows of the political drama. Thus, for example, the coalition agreements call for a scandalous increase in budget for Ariel University. Beyond the political implications of such a move, this is an increase that comes at the expense of other institutions, rewarding that institution for exceeding allotted student quotas.
Bennett’s declarations regarding the Iran issue, taken one-for-one from Netanyahu’s page, did not reflect a new centrist-leftist position either. After 12 years of Likud rule, Iran is closer to having nuclear weapons, with Israel having moved farther apart from its allies. Always hovering over all these volatile issues will be the left’s commitment to abide in principle to coalition positions on multiple issues.
The right is already prepared for the new government. There are dozens of non-profit groups, institutes and activists waiting to pounce on ministers and lawmakers with plans for reform and legislation. They don’t care whether it’s Netanyahu, Bennett or Sa’ar sitting at the head of the table. They’ll exploit every window of opportunity. The left, in contrast, is unused to ruling and lacks such an organized and powerful infrastructure. The exploitation of political opportunities by the left will depend, among other factors, on the establishment of such an infrastructure.
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