Israel Is Falling Into Lethal Political Dysfunction
Like America and Britain, the Jewish nation is in an unprecedented state of political chaos. Earlier today, we learned that Israel will conduct a national election on September 17—its second in less than six months. The election is necessary because, for the first time in Israel’s history, a prime minister designate failed to form a coalition government.
This announcement caught many by surprise. In the April 9 election, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party won 35 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament. Following this victory, Netanyahu had six weeks to form a coalition with other political parties. (No single party has ever won a majority of parliamentary seats; Israel’s government has always been some form of coalition government.) Coalition negotiations are always tricky, but almost no one thought Netanyahu would fail to form one—until this week.
Enter Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman leads Yisrael Beiteinu, a hard-right political party that won five seats on April 9. Lieberman, a former foreign minister and defense minister, has a long and tempestuous history with the prime minister. Once a member of Netanyahu’s government and a firm supporter, Lieberman has in recent years turned into one of his harshest critics and a perpetual thorn in his side. Lieberman’s refusal to join Netanyahu’s coalition yesterday left the prime minister with only 60 seats, one short of the required 61-seat majority.
“Lieberman hates Netanyahu,” explained Caroline Glick today. While there is obviously a great deal of personal history between these two, the other key factor was a law that allows ultra-Orthodox Jews to avoid military conscription.
In Israel, ultra-Orthodox Jews are allowed to postpone mandatory military service so long as they are studying in a Yeshiva (a school that focuses on Jewish religious texts). The law dates back to an agreement between the Haredi Jews and David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, at Israel’s establishment in 1948. That year, the Torato Umanuto legal arrangement allowed 400 Jews to abstain from military service. Today, more than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews abstain from military service.
This issue has become a major point of contention, both politically and among the public. Many ultra-Orthodox also receive financial support from the government (meaning Israeli taxpayers), and they don’t have to work. This has angered many traditional (Orthodox Jews) and secular Jews, many of whom work and pay taxes, and all of whom are required to join the military at 18. Many believe the ultra-Orthodox Jews abuse the law to avoid the dangerous job of defending the nation.
Avigdor Lieberman sides with the traditional and secular Jews. He wants the law overhauled to require more ultra-Orthodox Jews to enter military service.
Lieberman’s position on this issue poses a problem for Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox political parties, which obviously support this law, are pivotal allies. Shas and the United Torah Judaism, two of Israel’s largest religious parties, have 16 seats in the Knesset. Without these seats, Netanyahu has no chance of securing a ruling coalition government. On the other hand, Lieberman says he can’t support Netanyahu until he’s prepared to change the law.
Over the past six weeks, Netanyahu made every effort to court Lieberman, even offering him top jobs in government, including the Defense Ministry. Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties even indicated their willingness to compromise on legislation for requiring more ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military. But it wasn’t enough to bring Lieberman to the table. This has led some, such as Glick, to believe that Lieberman’s true motive here was “to bring down Netanyahu.”
Whatever his motive, the result is that Israel is in a state of political uncertainty and chaos. It’s important to note too that Israeli politics—especially the politics surrounding Netanyahu—are already in a state of disruption. This development moves the Israeli political chaos level from Category 3 to Category 4, or worse.
Avigdor Lieberman is far from the only Israeli who despises his prime minister. Netanyahu remains popular, particularly among regular Israelis, but he is deeply resented and hated by Israel’s left and especially the nation’s left-wing media.
The more you look into this, the more parallels you see with United States President Donald Trump and his relationship with America’s radical left. Like Mr. Trump, Israel’s prime minister faces a deeply and openly hostile media that is more interested in giving opinions and pursuing agendas than it is in exploring and reporting facts. When it comes to Netanyahu, many in Israel’s media seem to be almost overwhelmed by hatred. Take this opinion piece from Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading newspapers: “Benjamin Netanyahu’s darkest, deepest fear is coming true. We, an entire country, can suddenly see him for what he really is: A loser.” And that is one of the tamest sentences in the article.
Netanyahu and his family have faced a torrent of accusations and criticisms, particularly prior to the April election. The prime minister has been accused of pandering to the far right, of conspiring to thwart political opponents, and of numerous acts of corruption. Earlier this year, Israel’s attorney general said that he plans to charge Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
Of course, there might be merit to some of these claims, in which case the media has a responsibility to report the facts. (Just this week Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, reportedly agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors over allegations she misused state funds.) Netanyahu is an imperfect man and an imperfect leader. He has no doubt made mistakes. But as it is with Donald Trump, when the mainstream media and leftist politicians talk about Benjamin Netanyahu, there is so much emotion, so much opinion and ideology, so many unsubstantiated accusations and inferences—and so little fact, evidence and reason—that it is hard to know what is truth and what is fiction.
The result? Israel has an increasingly dysfunctional government that is at war with itself. And like Brexit and like the radical left’s war on President Trump, this dysfunction is steadily destroying the average Israeli’s trust in government, the media and Israel’s entire democratic system.
Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, said this about the need for another election: “This is devastating to the average Israeli, who is really tired of such selfish politics. There is no way to explain this situation to the average Israelis, who are saying their politicians aren’t working for their interests.”
You could make the same statement about the people of Britain and America! Who isn’t tired of selfish politicians and political parties putting their own agenda, ideologies and ambitions before the democratic will of the people, before tradition, and before the rule of law?
Isn’t it also remarkable how the people of Israel, America and Britain are all simultaneously experiencing a growing hopelessness about the state of their governments and political systems?
More than any other Western nations, these three countries (as well as Commonwealth nations like Australia and Canada) have been beacons of democratic governance and political stability and constancy. Politics in these nations have always been imperfect, with plenty of clashing, abuse, corruption and scandal. But there has always been an underlying faith in the system overall. All three nations have a political system based on the rule of law and with effective judicial and legislative institutions. All three political systems have built-in checks and balances, which limit the quantity and potency of conflicts, injustices and scandals. All three nations have a journalistic tradition that values facts, truth and law over ideology and opinion.
But all these critical elements are currently being undermined, refashioned or completely destroyed. Today, a palpable and lethal dysfunction pervades the politics and political systems of all three nations. In all three, there is a growing feeling, especially in the general public, that the system is broken beyond repair.
In America, the radical left is actively, openly seeking to destroy a president constitutionally elected by 63 million people. Mr. Trump currently has the upper hand and is restraining the radical left, but the forces of lawlessness are strong and growing stronger. Meanwhile, Britain’s politics are in unchartered waters. Brexit hasn’t just broken two prime ministers, it is destroying the nation’s two largest, longest-established political parties.
What is going on here? Is there a common cause for this collapse into lethal dysfunction?
That is a big question, and one that requires deep study and meditation to answer well. But it is an important question. In Hosea 5:5, the prophet says, “And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.” This prophecy is referring to Britain, America and the Jewish state in the end time, the time immediately prior to the coming of the Messiah.
This prophecy says that these three nations will actually collapse at the same time!
The Bible also explains that the reasons for the fall of these three nations is the same. Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry has explained these reasons many times in many different books, articles and Key of David television programs. In Great Again, he wrote: “God is against three nations in particular—America, Britain and the Jewish nation—because of their history with God, the birthright and scepter blessings today, and their unparalleled rebellion. NOT ONLY IS GOD NOT HELPING US, HE IS AGAINST US!”
If you’re interested in learning more about the intimate connection between these three nations, both historically and prophetically, I encourage you to read The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.
Really, it isn’t hard to understand what is happening in these three countries—to understand why all three are falling into the same lethal dysfunction—if only we were more willing to honestly consider what God reveals in the Bible.
Brad Macdonald is the managing editor of Watch Jerusalem.