JTA — It’s been filled with accusations, insults, threats to bolt, apologies and duels on Facebook, but it’s official: Israel’s governing coalition has survived one year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seen fit to celebrate the occasion with an animated video listing the coalition’s accomplishments. It leaves a lot to parse, but here are a few thoughts on what it says about the state of Israel’s government.
Out of a two-minute video, only 15 seconds total are spent on the coalition’s defense and security accomplishments; no time is spent on diplomatic accomplishments. This is surprising given the emphasis Netanyahu places on Iran and regional terrorism in his speeches and statements, but unsurprising given how the past year has gone for him on those fronts.
On Iran, the prime minister’s relentless advocacy failed to prevent an interim agreement on a nuclear program that Netanyahu has portrayed as nothing short of catastrophic. Diplomatic efforts have fared even worse for the coalition. Netanyahu filled in as foreign minister for much of the year while Israel’s altneu foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, weathered a corruption trial (he was acquitted). Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry employees have struck twice since last March.
And the thorniest coalition issue, by far, has been Israel’s flailing negotiations with the Palestinians, which went unmentioned in the video. (Maps of Israel in the video also didn’t demarcate the West Bank.) Jewish Home, Netanyahu’s coalition partner to the right, has opposed the talks from day one, as does much of the prime minister’s own party. The talks started with an unpopular prisoner release and could very well end fruitlessly in a matter of weeks, possibly taking the left flank of the government with them.
Also unmentioned, somewhat surprisingly, was the recently passed legislation to include ultra-Orthodox Israelis in the military draft. This was the signature issue of Yesh Atid, the Knesset’s second-biggest party, and was the coalition’s core consensus issue. It’s possible that Netanyahu left it out due to the in-fighting it caused among his partners, or maybe because it takes effect only in 2017.
The remainder of the video dealt mostly with infrastructure, education and economic policy. Unemployment went down, economic growth was relatively high, education fees decreased and health benefits rose. What the video did not mention, though, is housing prices. Rising real estate costs were one of the central issues of last year’s campaign, and though Netanyahu has set up a committee to draft recommendations, this year prices rose again.
From 2009 to 2013, Netanyahu had a stable, relatively calm coalition of his so-called natural partners on the right. The present coalition is anything but natural — combining religious and secular, left and right. Its record over the past 12 months is a mixed bag, but the fact that it’s still together may be reason enough for Netanyahu to smile.