Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Well, pretty much as I predicted, Tommy Lapid has begun to make it clear that he prefers perpetual opposition to the responsibilities of governing. First, he declared that he would not sit with the Haredi parties. Not that he had minimum conditions for coalition guidelines (e.g.: drafting yeshivah students), but that under no circumstances would he sit with them. Then, he said he would not sit in a pure left-wing government with Labor and Meretz. Again: not minimum guidelines (e.g.: no negotiations under fire), but that under no circumstances would he join such a coalition. Now, he has said that "certainly" Shinui will not sit in a right-wing coalition. Sharon himself has said that he will not put together a narrow right-wing coalition. But Lapid goes further: he won't be the most left-wing party in a coalition. And although he has not said so, I assume he would not "count" One Nation as a left-wing party. So even if Sharon put together a coalition without National Union, without Shas, but also without Shinui, Lapid would not join the government.
I understand why, of course. Shinui has prospered in the opposition. And Lapid is aware of the precedent of Tsomet, a secularist-hawkish party that roe through the 1980s, won 8 seats in 1992 and then merged with Likud. Shinui intends to be a major party, not to vanish. But excuse me for asking: isn't a political party of this size supposed to care a bit about the national interest? Couldn't Shinui reasonably say: these are our non-negotiables (draft yeshivah students, negotiate under the Quartet framework, whatever) and negotiate in good faith on that basis? And doesn't the refusal tell you something about what this party really stands for?
Bottom line: Shinui will not join a government. Any government. He wants cover on the left, right and center, and no one he disagrees with in the government before he will join. You can add their 15 seats to the 9 seats for the Arab parties that can never be included in any coalition. 20% of the Knesset will now vote "no" to everything. Heck, if National Union persists in its habit of destroying right-wing governments, you can say more than 25% of the Knesset is off-limits. Which means any government must have truly overwhelming dominance - a greater than 2:1 advantage among "in-play" seats - to even come into existence. That's what the country has come to. Any surprise Sharon is already talking about calling new elections?
It's a shame, really, because there is a man and a party who has proposed real solutions to Israel's endemic problems. His party has a real platform on political reform and economic liberalization, two things Shinui supposedly cares about. He has actually fought with Shas, over religious interference in immigration law, not just railed against it. He has profound personal bonifides as a democrat, not just the prejudices of his class and culture. His name is Natan Sharansky, and his party collapsed to only 2 seats, leading to his resignation from the Knesset. This is the saddest thing, to me, about the election: that rather than vote for a party with real ideas for change, Israelis voted for the slogan, "change," and for a posturing, ridiculous man who has no intention of lifting a finger to help his country.