Waiting for a Unity Government

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I want to reiterate what I wrote two days ago in my first post about the current conflict in Israel. If you’re looking for information on the coordinated Hamas attacks in southern Israel I recommend this Twitter list of (mostly) English language news sources from Israel, if you’re on Twitter. The Times of Israel, the English language version of Haaretz and Ynet are also good. Obviously there are many good sources of information. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive. These are some of the first places I go when I’m looking for the latest information.

With a story like this we’re not going to break new information. I see our role as helping sift through the flurry of new details and the often-chaotic stream of information we’re seeing.

This morning I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s going on with the potential creation of a government of national unity for the duration of the crisis. This has been proposed since Saturday, but with different preconditions by different groups in the opposition. The key demand is to sideline the extremist elements in the current government in any national unity government. But the different opposition factions have different ways of getting there.

The latest news this morning is that the leaders of those extremist factions seem to be relenting to demands to bring others into the government.

But what really caught my attention was something that happened a few hours ago. Yet another former Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya’alon, today issued a categorical denunciation of Prime Minister Netanyahu, placing much of the blame for the attacks directly on him and calling on the opposition not to join an emergency unity government. The state can’t wait for the end of the war, he wrote, Netanyahu has to leave office now.

There’s no doubt that many members of the formal opposition feel this way. But very few are saying that and most seem to accept that the current circumstances simply make a change in leadership impossible. Ya’alon is saying it.

To understand the significance of this requires some context. Ya’alon is a former close ally of Netanyahu’s and very much a hawk. Like so many other former Netanyahu allies he had already moved into the anti-Netanyahu opposition. So this isn’t a current ally turning on the Prime Minister. But most of the political elite in the country has accepted that the crisis is too grave and immediate to have a transition in leadership. The faction of Benny Gantz (yet another former Chief of Staff) has focused on creating a war cabinet comprised of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant, Gantz and his deputy (yet another former Chief of Staff) to direct the war. This would have the effect of significantly reducing Netanyahu’s ability to make unilateral moves (without the support of these retired generals now in government) as well as reducing his and the government’s reliance on the extremists in the current cabinet.

All that said, Ya’alon’s comments, as best I can tell, have garnered relatively little response so far. So who knows? Maybe I’m simply misreading the significance. Perhaps Ya’alon is just on his own with this. Of course, there’s so much happening on the ground in Israel that it’s hard to know quite what to draw from that apparent lack of response. I don’t think anyone expects Netanyahu to go willingly. But we are in truly unprecedented waters. So almost anything is possible.

You have to think someone is not just really, really bad, but a positive danger to the safety of the state to say they need to go immediately, even in the midst of a national crisis such as this.

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