Netanyahu hopes to present new government by next week, and it likely won’t have any ultra-Orthodox parties, giving national religious and ‘secular’ a chance to redefine Israel’s religious policies
According to reports across the Hebrew media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally conceded that he will not be able to form a stable majority coalition that includes the ultra-Orthodox parties that have long controlled the religious institutions of the State of Israel.
While Netanyahu would prefer a government that included the ultra-Orthodox Shas, which tends to simply go along with any and all policies so long as tax revenues flow to its own causes, an impromptu alliance between the centrist Yesh Atid and the right-wing Jewish Home parties meant that doing so would leave Netanyahu with a minority government.
Yesh Atid, which stunned everyone by becoming the Knesset’s second largest party in January’s election, and Jewish Home, the new face of the old National Religious Party, don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on major diplomatic issues like Jewish settlements and the peace process.
However, the two parties are fully united in their belief that ultra-Orthodox hegemony over determining who is a Jew and how Jews must live needs to be broken. They also agree that it is high time that the ultra-Orthodox community, which receives large sums of government funding for child welfare and seminaries, join the workforce, start paying taxes and carry their fair share of the military burden.
The talk now is that Netanyahu will give Yesh Atid the ministries of health, interior and welfare, allowing it to keep its election promises to bring about social change that will benefit the entire population, and institute an educational system that fosters broad acceptance of the Bible and Jewish culture.
Jewish Home is looking to take the ministries of industry, housing and religion, the last of which will allow the party to seriously alter the way the state relates to Jewish religious issues. There is even talk of Israel electing its first national religious (as opposed to ultra-Orthodox) chief rabbi.
Netanyahu reportedly hopes to present the new government sometime next week, and if Yesh Atid and Jewish Home have their way, it could mark the beginning of something quite unique in the Jewish state.
We will explore this new phenomenon in greater depth in the upcoming issue of Israel Today Magazine.