JERUSALEM (VINnews) — On Tuesday evening the mandate granted to Prime Minister Netanyahu will expire and frantic last minute efforts are still being made to form some kind of right-wing government. The key would seem to be in the hands of Yemina leader Naftali Bennett and his adversary in the religious Zionist camp Betzalel Smotrich. Yemina has stated all along that it will support Netanyahu if he can form a government. The only government Netanyahu, who has more enemies than friends in the current Knesset, can cobble together would have to include support of the Arab party Ra’am.
As explained previously, Ra’am is a breakaway from the Joint Arab List which is composed of Muslim conservatives. It is not fundamentally pro-Zionist or anti-Zionist but prefers not to deal with Palestinian issues and instead focuses on the needs of Israeli Arabs. The Likud as well as Yemina are willing to form a minority government supported by Ra’am and even the Chareidi parties have expressed their agreement to such a move as it ensures a right-wing government which would not be hostile to Torah Jewry. However the Religious Zionism faction of Betzalel Smotrich has insisted unequivocally that it will have nothing to do with a government supported by Ra’am, even if the Arab party is not officially part of the government.
In the last few days intense pressure has been applied on the tiny faction as well as Religious Zionist rabbis. Some have indeed changed their approaches: Rabbi Zvi Tau, a venerated rabbi and the head of the yeshiva which split from Merkaz Harav known as Har Hamor, stated that Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party is acceptable if the alternative may be a left-wing, anti-religious party. However Tau has only one MK beholden to him -Avi Maoz – and even though other rabbis including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu expressed the same pragmatic approach, the other MKs of Religious Zionism have not abandoned their ideological position that a government cannot be based on Arab support.
Smotrich later received support from the most senior of the Religious Zionist rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who reiterated that the government “should not rely on Ra’am for support.”
The problem is that the most likely alternative will be a left-leaning, anti-Torah government headed partially by Bennett and partially by Yair Lapid which will also be supported by Arab parties. It is hard to understand the ideological purity of Smotrich and his friends if this would lead Israel to a far worse government than the one being touted or to the bedlam of a fifth successive election in which there is no assurance that the right-wing will have any hope of forming a government. When their are two unsavory alternatives, a bird in hand is usually worth two in the bush.