God works in mysterious ways.
It was hard not to think about the election in the run-up to Sept. 17 – the campaign posters on every billboard and hung from every highway overpass, the bombastic rhetoric shouting from the radio, television and social media, and the text messages. Oh the text messages. Dozens a week from parties I was interested in and from those that I wasn’t, and dozens more on election day. And these texts were superseded in number only by the texts advertising election day sales. And it is a shame I had to work on election day, unlike most of my fellow citizens.
As I write this, all of the votes have been counted, but that still does not tell us much about the new government because the parties must agree to form a ruling government coalition.
Now the horse trading begins, as the president of the country interviews the heads of all the parties to get some idea of who has what support for being prime minister and taps that person to try and form the next government in what is now Israel’s 22nd Knesset.
Forming that government will not be simple because the heads of the largest parties have all climbed up some very tall trees with their assertions of who they will and won’t, sit in a government with. It has become a nearly unsolvable Gordian Knot, one that could potentially lead to a third election, God forbid.
Many pundits here and Israel watchers abroad have said despite coming in right behind the center-left Blue and White party and despite the fact the right-wing and left-wing blocs are in a dead heat, with Avigdor Lieberman’s secular right-wing party in a column by itself, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost this election – he is weakened and everyone knows it – and should he be tapped he cannot form a government without asking for the help of either Lieberman or a left-wing party.
I agree. Netanyahu also will next month face a pre-indictment hearing on three different corruption scandals where he has to tell the attorney general, who has already said that his inclination is to indict, why he should not be indicted. An indictment in any one of those cases, and most significantly in the Submarine Affair, or Case 3000, should lead Netanyahu to resign, as have two prime ministers before him.
But “Bibi” has vowed to hang on, to continue to serve as the head of his party, and to continue to serve as prime minister. Lieberman, the kingmaker, has declared he will only support a secular unity government with both Likud and Blue and White. Former army chief Benny Gantz is willing to be in such a unity government, but only without Bibi. So you can see the problem.
President Reuven Rivlin has promised the Israeli public he will do everything in his power to make sure we don’t head to yet another expensive and, frankly, worthless election. A third election result would probably look a lot like the first and second of 2019 – a deeply divided electorate that is disenchanted, fatigued and, let’s face it, disgusted.
So where does Rosh Hashanah fit into all of this?
Rosh Hashanah is a time of introspection and a time for second, or maybe third, chances. A time to ask for forgiveness. A time when God plans and man laughs.
For there to be a new coalition government, at least one leader will have to climb down for the good of the country, and he will have to ask some of his supporters to forgive him for not following through on his campaign promises.
The person tapped to form the next government has up to six weeks to form his coalition. That means on Rosh Hashanah and certainly on Yom Kippur, there will be more people than usual lining up to pray to God for the outcome of this very complicated situation.
May we all have a shana tova – a sweet and happy, a successful and productive, a peaceful and safe new year.
Marcy Oster is a former Clevelander who covers the Middle East for the Cleveland Jewish News from Karnei Shomron, West Bank. To read more of Oster’s columns, visit cjn.org/oster.