Political Chaos Eroding Will

From the January 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

Israeli politics is in turmoil yet again, with the media labeling the present government as “doomed.” As Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struggles to form a “national unity” government following the collapse of his coalition, actual political unity is further from reality than ever.

Dec. 2, 2004, Sharon sacked five members of the secular Shinui Party, his Likud party’s last remaining coalition partner, for refusing to pass his proposed 2005 state budget—the “most stunning defeat” he had suffered since becoming prime minister (Financial Times, London, Dec. 3, 2004). Two other smaller parties had already left, or been forced to leave, the coalition. This leaves Sharon with control (albeit nominal) of just 40 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament, the Knesset.

Not only that, the right-wing Likud itself is split, with Sharon’s own party members undermining his policies, particularly his Gaza withdrawal plan, which only half the party supports.

In order to gain the needed support to avoid both the collapse of his government (which has already been subjected to three failed no-confidence motions) and the forcing of early elections, as well as to gain backing for his Gaza initiative, Sharon is seeking a coalition with the main opposition party, the center-left Labor led by Shimon Peres, along with some small religious factions. Though there is general consensus that Likud-Labor partnership would be limited in duration, any such relationship between Sharon and Peres will likely speed the sellout of Israel, as Peres is a strong proponent of ceding land to Israel’s enemies.

The irony of a party leader having to court his opposition to gain support denied him by his own party illustrates the deep and multiple divides within Israel’s leadership—itself a reflection of the division among its people.

Further ironies surrounding this latest debacle give a clue to the extent of chaos in Israeli politics. Sharon fired the five Shinui ministers—who actually generally support his economic policies and, more importantly, his Gaza withdrawal plan—apparently to make way for ultra-Orthodox parties, which, in some cases, reject both. The motive here, it seems, was to persuade his own right-wing Likud Party into accepting a coalition inclusive of the opposition Labor Party. “Yosef Lapid, the Shinui leader—echoing the sentiments of many ordinary voters—said of the prime minister’s wooing of the ultra-Orthodox: ‘This is the greatest absurdity in the history of politics’” (ibid.).

Meanwhile, both Sharon and Peres face internal party leadership challenges from Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak respectively. This is besides the corruption inquiry into a campaign financing scandal that Sharon must deal with.

And barriers still exist to any national unity government actually forming. For example, Labor has said it will refuse to enter into the same cabinet as one of the ultra-Orthodox parties slated for office unless it drops its opposition to the Gaza withdrawal (ibid.).

Israel’s political track record is not good. In its 56-year life, Israel has had 30 governments—and only two have completed their terms.

By looking at the political disarray, one may wonder how Israel can possibly present any semblance of a united front to its enemies. The future of Israel will provide living proof of Jesus Christ’s declaration, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

Watch for continuing political chaos and infighting that will further erode Israel’s will, its ability to take any decisive long-term action and its political position with respect to other nations—all of which will increase its vulnerability and the likelihood of its resorting to desperate, even fatal, tactics to resolve its perpetual crises.