They’ve claimed to have a deal on an “emergency” unity government for Israel before, but this time, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz say they really mean it, and that the country’s political paralysis, extended through three national elections in the past year, is over. At last there will be a democratically-credentialed government.
It will be headed by Netanyahu for another year and a half, and then, if the coalition is still holding together, Gantz gets his own year and a half as prime minister. Which is how most of Israel’s Jewish population sees this – a political deal between the two most powerful Jewish politicians in the country – democracy at work.
But the 21 percent of Israel of Arab descent see a failed democracy that excludes them. Over those three elections what didn’t change except around the edges was the fact that both Netanyahu’s and Gantz’ political parties had support from about one-third of the population and that this left both of them short of a governing majority coalition in parliament – the Knesset.
What did change over those elections was the participation of Arab voters, which by the latest election, had grown so much that the main Arab political party won the third-largest bloc in Knesset, enough to complete a governing majority for Gantz. But the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces spurned them, to make his deal with Netanyahu, the one thing he had promised voters he would never do.
Better a Jewish enemy, even one facing criminal charges trial, than an Arab ally. That’s how at least 21 percent of the Israeli population sees the deal, as bad news for Arabs in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.
And that’s without even looking at the details of the deal.
Josef Federman has been the Associated Press Bureau Chief in Jerusalem since 2014.
Federman had written about and helped direct coverage of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in his previous role as Jerusalem news editor.
Federman joined the AP as an editor on the international desk in New York in 1993, transferred to Charleston, West Virginia, the following year and returned to the international desk in 1995.
A native of Westborough, Massachusetts, Federman worked as an editor at The Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2003 before returning to AP as a correspondent in the Jerusalem bureau. He was named news editor in 2006.
Federman has been a chairman of the local Foreign Press Association, an organization that promotes press freedom and safety in Israel and the Palestinian areas. He also has covered assignments in Rome, the Hague, the United Nations, Washington and Cairo and has appeared on U.S. and Israeli media.