Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2020; and in Israel Hayom, May 17, 2020.
Tolerate no hate. Brook no terror. Beef-up the IDF. Be cautious about applying sovereignty. Resist socialists in government. Repel pressures to free the coronavirus economy too fast.
The thunder and lightning of multiple elections have past, bequeathing Israel a hybrid thingamajig of a government, now tasked with the messy business of governing. Here are Ten Commandments that the Netanyahu-Gantz government would be wise to observe:
- Thou shalt put fetters on your political passions.
Tone down this country’s political heat. After 18 months of furious campaigning, lower the flames. Israel needs three or four years of internal recuperation and cooperation.
- Thou shalt not hate.
Be inclusive, not divisive. Settlers are not “propellers,” haredi Jews are not “parasites,” Israeli Arabs are not “terrorists,” the Right is not “fascist,” and the Left is not “traitorous.” Do not employ any Yair Lapid, Ehud Barak or Avigdor Lieberman type of vicious rhetoric. (Thank Heavens they are not in government!) Also, the justice system is not “corrupt,” although it is politically slanted and needs serious reform (see Commandment No. 9).
- Thou shalt heal our coronavirus economy, warily.
This means both repelling pressures to open-up the economy too fast, lest the pandemic burst back in a big way; as well as truly assisting the weaker sectors of Israeli society to survive the economic downturn. I fear that the outgoing government let its guard down too swiftly; the virus threat is far from over. I know for sure that assistance to small businesses and the newly unemployed has been much too slow to arrive and niggardly so.
- Thou shalt invest wisely.
Do not kowtow to the unions. The way to re-spark the Israeli economy and create jobs is by investing in major infrastructure projects and by releasing the housing market from stifling bureaucratic policies. This means resisting the socialist and monopolistic tendencies of the new economy minister Amir Peretz and his trade unionist colleagues in cabinet, Avi Nissenkorn and Itzik Shmueli, as well as resisting other interest groups.
- Thou shalt not steal.
Do not pilfer from the public purse – not for personal gain nor for the sake of political pet institutions. Beware of robber barons on behalf of the Histadrut and haredi institutions. Keep an eye on the many neophyte ministers from Blue & White, who will all-of-a-sudden be running big ministry budgets for the first time in their political careers.
- Thou shalt be cautious about applying Israeli sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria.
If the government insists on proceeding, it should do so delicately and reach-out earnestly to the Democrats and other liberal forces. It must explain that the Trump Plan is the only realistic path towards a two-state solution, and that Israel is committed to the entirety of the plan.
This means leaving a horizon open for a Palestinian mini state in Judea and Samaria if or when the Palestinians “become Canadians” (i.e., become peaceful), as US Ambassador David Friedman remarked this week. It means committing to a four-year building freeze in lands where Israeli law will not apply (which is 50% of what the Oslo Accords termed Area C), as per Trump’s “Vision for Peace.”
The US must ensure that the Palestinian Authority also stops its takeover of this territory with illegal building; and commit to not recognizing a Palestinian state before all of the conditions outlined in the plan for a truly peaceful Palestinian state are satisfied to prudent American and Israeli standards.
- Thou shalt increase the defense budget.
Despite the large current budget deficit and the many new demands for coronavirus economic relief, the IDF must be given leeway to embark on much of its five-year military build-up plan, called “Momentum” (Tnufa). Real war with Iran and its proxies is coming, and Israel may need to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities too.
- Thou shalt build in and around Jerusalem.
Building in E-1, and expanding Maaleh Adumim eastwards too, are best ways to solidify Israel’s long-term hold across the strategic arc from Jaffa to Jericho, which anchors Israel’s hold on the Jordan Valley.
Before the recent election, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he would move ahead with building 3,500 homes in E-1. Tenders were issued for 1,000 homes in Givat Hamatos, and projects in Atarot and Gilo were announced too. These must advance to keep Jerusalem Zionist and thriving.
- Thou shalt improve the justice system.
The roles of Attorney General and Chief Prosecutor should be split into separate positions, so that the Attorney General cannot use the threat of prosecution as leverage against elected officials. Many prominent legal experts are in favor of the change.
The courts need more conservative judges to reset a reasonable balance in the judiciary and to better represent current Israeli society. The religious courts need more religious Zionist judges (and fewer haredi judges) to reset a reasonable balance in the batei din and to better represent modern Israeli society.
- Thou shalt brook no terror.
Make it clear to the Palestinians that even one bus bomb, G-d forbid, or one round of Kassam rockets, will cost them in tangible real estate and in concrete Israeli assistance of all types. (Israel has provided significant aid to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-controlled Gaza throughout the coronavirus crisis; even as Palestinian leaders slander Israel for “spreading” the virus).
Both Palestinian entities, nasty and corrupt as they are, are 100% capable of halting violence against Israel, when they want to. Don’t they dare launch new waves of terror, even if they don’t like Israel’s possible sovereignty moves.