On June 13, a new governing coalition made up of eight of the 12 parties in the Knesset came to power after winning a confidence vote 60-59. JEWISHcolorado President and CEO Rabbi Jay Strear answered questions from the Intermountain Jewish News about the nascent government, the first in 12 years not led by someone named Benjamin Netanyahu, who will now lead the opposition in Israel’s legislature.
What is your overall reaction to the new government?
JEWISHcolorado congratulates Prime Minister Bennett and alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on successfully forming a governing coalition and wish them and their colleagues success.
This coalition is historic in its diversity, with parties from the right, center, and left, and for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab party is a coalition signatory. After four elections, it’s our hope that this coalition remains strong and advances the current needs of Israel and its people.
Your feelings about the new prime minister, Naftali Bennett?
You will recall the cliché that among two Jews you will find they have three opinions. This dynamic exists in our community and is even more clearly present in the relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel.
Regardless of the prime minister and the makeup of the Israeli government, we share the same objective: a safe, secure and thriving Jewish state.
What about the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu?
Netanyahu’s premiership has seen the Israeli economy double in size and Israel increase the number of countries with which it has diplomatic relations—most notably in the Arab world—and strengthen key relationships.
We hope he’ll help Israel continue its growth as he begins his third tenure as leader of the opposition.
Will the new government cause any significant changes vis-à-vis the Palestinians?
Changes in Israeli-Palestinian relations are hard to predict given the spectrum of positions on the issue in the Israeli government. But those disagreements are meaningless when internal Palestinian issues—Hamas’s rule of Gaza and use of all parts of the territory to launch attacks on Israel and Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah’s refusal to hold Palestinian elections—remain unresolved.
Will the new government affect Israel’s international standing?
I think that the current trajectory of Israel’s international standing will continue. Yair Lapid and Gideon Saar—who, according to the coalition agreement, will take over for Lapid as foreign minister in two years—both bring successful public service experience to leading the Foreign Ministry.
Lapid has already picked up from where his predecessor, Gabi Ashkenazi, left off, with friendly conversations with his counterparts in the US, European Union, and the United Arab Emirates.
How is the new government likely to affect relations between Israel and the American Jewish community?
So far, there appears to be a strong commitment to strengthening the relationship. Reports regarding the government creating a department focused on Conservative and Reform Jews in the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs are encouraging and, hopefully, will come soon.
It is a fact that the majority of American Jews support the Democratic Party, and we’ve been troubled by the weakened support for Israel within the party.
Foreign Minister Lapid’s commitment to restrengthening Israel’s relations with the Democrats is an important step that we hope will be well received by the Democratic party.
How secure do you think the new coalition will prove to be?
This wide spectrum may pose challenges to the coalition’s durability, but we’re encouraged by all coalition parties’ pledge to put differences aside and “responsibly govern the country.”
As Israel leads the world in emerging from COVID and picks up the pieces from the intra-communal violence that broke out in its mixed cities last month, this government is well positioned to strengthen the bonds within Israeli society.
And, frankly, our Israeli brethren certainly deserve a break from campaigns and elections.