It took Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all but one of the 42 days that the law allowed him to form a coalition. But he was finally able to present the news of a new government to President Shimon Peres last Saturday night.
The new, 33rd government of the State of Israel will comprise 68 members of the Knesset from four parties: Likud-Beitenu (31 seats), Yesh Atid (19), Habayit Hayehudi (12) and Hatnua (6). The new Netanyahu government, therefore, will have a seven-seat cushion in the 120-seat Knesset.
Prior to his meeting with President Peres, Netanyhu said “The new government will work together in full co-operation for the benefit of the entire Israeli public. We will act to strengthen the state of Israel’s security and to improve the quality of life of its citizens.”
These words by Netanyahu were probably spoken, in one way or another, by every incoming Israeli prime minister since the first days of the state in 1948. But this time, the expectations upon the prime minister will be significantly different because the nature of the new coalition is significantly different than past governments.
The coalition is essentially centrist, without the participation of extremist parties of the left or the right and without the participation of the haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, who will now sit in a 52-strong Knesset opposition led by the Labor party.
Security issues have always dominated the national discussion in Israel. They still do. But there is no disputing that domestic, economic, social and electoral change hovers in the air in Israel. The challenge for the new government will be to steward the country through this change with as little upheaval as possible.
We wish them wisdom, strength, courage and an abiding concern for the others’ dignity in leading this stewardship for the good of all Israel.
Their work has already begun. And, as we know, like all service for the public good, it is never-ending.