It must still be Purim

What a week of reversals this has become! First, Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to raise child allotments by a whopping NIS 1.5 billion over the next three years. Then, Ehud Barak won an internal Labor poll to join his party to Netanyahu’s shaky coalition.

This is rich — Netanyahu as Robin Hood, taxing the rich to rain money on the poor, and Barak playing the sidekick to Netanyahu. It must still be Purim.

Netanyahu reversed his own policy, from his time as finance minister under Ariel Sharon, of limiting child welfare payments. This policy, it is now generally agreed, was one of the key financial reforms that drove the country’s economy forward. Backtracking on this policy now runs counter to Netanyahu’s stated economic aims of cutting welfare payments and encouraging productivity.

It also undermines the social ideology behind the original move. What he had originally corrected was the inexplicable discrimination in payments that provided more money for the third and fourth children, and so on, than to a family’s first and second children. Obviously, this arrangement is desirable to haredim, who have large families. But it is indefensible on so many levels — because it attaches a higher value to one child than another; because it discourages the heads of large families, haredi and Arab alike, from seeking employment; because it punishes small families with smaller payments per child.

What this agreement says is, “To hell with ideology, I just need to buy some coalition members!”

Barak, too, has made a quick retreat from his election-night speech, in which he said Labor would sit in the opposition. But, a few fat ministries in hand, he dropped that plan and dragged half his (shrinking) party back into the government. This, too, screams, “To hell with ideology, I need to be at the center of attention!”

In the past few days, Labor has been called a bunch of “rags,” and Barak’s maneuver makes it hard to disagree. Of course, he couldn’t have done it alone. That so many in Labor would follow him into Netanyahu’s arms says something about them, too, and it is this: “We have nothing of our own to offer anyone.”

It’s almost funny to imagine the day, not long from now, when this marriage of convenience between Likud and Labor breaks apart. Because that is inevitable. And when it happens, both parties will have regretted the whole thing.

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3 Responses

  1. We could simply . . . VOTE for a prime minister, as well as vote for parties. . . and then screw the coalitions, the parties would need to vote according to how right or wrong a particular issue is.

  2. yes… and throw in the “norwegian law,” requiring ministers to forego their knesset seats, too.

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