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[Israel Politics 101] A Hopeful marriage – the Political merger between Gantz and Lapid

Yesh Atid party head, Yair Lapid wasn’t joking when he suggested that he and Israel Resilience party head Benny Gantz lock themselves in a room and emerge only when white smoke can be seen from the roof (the system used when choosing a new pope).

Indeed, the white smoke resulted from intense negotiations which yielded the coveted merger of the two hopefuls whose sole aim is to take down the ten-year veteran Likud party prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Together, the party’s new name is Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) which stands for the colors of the Israeli flag and refers to anything made in Israel. This new party is poised to win the needed amount of votes required to form a coalition and unseat the ruling party which has dominated the country for a decade. Already one poll is predicting a win of 36 seats for the new party, leaving Likud with only 26. Another poll has the numbers at 36 to 30 respectively and yet another poll brings the race a bit closer with 35 to 32. Either way, for the moment, Blue and White is expected to win with the hope of changing the landscape of the political monopoly.

Of course, it should be noted that the aforementioned expected results is only the beginning. Even if the Blue and White party attains the highest number of votes, they still must succeed in building a coalition of other collective parties in order to reach the number of 61 Knesset member recommendations which would then put them in a strong position to be the ruling governmental party.  While many of the centrist and center left parties would be inclined to support the Blue and White party, some of their own minimal membership numbers make them ineligible to be considered as a supportive group to be counted as part of the Gantz/Lapid coalition.

Yet, a Blue and White win would be an amazing upset with far-reaching impact, both for the secular population and the believing community in the land, it’s important to understand what led to this moment in time.

The past ten years have brought a stronger choke hold by the ultra-Orthodox which have largely determined day to day life issues of birth, marriage, death, Jewish citizenship and registry – all based on Orthodox worthiness – often being decided with what many have viewed as much political corruption and self-interest. To the Israeli population, which became fed up with the status quo, and has sought to enjoy a more pluralistic, democratic and less overtly religious society, this move has been a long time coming. Now that it’s here, many feel, for the first time, that the possibility exists for a dramatic change to take place in how Israelis can enjoy more freedom to live their daily lives as they please.

In order for this merger to happen, both Gantz and Lapid had to be willing to make generous compromises for what they felt was “the good of the country.”  As revealed by both men, “having seen the country being torn apart” motivated them to “put their egos aside to decide on a mutual agenda and run together.” (JPost, 2/22/19).  For Lapid, this meant surrendering the top spot to the former IDF general as he stated, “A winning team needs to be led.  I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t believe that Benny Gantz could lead us to victory and then lead the country.  He’ll be an excellent prime minister.  I believe in him.” (Ibid)

Of course, that number one spot is expected to be rotated if a party win is realized.  As expected, the current Prime Minister reacted to these developments angrily and defensively, stating that the Blue and White party will “endanger Israel’s security and economic success.” (Ibid)   He also used the threat of such a win being the catalyst which will ultimately contribute to the official formation of a Palestinian state, while at the same time reminding the public how safe life has been for them over these past ten years.

Unquestionably, a Blue and White win would bring sweeping changes to Israel, likely freeing up Sabbath transportation practices which have greatly limited buses from running on that day.  It would also likely oversee some changes in the very stringent marriage laws where only Israeli Jews (one born to a Jewish mother, according to Jewish law) are permitted to marry in the country and only by an Orthodox rabbi.  It could also mean the end to government stipends for ultra-Orthodox men who are paid to study Jewish law while being exempt from the mandatory military service that is required by all Israeli young men and women. 

For believers, perhaps, the most important change would be taking the Interior Ministry – the government agency which determines who is a Jew and has, for the last many years, sought to block all Jewish believers from freely immigrating to their land, out of the hands of the ultra-Orthodox and recognizing Messianic Jews as having the same ethnic legitimacy which would grant them the right of return to the Jewish homeland. Such a move could have a tremendous impact on many Jewish-born believers who have not dared to immigrate, knowing just how hostile the present government has been in that regard. 

With an uptick of anti-Semitic acts in recent days, both throughout Europe and the U.S., moving to Israel could become a viable option for the first time to those who have felt excluded. 

With the possibility of such freedom, it would behoove many Zionist Christians who have believed in and supported Netanyahu to be willing to see this election from the perspective of their Jewish counterparts in the faith who either live here already and are viewed as unworthy and non-Jewish by the ultra-Orthodox and also from the perspective of those believing Jews who wish to live in the land of their forefathers but have been unable to do so for fear of having their faith discovered and then ultimately being rejected. It, indeed, might be time to usher in a new era which which would make it possible to fulfill the scriptures which categorically state that EVERY Jew will return to their land.

Chava Stein

Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.

https://kehilanews.allisrael.com/person/chavastein/

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