By Hal Lindsey
On Monday, September 23rd, the Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White party of Benjamin Gantz agreed to pursue a “unity government” for Israel. Negotiating teams are set to begin working out details of the proposed government on October 1st. It will be a difficult and treacherous process.
After the election in April, a government could not be formed. So, in September, just a few days ago, Israel held another election. Again, there was no clear-cut winner. Gantz’s Blue and White party won 33 seats and Netanyahu’s Likud won 31 seats, leaving them both a long way from the 61 seats needed to form a majority.
Israel has a parliamentary system of government. They call their legislative body the “Knesset.” That name comes from Knesset HaGdola, meaning “Great Assembly.” According to tradition, Ezra formed the Great Assembly. It was a religious council of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets. While it would be difficult to find a sage or prophet in the modern Knesset, the number remains fixed at 120 — requiring 61 seats to create a majority.
Reuven Rivlin serves as President of Israel. The President has many ceremonial jobs but few actual powers. The most significant of his powers is in facilitating a new government following each election. The President must consult with Knesset members to determine who has the best chance of forming a governmental majority.
After recent polling of the Knesset, he found that Netanyahu had a slight advantage with 55 backers, compared to Gantz’s 54. That 54 includes the backing of the Israeli Arab party. It would be difficult to raise either of those numbers to 61, thus the proposed unity government.
Such a government would require some means of sharing power. From 1984 to 1988, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir took turns acting as Prime Minister. While possible, such an arrangement between Netanyahu and Gantz has, at least until now, seemed highly unlikely.
A few days ago, Gantz cited impending indictments against Netanyahu as reasons against pursuing a unity government. Despite the accusations and investigations, formal charges have not been filed against the Prime Minister. He continues to deny all the accusations. The Attorney General of Israel is scheduled to announce a decision on whether to indict on October 3rd. That greatly complicates the process of forming a government.
People tire of politicians. Winston Churchill stands as one of the great figures of the 20th century. He held his nation together during the terrible German blitz. After helping to lead the Allies to victory in World War II, he almost immediately lost his job as Prime Minister in 1945. That’s just how the world works.
It’s easy to forget what things were like in Israel when Bibi Netanyahu became Prime Minister. Bus bombs and intifadas made every moment of every day feel like a life or death struggle. Syria and Hezbollah constantly threatened from the north. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak almost gave away East Jerusalem. Thankfully, Yasser Arafat thought he could get even more, and turned the deal down. Benjamin Netanyahu changed all that. He brought the kind of stability that is necessary for national progress and economic prosperity.
He built an amazing record, but he also accumulated enemies. Those enemies include much of the Israeli and international press corps, as well as liberals in his own and other countries. Nevertheless, he stands as a towering figure in the history of modern Israel — the man Israel needed for the times in which he led.
Those of us who love Israel can hope his leadership will continue during the turbulent days to come. If not, we can be thankful for his leadership to this point.
The Book of Daniel teaches that the revived nation of Israel will one day join in a treaty with the Antichrist. The confirmation of that treaty will mark the beginning of what is popularly known as “the Tribulation.” The present turmoil in Israel seems to be bringing the world closer to that day.