“Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes [to help me lead you].” — Moses’ command to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:13)
Israel has a new government. Its Members were sworn in Thursday evening after Prime Minister Netanyahu named his cabinet.
Netanyahu immediately called on opposition leader Isaac Herzog to join the government as Foreign Minister. The PM asked Herzog to help him unify the country amidst enormous challenges, including the Iran nuclear threat, ISIS, an imploding Syria, a resurgent Hezbollah in Lebanon, the need to find peace with the Palestinians, the need to strengthen U.S.-Israeli ties, badly strained in recent years, and the importance of expanding economic growth and helping the poor and the middle class who face high and rising food, fuel and housing prices.
Herzog thus far has refused Netanyahu’s offer.
The Bible commands us to pray for our leaders, and this new government definitely needs our prayers. We need to pray for Israeli leaders to have great wisdom and discernment on how to handle these domestic and foreign policy matters, and to demonstrate a deep commitment to serve, protect and honor all members of society, Arabs as well as Jews.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Timothy 2:1-3)
There are many deep divisions within Israeli society and Israel urgently needs leaders who understand these divisions and seek to bring healing and unity, not to exacerbate these tensions. Religious and ultra-religious Jews are at odds with more secular and traditional Jews, and with Jews who believe in Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus). Ashkenazi Jews (those from European countries) have deep differences with Sephardic Jews (those from Spain, North Africa and the Arab world). There are also tensions between Sabra Israelis (native born) and those from Russia and Ethiopia. Then there are serious strains between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, as well as with Palestinian Arabs. Many are concerned the deeply divided new government not only reflects the deeply divided society but will make things worse. All the more reason for us to pray to the God of Israel to have mercy on these leaders and on all the inhabitants of the Land.
One major question looming over the new government: How long will it last? Despite a big and unexpected win two months ago for his Likud Party in national elections, Netanyahu struggled to put together the broad governing coalition he promised. Instead, he was only able to cobble together a razor-thin coalition comprising only 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members, the bare minimum. This means that the defection of even a single Member of Parliament — or one who is ill, or one who is traveling or on vacation — could topple the government. It also means that a single Knesset Member might be able to extract all kinds of benefits in return for his or her loyalty to the coalition and/or his or her vote on specific pieces of legislation.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition was formally sworn in on Thursday night after a raucous Knesset session that saw constant heckling, along with accusations by opposition leader Isaac Herzog that the freshly inaugurated government was ‘a circus,'” reported the Times of Israel. “The Netanyahu government, formed after arduous negotiations following the March 17 elections, thus finally took office almost two months after polling day, with the narrowest possible parliamentary majority.”
“The vote on the new cabinet passed by 61 to 59 — representing the balance of forces in the Knesset,” the Times noted. “Netanyahu’s five-party coalition numbers 61 members (Likud, 30; Kulanu, 10; Jewish Home, 8; Shas, 7; and United Torah Judaism, 6), to the opposition’s 59 seats (Zionist Union, 24; Joint Arab List, 13; Yesh Atid, 11; Yisrael Beytenu, 6; and Meretz, 5). Earlier, taking the stand in the plenum, Netanyahu issued an appeal for electoral reform, and, in a veiled appeal to Zionist Union party chief Herzog, said he was leaving the ‘door open’ to expanding his cabinet.”
“I am leaving the door open to expanding the government for two reasons. The first: Because I think the state needs it. And second: Because this is the only way to amend this [political system],” Netanyahu said. Turning to Herzog, he said, “I assume that the leader of the opposition won’t enter the government, but we must come together to change the system.”
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