Shalom Bayis in Name Only

(Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Shalom bayis is a supreme value, whether we’re talking about family, shul, community or the government of Israel. But only when the sparring parties make the effort to reconcile, engaging in the kind of serious middos work that allows for some level of harmony and cooperation. Otherwise, it’s shalom bayis in name only.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with the agreement reached last week to delay the budget deadline by three months, thereby averting elections. On the one hand, elections now would have been a disaster, for several reasons.

One, the cost. In this corona economy, the country can’t afford to spend billions of shekels on an election that may result in yet another stalemate. True, the polls show the right-religious bloc gaining 63 or 64 seats, but we’ve been there before — three times — and know that such surveys, this early in the game, are meaningless.

Two, the coronavirus — the reason for the unity government’s establishment. We are facing an unprecedented crisis that requires the full attention of the prime minister and the government. As United Torah Judaism and Shas said in a joint statement: The priority must be “the good of Israeli citizens in their battle against the coronavirus and influenza ahead of the winter, and in the difficult economic crisis which Israel is facing.”

Three, how much divisiveness can one country take in such a short period of time? As Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz said in an address to the Knesset plenum shortly before last week’s vote: “Social tensions in the country could deteriorate and, G-d forbid, if we get to another election, more blood will be shed in the streets.”

Everything possible must be done to avoid another three months of vicious, anti-chareidi campaigns by Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid — especially during a pandemic when people are afraid for their lives and their livelihood, and looking for a scapegoat.

On the other hand, an agreement to hold the government together, just for the sake of the citizens/children, won’t last if it’s not accompanied by sincere efforts to get along. If the mistrust and disdain shown by the two parties toward one another continues, there’s no chance that a budget will be passed in three months’ time, at which time elections will be called automatically.

What’s disheartening is that even as the parties were agreeing last week to take the steps to hold the political marriage together, they were taking jabs at one another. Gantz, in his speech about the need to exhibit national responsibility, said he “would never allow anyone [i.e. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] to erode our democracy or appoint puppets.”

The Likud was no better, accusing Blue and White of “dragging the country to elections, with false claims and by creating difficulties at the last minute.”

After money spent on creating this huge government, the parties might want to consider some good old-fashioned coalition counseling. Let Netanyahu and Gantz and the other leaders spend some time learning how to communicate and how to listen. Most importantly, they should learn that in a marriage there are two parties and that the needs of the other have to be taken into account in order to ensure a successful relationship.