The political crisis that has prematurely erupted in the wake of the dispersal of the Plesner committee is an unnecessary headache. From a bird's-eye view it is hard to discern what the problem is. After all, in terms of individual interests, the parties have more in common than not. It appears that none of the coalition members want early elections, so why is it so hard to stop the elections train, when it is headed straight for a collision?
There are those who apparently benefit from this crisis. Various advisers have been whispering in Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz's ear recently that he should end his partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. Advisers are telling him that the only way to reanimate the political corpse known as Kadima is to stand strong on the issue of enlisting the ultra-Orthodox and insist that every citizen complete mandatory service. (Currently, ultra-Orthodox and Arab citizens enjoy blanket exemptions from service.)
In any case, it looks like Mofaz is in a lose-lose situation. If he compromises and stays in the coalition, he will be seen as having zigzagged yet again. If he quits the coalition, he will be mocked for quitting less than two months after having joined. If he stays, the members of his party who are still loyal to former party chairwoman Tzipi Livni will split from the party and join up with her, leaving him to wallow in the polls that all predict Kadima's demise. If he quits, Kadima will split anyway; they will find another excuse to run and sit in Livni's warm lap.
Some of Netanyahu's associates could also benefit from a crisis, apparently. There are several Likud members who don't go to many lengths to hide their dislike for Kadima. None of them would shed a tear if Mofaz and his friends were to quit the coalition and disperse in the wind. The last thing they want is for the Likud-Kadima partnership to succeed and for Netanyahu to secure seats for Kadima members in the next Likud Knesset list.
Since this latest political crisis began, the prime minister has also sustained criticism from public protest movements for caving in to haredi (ultra-Orthodox) demands at the expense of the Plesner committee, which was set to recommend drafting the ultra-Orthodox and imposing penalties on individuals who refused to serve. The protest leaders insisted that Netanyahu had missed a historic opportunity.
From their vantage point, the protest leaders may be right. But they are wrong about one thing: Netanyahu never promised to enlist haredim before the elections. That is not what he was elected to do. This is not the issue with which he was going to make history. It was the High Court of Justice (which ruled the exemption granted to haredim unconstitutional) that forced him to delve into this issue. It was only after the court ruling that Netanyahu promised to rectify the problem, but who says that Plesner's way or the protesters' way is the right way to do it? Maybe the right solution is Yair Lapid's proposal: to exempt the yeshiva (religious school) students for five years.
Only the outcome will determine which method works. We will only know the answer in about five years. In the meantime, it would be best to maintain a degree of humility and restraint — it couldn't hurt.