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Why the new Israeli coalition seems like something out of an ‘Avengers’ movie

“Unusual,” “unprecedented” and “unlikely” are the commonly used adjectives to describe the uncommon coalition preparing to govern Israel. And their usage is perfectly understandable: If the current coalition survives the internal and external pressures it faces and takes office on June 14, it will truly be all of those un-words. Not only does the coalition encompass parties on the secular hard left and religious hard right, but also depends upon the support of an Israeli Arab party that, would you believe it, happens to be Islamist.

Yes, it seems too marvelous to believe. But as any teenage scholar of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — including the one living under my roof — could tell you, there are reasons to believe in this instance of the marvelous.

It happens that the story arc of the Avengers offers not just striking parallels to the current coalition in Israel, but also some possible lessons for the real-life coalition members.

Of course, some of the parallels are superficial. There are, for example, similarities in the ideological fault lines running through both the Marvel and Israeli groupings. The politics of the leaders of the Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), roughly map onto the leaders of the Israeli coalition, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. Those who have watched “Avengers: Civil War” know that Cap leans libertarian and Iron Man leans liberal.

Similarly, those who have listened to Bennett and Lapid know the former — like other Silicon Valley whizzes — prefers less government while Lapid — the son of Tommy Lapid, founder of the leftist Shinui — plumps for more government.

The personalities and politics of yet other members simply compound the Rube Goldberg-like nature of both coalitions. The founder and leader of the annexationist Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, resembles Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk for his knack of breaking things. Not so much large objects like planes and trains, though, as much as large objectives like a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. Both tend to bulk up and bash away at obstacles in their path. But only one turns green.

As the lone woman in the coalition, Labor’s Merav Michaeli, resembles Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), formerly known as the Black Widow. Though always dressed in black, Michaeli has more than color preferences in common with Romanoff. An ardent feminist, Michaeli refuses to use Hebrew’s gender distinctions, explaining that it’s “not so much about the outcome — it’s more about you should always do, and never accept what others are dictating.” Or, as Romanoff declares: “At some point, we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

But there are deeper parallels. The Israeli coalition has been described by just about everyone as an “anti-Netanyahu” formation. Its raison d’être is to pry Bibi’s hand from its hold on power. By the same token, we can label the Avengers — joined by T’Challa and the Wakandans, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Valkyrie, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange and, of course, Korg — as the anti-Thanos coalition. Its raison d’être is to lop off the hand of Thanos — specifically, his left hand that, sheathed in the Infinity Gauntlet, wreaks universal destruction. (Any parallels between Netanyahu and Thanos are purely coincidental.)

Apart from this one negative goal, neither coalition had cause to coalesce. Each of them was driven together by their opposition to an existential threat looming over their world. Yet what holds true for individuals also holds true for coalitions. “It’s not enough to be against something,” Iron Man tells Cap. “You have to be for something better.” Once the Avengers do join forces, they find common causes beyond the defeat of Thanos (Josh Brolin). Perhaps because they learn how to travel through time — better not to ask — they understand they are defending not just the present world, but also a future world. As the brilliant scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) tells Ant Man (Paul Rudd), “It’s not about saving our world. It’s about saving theirs”—namely, the generations to come.

Clearly, the end of Thanos is not the end of the story. Once he is gone, other crises begin to crackle and pop. Take the environment. While Thanos was a sociopath, he was a sociopath with a cause. He decided to wipe out half of the universe’s living creatures because of the threat posed by growing populations, growing pollution and growing scarcity of resources. While few Avengers fans think this solution a good one, most also think the problem poses no less an existential threat than did the lunatic who “solved” it by snapping his fingers.

The real solution is instead found in collective action based on the common good. But the good resides not just in the end we seek, but that we seek it as a coalition. In other words, we learn that acting collectively is as much a desirable end as it is a necessary means. This is especially true when those who form this coalition hail from different planets and represent different life forms, ranging from talking trees and walking rock piles to blue-skinned humanoids and thin-skinned raccoons.

The current coalition in the state of Israel is far less fantastical than the one in the state of Marvel. This might or might not be cause for optimism. Yet, while one does not know how this story will end, many of us do know what T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) knew: “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

Robert Zaretsky teaches at the University of Houston. His latest book is “The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas.” He is a contributing culture columnist at the Forward.

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