Chatzi Hamalkut

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 5, 2009

In the coalition negotiations after Israel's general elections, Bibi Netanyahu made strenuous efforts to tempt Tzipi Livni to join a unity government. He offered her party a large number of cabinet positions and the vice premiership - or, in the media's shorthand, chatzi hamalchut- half of the kingdom.

The unnoticed implications of such an expression seemed lost on both reporters and politicians who have been using it constantly in recent weeks. Chatzi hamalchut comes from Megillat Esther. Ahasuerus tells Esther three times that he would do anything for her "even to half the kingdom, it shall be granted you".

Is Bibi the foolish king who offers too much to woo his consort? Is Tzipi a wily woman relying on her charm to navigate in the male-dominated world of politics?For those whose first encounter with Hebrew was in a religious context, it is hard to shake off the biblical significance of expressions. We cannot use chatzi hamalchut unburdened of its original connotations as many native Hebrew speakers can. In this case, it is an advantage. We have the pleasure of enjoying a live Purim spiel just days before the festival, with Israel's two most important leaders playing the main parts.

Last updated: 6:25pm, March 11 2009