Beyond the Cusp

April 11, 2019

Finally, the Israeli Elections are Done

 

Well, that is except for the yelling and finagling required to form a coalition. Here is where Israeli elections become confusing for most foreigners and also many Israelis. First, it will likely take until Friday before all the votes including from oversees diplomats, soldiers posted away from polling stations and a small select group who are not required to actually vote in person. Israel does not have early voting, mail in ballots for any but a select group as mentioned above and that about covers the voting. The next step is to take the votes for the parties which cleared the threshold of around 3.25% and figure what percentage of the one-hundred-twenty seats in the Knesset each one received. Then the heads of each party or block select who they would prefer to be the Prime Minister and send this to the President of Israel. He then tabulates which of the top vote getters will be first to attempt and cobble together a coalition. As the President is the only person technically who will view these choices, he could pick whomever he preferred and nobody might be the wiser. From the vote breakdown, it appears that the coalition will be a right of center coalition under Likud and Bibi Netanyahu, again. Yes, again. The estimates are he may end up with the exact same coalition as last time and as of this time, the main difference might be that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and their New Right Party may not clear threshold. Their split from the Jewish Home (our party) may be seen as a huge miscalculation or they may be credited with forcing Likud to move slightly further right and promise many of the same changes on which they had campaigned.

 

The way a coalition is put together in Israel also leaves something to be desired. There are far more parties in the Israeli soup than anywhere else than we know. This leads to the next Prime Minister having to meet demands from each party. All too often, two parties will demand the same Ministership such as defense or finance leading to real headaches, for the coalition builder, not us, we get to cover all the in-fighting. Other parties are easier to deal with as their main expectation is monetary support for their schools or their neighborhoods or their specific defining character of their party. The sticking point often comes down to who is permitted and in how many numbers or percentages are permitted to be deferred from Military service. Please do not request that we follow down this path any further, thanks. Eventually, a coalition will be hammered out or maybe the President will be forced to either allow another election high vote party leader to make a go of it or he can call for new elections. There is a time limit on how long each individual is permitted to put a coalition together and this limit is often the deciding factor on whether parties forgive their main demands and settle for half a loaf instead of two loaves, one under each arm. All of this fun and excitement will likely take a few weeks before all is said and done, and as usual, more will be said than done.

 

There will be a second result from the election which Americans will fully understand, the Israeli media will need to explain how so many of their polls and predictions could be so wrong. This will extend also to the American media which also called the Israeli results quite incorrectly. In both cases, this can be credited to a combination of political bias and wishful speculations rather than honest evaluations. That is fine as the Israeli media fell very much in line with their American counterparts in calling the United States Presidential elections wrong for the 2016 election cycle. In many cases, we all wish the media would do more reporting and less pontificating and editorializing. News is to be reported with as little bias and massaging as possible, something we all could benefit from. Us, we do not claim to be reporters, we state clearly that we are editorialists and thus have a flavor to what we write. Some have thanked us for being as straightforward as we do try, but where we fall on most issues is obvious and we seldom vary from our positions. At the least, we try and also provide alternate views and are quite liberal in accepting comments including critical commentary.

 

What probably was the most interesting prediction about this election was that the government would collapse in approximately six months and Israel would be driven into yet another election cycle. It has been quite a while since an elected Israeli government completed their four-year term before new elections were called due to the coalition collapsing or the main party deciding that elections were advantageous at a particular point. As elections are not held immediately after the fall of a coalition, going to elections is always a bit of a risk. There can be a whole sea change in the mood of the people from unpredicted events and other influences. It really is you call elections and you takes your chances. This was evident in the election results this time as when elections were called, within a week it appeared that Bibi would win easily, the New Right Party formed by Bennett and Shaked after leaving Jewish Home looked to be strong and polling comfortably over ten mandates while the Jewish Home appeared in complete free-fall and total disarray barely clearing but a mere one percent. With the initial numbers in, Jewish Home and the small bundle of parties brought together appears to be at five seats plus one they will receive from Likud as promised in the deal-making agreements and the New Right is on the cusp of not even making threshold, actually, without strong support from the votes left to be tallied, they very well may be beyond the cusp in the wrong direction and failing to make it into the Knesset. Some are blaming Bibi for their potential failure as he made a number of announced policies which were directed at the New Right taking their positions which may have brought a fair number of votes back to Likud which they initially stood to lose to the New Right.

 

Bibi Stands and Promises Judea and Samaria Local-Council Leaders

Bibi Stands and Promises Judea and Samaria Local-Council Leaders

 

This brings us to the final and longest lasting stage of Israeli elections, blame placing. There will be no lack of finger-pointing, accusations, recriminations, subversive theories, rapprochements, excuse-making, blame-laying and all-around claims laying all the blame on anyone but those who felt cheated by actions of others. There is no love lost in politics and Israel is no different. The saving grace in Israel is within a month of the new coalition taking power, there will be an entirely new set of reasons to blame them for not delivering on what they promised. Then start the in-fighting and eventually it gets to the point that nobody wants to take the heat and everyone runs from the kitchen resulting in, you guessed it, new elections. Of course, the largest amount of excuse making will come from those who are not included in the coalition and the loudest screaming will come from those who expected to do well and ended up not even making it into the government either in the coalition or in the opposition. You will note we did not say loyal opposition as politics in Israel has become almost as contentious as it has in America and as such those not in the coalition show no love lost on those they blame including or especially Bibi Netanyahu. We will all be told how he used devious maneuvers, outright lies, exclusionary rhetoric and just about every possible accusation of evil doings which anyone can imagine, and Israelis are imaginable if nothing else. So, if your party is included in the coalition, then you have to remain slightly reserved for a while and if your party is in the opposition then whale-away at whoever you believe is most responsible for you not getting your way, after all, they deserve everything you can throw at them, don’t they. In the meantime, we will wait and see how the coalition shakes out, what our party (Jewish Home) receives as an enticement and whether it parallels that we most desire. As for us here, we are waiting to see if Bibi will keep his most contentious promise which he stood before Judea and Samaria local-council leaders promising that immediately after the new coalition is seated, he would move to extend Israeli civil law to all their communities ending the horrors they have faced under military law and the vulnerability that placed them in before the courts, specifically the Supreme Court (see above picture). This is definitely one promise which would be political suicide for him to backtrack as doing so would make him vulnerable to parties to his right leaving the coalition. But some who are always suspicious have claimed this is exactly the situation Bibi seeks such that he will be forced to seek new coalition members from the more left leaning parties or even form a unity coalition with Gantz and seek some form of peace with the Palestinian Authority along the lines which Gantz proposed early in the campaign. His plan included another disengagement while leaving IDF stationed in the areas of Judea and Samaria, something we covered in some depth here in our early run-up coverage of the elections. This includes what we foresaw as the deepest and most serious problems which could result. Anyway, Israeli elections are done and in the can except not quite yet as the song and dance stage is soon to be entered.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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