Beyond the Cusp

July 10, 2019

Israeli Election Midway Report

 

As many have realized or have been told, most of us here at BTC are Religious Zionists and this author belongs to HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party and, as previous writing made obvious, thinks very highly about Rafi Peretz as a capable and outstanding leader. That should take care of relating from what perspective we are viewing the political field and the events within. Most of the activity appears, by the reporting we have seen, to be taken on the left-leaning side of the political landscape. Still, there are some events on the right-leaning side of the map which are moving equally slowly as it appears neither side is in any hurry to actually present a final picture to the Israeli public. What is apparent on both ends of the political spheres is to shore everything up forming the largest coalition to present to the public in their attempts to assure that their side receives the mandates necessary to control the next Knesset and choose the Prime Minister. Fortunately, both sides are having an apparent equal measure of difficulty in herding all their parties into a single coalition such that no votes go unrepresented. As close as the last elections were, which was unsuccessful in forming a majority coalition forcing this unprecedented election immediately following an election; hopefully, no matter which side it turns out to be, this coming election will present a winner and Israel can once again have leadership which will hopefully also be an improvement over the current limbo we find ourselves suffering.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

The events on the left are hair-raisingly frightening, or threatening, depending on your particular view. What has developed is the potential for ghosts from the past attempting to rise back to their former glory, or at least this appears to be their view of the coming elections. The first sign that the past is attempting a return in the near future was the announcement of a new party on the left formed by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak which will be called The Israel Democratic Party. This is the new wrinkle calling his party by a name which appears to be initiated in order to confuse voters and disguise a new look Ehud Barak attempting to distance himself from his former disastrous political history. Part of the new look presented by Ehud Barak is his growth of facial hair as part of the new look Barak. Ehud Barak has not presented any list of names, famous or obscure, who will be part of who he presents to the voting public. This might be due to the fact that what he is attempting to do is have other parties merge with his new party and use it to chisel out a spot at or near the top of such a merged coalition. Where attempting to find some means of corralling a top spot on a list via new parties or simply stating an intent to be listed in such a list without even bothering to form a party, Ehud Barak is aware that his leading a new party will not provide him much if any of a chance of breaking threshold nor making it into the Knesset. But if we have Ehud Barak pegged accurately, his intent is not just to make it into the Knesset, he will also probably demand a share in the roll as Prime Minister perhaps demanding that he be granted at least one if not a two year stint as Prime Minister for the use of his name which he will claim has gravitas. Of course, Ehud Barak would likely be happy to simply be guaranteed a top portfolio such as Foreign Minister or as Defense Minister should a left-leaning coalition be formed.

 

Ehud Barak and His New Look and Beard with Same Worn Out Two-State Ideas

Ehud Barak and His New Look and Beard with Same Worn Out Two-State Ideas

 

But Ehud Barak is far from the most contentious announcement from the left-leaning side of the political spectrum, at least he formed a party. Approximately six months ago, upon the dissolution of the coalition between the Labor Party and the Hatnuah Party led by Tzipi Livni, Tzipi announced her retirement from politics and her acceptance that her Hatnuah Party had no possibility of reaching threshold. Tzipi Livni has apparently refused offers for the Hatnuah Party to join either the Labor Party, with whom she was previously aligned and has a new leader, or join Ehud Barak and his The Israel Democratic Party and instead making a grand offer, though we are willing to bet she would believe it to be her sacrifice to save the left in Israel. Tzipi Livni has hung out her tempting offer that were the entirety of the left form a grand coalition, she would accept a place within their list from which she would be guaranteed to be a Minister of the Knesset and also, she is likely to demand an important Ministerial position in the Prime Minister’s cabinet.

 

Both Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni are names closely associated with the “Two-State Solution” as the only means of reaching peace with Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority Arabs. Apparently, neither of these politicians has noticed that an ever-growing percentage of the Israeli public has put that era and thinking far behind them and hope to never return there in the future. They have also failed to come to the realization that Mahmoud Abbas, just as Yasser Arafat before him, refuses to accept a Jewish State no matter its borders. The Israeli government could place an offer on the table where all Israel would retain is the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area and Abbas would reject it as insufficient sacrifice by the Jews. Abbas views Israel and the Jews in a manner resembling that of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, namely that the Jews need to be protected by their superiors, the followers of Islam. Like the Iranian leader, Mahmoud Abbas refuses to accept the existence of Israel if it remains ruled by Jews. But both Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak, as well as Blue-White co-leader Benny Gantz, believe that there is some magic compromise where land for peace can produce an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. One can only fear what their solution to the threats from Gaza and Hamas with Islamic Jihad who are directed by Iran and Khamenei would be. Both of these politicians as well as the former generals, as a rule, are still living about two or three decades in the past when Israelis generally believed that there was some compromise which would provide for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. After the rejection of the deal offered in 2000 by Ehud Barak and the deal offered in 2008 under Ehud Olmert, Israelis began to realize by in ever-growing numbers that there was no such magical distribution of land between the two parties which would be acceptable and produce peace. For this reason alone, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak would actually cost any coalition including them votes as just their names on the list would be sufficient to scare numerous centrist Israelis into voting for the Likud or one of the right-wing parties. Yes, we list Likud separately as there have been some surprising and dismal political experiences which came from the loins of the Likud. There was Arik Sharon who was Prime Minister during the Gaza withdrawal, though, granted, he had to for the Kadima Party in order to manage to allow this to take place. Kadima was a party which took numerous left-wing politicians from Labor Party and some of the centrist to left-leaning members from Likud, one of which was Tzipi Livni, forming a new government without having new elections, something rather peculiar. Should the left-wing of Israeli politics, which is largely secular, continue to hold to the position that land for peace is still a viable path to peace and that surrendering parts of our ancestral home and parts of the lands which were part of the Mandate reserved for the Jewish State and only prevented through occupation by Egypt (Gaza) and Jordan (Judea and Samaria) after the 1948 war of intended annihilation of the nascent state of Israel by six Arab national armies, then they will soon find themselves politically irrelevant.

 

Not to be outside, there are equally insane movements and problems on the right side of the political scales. In the position most resembling Ehud Barak, we have two candidates, Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin and New Right chairman Naftali Bennett. Neither of these two parties were able to clear threshold but should they form a coalition then the chances are very good that they would make it into the Knesset, though it would still be close. They are having a small number of difficulties currently. The first and potentially most serious problem concerns Bennet and his New Right Party which he and Ayelet Shaken formed when they split from Jewish Home. Currently, it is unknown whether or not Ayelet Shaked will remain as the number two behind Naftali Bennett or whether she will be placed on a list without her necessarily joining any party or if she might jump to another party. There were discussions about her joining the coalition in which Jewish Home is a member, the United Right (who comes up with these names?) providing she was placed in the top slot. This was thrown into serious doubt when the chairman of Tkuma, Bezalel Smotrich, publicly stated his total support for retaining Rafi Peretz at the top of their coalition, this pretty much put the kibosh on placing Ayelet Shaked in the top spot. There have been rumors surfacing twice and thrice every week that Ms. Shaked has joined Likud, has returned to the New Right, is going to run with the United Right or some scenario closely aligned. None have proven true as of yet and, if anything, Ayelet Shaked appears to prefer that all the religious-Zionist parties combine and that she be allowed to lead such a grand alliance. Meanwhile, Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett have been having one of the most glorious arguments that has almost been delicious to observe. Both have made the claim that they should take the top spot in any combined list with the other taking the second spot. Why this has been so amusing is that almost no matter how they decide and having done so, actually clearing threshold, the person at the top of their combined ticket is not going to become Prime Minister. But this is just the introduction, the remainder is where it really becomes weird.

 

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

 

Every so often, advice from upon high comes down to the religious-Zionist and right-wing parties. We suspect that this holy advice can easily be traced to the apparent permanent Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Why and what are we referring to? That we can tell you with a single phrase, unwanted meddling. There comes one of the Likud Ministers every week to ten days advising the political parties with which Likud expects to form a coalition to all of them get over their minor squabbling and just form on nice big amalgamation party and be done with it. Of course, every time one of the Likudnics gives out these pearls of wisdom, the Likud goes up in the polls for next couple of days while a near equal number of mandates for the rest of the political right drop. This is a temporary situation but we expect that somewhere around three days before the September 17, there will start a steady stream of commentary about how the Likud Party needs ever vote that the right can spare and that if right-wing voters really want their votes to count, the Likud is their safest place. We cannot blame the Likud Party for attempting to maximize their list even at the potential loss for our own party, they want to make it clear that Bibi Netanyahu has to be chosen to form the next coalition. This method of scare tactics in the final days leading to the election actually cost Bibi last time as had he allowed for merely one or two percent of the Likud voters to have drifted to Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right allowing them to clear threshold, then the Likud might have lost one Ministerial position but the right-leaning parties would have gained a net of three seats allowing for a coalition to have been formed. Bibi will never learn that lesson as he simply insists on running his campaign against the left-leaning parties until three days before the election when he trains his sights on those who are presumably going to be his allies in any government simply because he cannot help himself. Bibi must reign supreme, even at the cost to those who will be supporting him.

 

Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett and Moshe Feiglin continue to argue over who can bring in the most voters. Bennet points to his New Right falling just short of threshold versus Feiglin not even coming close. Feiglin, on the other hand, points out that as Bennett likely will not have Shaked joining him this election, and that she was the main vote getter, not he, thus Feiglin holds the claim to bringing the most votes. If Feiglin proves correct, then both of them better swallow their obviously high-octane egos and merge with one-another if not with the United Right. This is where it will get interesting as should all the parties to the right of the Likud merge, who gets to be numbers one, two and three on down the list. Rafi Peretz probably has the inside track and, in his case, it is not ego as much as it is that he was happily heading his Yeshiva and otherwise retired with little if any interest in becoming embroiled in politics. When Bennett and Shaked left Jewish Home and the party was lurching in need of a stabilizing influence and somebody to strike a definite direction and give the party the organization it required, Rafi Peretz was approached and originally declined and was subsequently persuaded, implored, swayed and finally convinced that he was not only the man for the job, but very likely the only person for the job. We have researched the gentleman and met him finding him gracious, personable but also with a stature and demeaner which while inviting also demands respect. None of this is surprising as just one part of his life, his career in the IDF, would make for a Hollywood movie. Rafi Peretz initially piloted a combat helicopter, quite admirable in its own right, retired from the IDF as a Brigadier General (our answer to the Blue White Party and their four generals) and was the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces. The rest of his life was equally amazing as we covered here when describing the fifteen to twenty minutes we spent speaking with Rabbi Peretz at a Central Committee meeting. We just wish everybody in Israel could spend that amount of time talking with Rafi Peretz, but if that were to come to fruition, then Bibi would need to worry as Rabbi Peretz would quite likely become the next Prime Minister.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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