Beyond the Cusp

October 7, 2019

Israel Government Election Potentials

 

Israel held their second elections in order to attempt and allow for some governing coalition to be possible in mid-September. The April elections were inconclusive as the so-called right-wing parties; the religious, nationalist, conservative and/or Zionist parties, reached sixty mandates, one short of the necessary sixty-one mandates. The main reason that no government was able to be formed was due largely to two distinct reasons. The main reason which the media latched onto almost immediately, that Yisrael Beiteinu under the leadership of Avigdor Lieberman made demands which, if adopted, would have cost the support of the Haredi parties and cost the coalition more mandates than Yisrael Beiteinu could add to the attempted coalition. His main efforts demanded that the Haredi lose all or virtually all their deferments from IDF service, requiring all students attend public schools with their Torah and religious schooling being relegated to an after-school activity and other demands for mainstreaming the Haredi communities even against their resistance. The September voting realized the same divide as the April elections and left the sole formation of a government requiring what is called a unity government with Blue-White and Likud sharing the office of the Prime Minister and working together despite their disagreement on virtually every point of governance. Perhaps this is the ideal time to try and explain and define the differences which has the Israeli population so evenly split in halves making forming a government difficult, not impossible, just very difficult.

 

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The main points demanded by Avigdor Lieberman is a good starting point as all his policy proposals are largely based on a single premise, forcing the Haredi to meld with the whole of the Israeli society and removing the exceptions they have earned from previous governments. The two main points were education and IDF service. Avigdor Lieberman is making these demands despite strong evidence that the Haredi communities are inexorably moving to meld into the mainstream society even if at a fairly slow rate. He demands that the Haredi be forced to immediately meld into Israeli society losing all deferments for Torah scholars, their religious schools being replaced by the students being placed into the public-school system relegating Torah and religious studies to an after-school exercise. To a neutral observer, one would have to believe that Avigdor Lieberman holds the Haredi and religious communities in contempt and desires to destroy their independence and separation from normative Israeli society. He has attempted to force some of these concepts into law with little if any success and has now decided to demand these concessions up front, taking no chances. As noted above, the Haredi and religious communities have been slowly but surely moving towards melding with the rest of Israeli society without any pressure from the government. They are following the same process as the rest of Israeli society no matter their origins. No matter which groups one would choose to observe, be they the Russians, Haredi, Western European, Eastern European, Ethiopian, North American, South American or some other more exotic of Jews returning to their homelands of Israel, after three, four or at most five generations they are mostly merged with the rest of Israeli society. Their former native tongue is less used even at home except when the grandparents visit as their Hebrew leaves something to be desired.

 

There exist numbers of Haredi entering the IDF completely voluntarily despite being eligible for deferments. Haredi women have already been working with their forming companies themselves such that they can have a comfortable work environment. The Haredi men are lagging behind their better halves, but the number of Haredi men entering the workforce has increased year after year. But this rate, despite showing signs of increasing, apparently is not sufficient for Avigdor Lieberman who would prefer to force it into an established fact already achieved. The Haredi, according to him, have become too large a liability and, if not addressed by the secular community, will soon bankrupt the economy. But, even some in the Haredi community have already realized that their communities are threatened should they continue resisting normalization and are making sure that their children are adequately educated to enter the job market. We expect with time that the male Haredi communities will also form their own start-up companies just as their women are already pursuing. The problem with caving to the demands by Avigdor Lieberman, and similar demands from Yair Lapid of the Blue White Party, is it will very probably cause the slowing of the normalization of the Haredi community as they react to what they perceive as an attack on their way of life. Sometimes, attempting to force change on a community results in the retarding of their changing in the desired direction.

 

The question is why Avigdor Lieberman is pressing to force things on the Haredi communities which they are already starting to do on their own. The reason is almost purely political. His Yisrael Beiteinu Party had been losing support as their membership aged. His very public insistence on forcing the normalization of the Haredi community, including attacking their school systems, is designed to bring additional voters into his party, or at least voting for his party. Lieberman is tapping into some of the far left and far right and other pro-secular (read anti-religion) Israelis in addition to his normal voting support. His tactic has worked to this point, but only time will tell if this choice will prove all that advantageous with time. The surprise was that Yisrael Beiteinu would not be part of any right-wing coalition without some major concessions. This has been the sticking point making the forming of a coalition by Prime Minister Netanyahu as Avigdor Lieberman has all but refused to join such a coalition unless the Haredi Parties and communities allow for his life-changing new laws demanding their complete surrender to a secular life. This would lead to the Haredi not sitting in a coalition where Avigdor Lieberman’s demands were being met. On the other side, Blue White Party cannot form a government even with the mandates coming up just a few votes short. In order to form a governing coalition, Blue White Party would be required to persuade the Arab Parties, or at least a fair number of these parties consisting of Arab, Communist and other parties. The problem with such a coalition is that once again Avigdor Lieberman. Should he ever sit in a coalition with Arab Parties, his support would all but evaporate and it would be the end of his political life. This is the conundrum faced by both the Likud Party and the Blue White Party in forming a ruling coalition.

 

Some have suggested that Blue White might persuade one or both Haredi Parties into forming a coalition with their holding the Prime Minister office. Should Blue White attempt such a coalition, they would run into a large difficulty. Avigdor Lieberman is far from the only politician who desires forcing the immediate normalization of the entirety of the Haredi communities. Another politician who has made much of his name by making these demands is Yair Lapid, the number two (or three depending who you ask) person in the Blue White Party and one who would share the office of Prime Minister should they manage to form a coalition. Blue White would be required to disband their relationship with Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party. This would severely cripple any hopes of forming a coalition even should they be able to bring the Haredi onboard. The only other means, according to almost all observers, is for the Likud Party and Blue White Party to ameliorate their differences and find some common ground. Yair Lapid would be required to forgive his demands on the Haredi and Likud would need to back off their promises for annexation of the Jewish communities in the Shomron (West Bank) and both come to terms on several other issues including some concerning economic policies. This eventuality, to us, appears to be next to impossible. Yes, the two parties might manage to reach sufficient agreement to form a unity government, but any such governing coalition would be unstable and unlikely to last more than a few months, maybe a year. Such a government is not a solution and there may not be any viable solution considering all the particulars.

 

That leads to consideration of what might resolve this situation of such an evenly divided nation. The first point which is required to be considered is how seriously the average Israeli has been affected by there not being a coalition or Knesset, Israeli parliament, addressing any problems or difficulties since April and now a second hung election not producing a coalition. If the numerous people we have interacted with are any example, Israel is mostly functioning smoothly without any ruling coalition and a functioning Knesset. The government is still functioning largely fine as the several departments remain staffed and are simply quietly doing their jobs and providing their services. There will not be any new laws or regulations without the Knesset, but many would claim that such is a good thing. There is a better than even chance that there will be no government formed from the September elections and yet another election may be required.

 

The divide in Israeli society is not as extreme as these vote tallies appear to indicate. Much of the divide is a result of the ramifications of the devastating Oslo Accords. On the political right, there is a strong resistance to the “Two-State Solution” because of the allowing for an Arab state in the heart of Israel holding the overlooking mountainous region around the Tel Aviv metropolitan region where over three quarters of Israeli population, production, utilities and almost everything else exists. Their fear is simply rockets threatening the tallest skyscrapers of Tel Aviv using line-of-sight-targeting as well as increasing terrorism as a result. Many who still support granting the Arabs a state in most, if not all, of the Shomron believe what their far left leadership claim that by giving the Arabs these lands, despite all their promises to continue demanding more, will bring peace and security if only those religious zealots on the right would come to their senses. For those who wish to know exactly what any Arab state in the Shomron would become, they need look no further than Gaza where the Arabs were given their own region completely devoided of any Israelis since early September of 2005 as a result of the Gaza withdrawal which resulted from recommendations initiated by United State Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and fully backed by President George W. Bush and pressured by them upon the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who was required to form a new government in order to find sufficient support for enacting their insistent demand. Despite such evidence, much of the world still insists that Israel surrender everything and anything the Arab powers demand. There is another divide within the Israeli Jewish community, namely the religious and the secular. Even the religious have a divide between Haredi and the other factions including Reform Judaism, Traditional Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative and other non-Haredi religious Jews. People need to understand that Judaism is different than other religions as the Jews are also a People. This leads to there being Jews by birth but not practicing Judaism as their religion with some actually having joined a different religion while being born and remaining a Jew biologically.

 

What will happen if Israel is required to hold a third election within one year? Well, Israel will be the butt of additional late-night jokes on television as well as at the water cooler. We are used to such things and will survive, if not thrive. The outcome of such a future election will be largely identical to the average of the two former elections. The possibility that there will result a government coalition is fairly slim. What has been frustrating is that the voting has favored a right-wing coalition approaching sixty-percent of the votes cast. With a couple of right-wing parties not attaining threshold, their voters were not included with those attempting to form a coalition. The left-wing and Arab parties formed partnerships such that all their voters would have party groups which would pass threshold. One reason that some of these right-wing parties failed to reach threshold was due to misleading polling which showed them receiving two to three times as many votes as they actually attained. What was interesting was that the further left the polling data, the higher these parties were polled to receive. There are those who believe that these misleading polling numbers were intentional hoping to prevent these parties from accepting joining other parties and thus wasting right-wing votes. So, we have conspiracy theorists here in Israel, we are not surprised. Whether or not the right-wing smaller parties will have learned anything remains to be seen. We can expect the polling results to be just as slanted attempting to reduce the representation of these supporters of these parties should they remain running alone. The other problem is something unique to the Israeli parliamentary system. Both Likud and Blue White were guilty of this problem as they each spent more time attacking the parties who would be their normal parties than those on the opposite side politically. With the predominant campaigning being used to maximize the two largest parties by attacking the smaller parties with similar or more polarized positions hoping to gain more mandates for themselves at these other parties’ expense. This may be part of what has led to the hung elections as it might be costing their potential coalition mandates as a result. Additionally, there are the misrepresentations which are almost always a part of any political contest. Israelis are fortunate that life remains largely unaffected by the political impasse being faced. Still, President Rivlin is pressing the two large parties to find some means of working together in a unity government. Thus far, we are facing a situation where leaders of Blue White refusing to sit in a government where the Prime Minister is under investigation of misconduct, even if the investigations are found to be purely politically motivated. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not ready to pass the leadership of Likud. Perhaps the upcoming Likud primary election scheduled in the near future will solve that situation by choosing a new leader. The odds of such are almost nonexistent, but stranger things have been known to happen and we will just need to wait and see what the future will bring.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 24, 2019

Reflections on the Latest Israeli Elections

 

Israel went to the polls again on September 17, and voted a near identical result to the April elections leading to a better than average chance that no government will be able to be formed. So many of the reviews we have come across have interpreted this completely wrong. Most are claiming that the Israeli democracy is illogical and defective. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who got it correct realized that the problem is that the population is relatively evenly divided. We already covered here the real reason why forming a coalition is so difficult, explaining that because of one group of parties which are outliers backing neither major party forces, any government needs to realize well over the fifty percent plus one usually required in any normative election in a parliamentary government. This is not a detractor of the Israeli parliamentary democracy and the vibrancy of our democracy. The elections were simply a realistic representation of a country divided almost evenly in their view of what the future of Israel should steer towards.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

We agree that part of the problem is fatigue over Bibi Netanyahu leading to some simply supporting anybody who appears to have a better than even chance of replacing him. But the claims that the divide is between right-wing and left-wing is not a completely honest means of defining what is occurring. The first thing which needs to be addressed is what exactly is meant by right-wing and left-wing in Israeli politics. Yes, part of it is over economic outlooks and the separation between preferences for Capitalism against Socialism, but this is actually far from the central dividing issue. The real divides come from two separate but interdependent divides in the Israeli populace. The main divide is between religious and secular with the other main divide being nationalists and Zionists who are opposed by internationalists and those still holding onto the idea of a Palestinian Arab state and the two-state-solution. Then we have the political allies often referred to as the Joint Arab List which also includes Communists, Arab nationalists, secularism, Pan-Arabism, Eco-socialists, Islamists and other traditional left-wing causes. The mandates garnered by this list traditionally have not supported any candidate for Prime Minister or named one of the leaders from the group of parties making up this faction. This, more than anything else, is the exact reason that there has been no definitive result. This is also one of the most obvious reasons that the Israeli democracy is functioning in a representative fashion and is providing the exact result that represents her people, a deeply divided people.

 

There is the possibility that the Blue White Party and Likud could form a unity government completely free of requiring the support of any other party. This is the main reason why Avigdor Lieberman’s claim that he would join a unity government and be commanding one of the principle centers of power. He has claimed that without him there could not be a unity government. Apparently Avigdor Lieberman is incapable of doing simple mathematics such as adding together thirty-three and thirty-one and realizing that is more than sixty-one. Since those are the results for Blue-White and Likud, it should be obvious that those two together could form a government. So, what is the hang up preventing such, is it political, personal or simply ego?

 

Part of the reason is political as should Bibi actually agree to such an arrangement, the Likud Party would bleed voters in significant numbers to vote for parties which are either more religious, nationalist or Zionist than the Likud such as the parties which made up Yamina; Jewish Home, National Union–Tkuma and New Right. Such a change could prove to be seismic should Bibi ally with Gantz. This would represent a similar situation as when Ariel Sharon bolted Likud forming Kadima in order to allow him to agree to President Bush’s and Condoleezza Rice’s plan for the Gaza withdrawal. This caused a split in the Likud Party which Bibi has been able to reverse over the last two elections. Furthermore, Blue White leader, ‎Benny Gantz‎, has already declared that he would only agree to a unity government only if he was made Prime Minister as his party received the most mandates. This would be ignoring that the so-called right-wing parties received more mandates than the left-wing parties. Further, there is no way Bibi will join any coalition which he does not lead. Once more, egos are getting in the way of any feasible solution.

 

President Rivlin, who has the undesirable task of deciding who will be given the first opportunity to form a coalition, has intimated that he would fall just short of knocking heads together to force a government being formed and avoiding yet a third election in under one year. He is facing the problem that the right-wing parties are unable to form a government without Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu Party. The problem is if Bibi were to agree to Lieberman’s demands, he would lose the Haredi Parties and still be unable to form a coalition. Were Gantz given the nod, the only way he could form a coalition would be if the Joint Arab List were to agree to sit in with him. The problem is that Avigdor Lieberman has expressly stated he would not sit in a coalition with the Arab parties which would again prevent a coalition. Were Lieberman to change his mind and agree to sit in a government with the Arab parties, his Yisrael Beiteinu Party would splinter as it has a large number of nationalists who would not take well to joining a government with the Arab parties included. This would lead to either the end of Yisrael Beiteinu or their replacing Avigdor Lieberman as their leader. Either choice would be political suicide for Lieberman who is too crafty a politician to make such a blunder. So, without hammering Bibi and Benny into submission, it appears that there is not much that President Rivlin can do to force a government.

 

So, the vibrant Israeli democracy will very probably be heading for new elections once again. This will again be a reason to claim that the Israeli democracy has failed and could be considered dead. The reality is that the Israeli democracy is working exactly as it should and is representing the fractured Israeli populace quite accurately. Just because a ruling coalition appears to be escaping reality and becoming near an impossibility is no reason to claim that the democracy has failed, perhaps it is just very accurate in representing and displaying the point at which we find Israel today. If anything is broken, it is not our democracy or any of the other claims which you may have read elsewhere. What is actually broken are the complaints that democracy has failed Israel. Perhaps it is simply jealousy over the fact that the Israelis are being served well by their democracy as it represents the splits between the numerous factions which make up the various parties. One last note, nobody we have had conversations with has complained that their lives are being impacted by not having an actual government and are instead being ruled by a Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, and a number of Likud Ministers who are in the cabinet plus Rafi Peretz from Jewish Home as Education Minister and Bezalel Smotrich from National Union–Tkuma as Transportation Minister, who are making any choices and will protect Israel should she be attacked. It may even be this combination making the decisions over any response to an attack upon Israel which will prevent such an eventuality from coming to fruition. Maybe not having a ruling coalition and a normal government by the world’s standards will prove to be the best thing which could happen to Israel in these turbulent times.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 22, 2019

Avigdor Lieberman, the Deal Breaker

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 1:54 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Introduction of Issues
As leader of the Yisrael Beitenu Party, Avigdor Lieberman has decided to use the leadership position to mount attacks upon the Haredi and religious Israelis. His complaint revolves around a set of complaints including that public transport be allowed to operate on the Sabbath; the recruitment law which requires every citizen, including all Haredi, serve in the IDF; and for all Yeshivot students and other Torah and religious oriented education students be required to attend regular general state education system which allows for their Torah and religious specific education on their own time. One can only but imagine what his next demand might be at some future critical points such as, well, cutting all public subsidizing of religious oriented schools which are not licensed as having certified general education systems and then Synagogues and on and on. Perhaps he would call for expanding on the court order demanding co-ed seating at a religious concert where the vast majority preferred separate seating and most others might feel some disappointment but worthwhile to hear the concert in Synagogues, the Western Wall and everywhere else where this practice of separation is currently enforced.

 

Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman

 

 

Dear Avigdor Lieberman

 

Avigdor Lieberman, you have been moving inexorably leftward to such an extent that these claims of being conservative is starting to ring hollow. We understand that you support the IDF and this is commendable. But your rubbing elbows with the Blue White Party, a group which has stated their support for the Two State Solution paradigm with surrendering lands to provide the Palestinian Arabs their own state up to the, as Gantz stated very early in the campaign, Separation Barrier. You entered into vote sharing with the Blue White Party which completes cementing your leftward drift reaching a point well past center. Your claims, just as those of the four generals and Yair Lapid, that you support the right-wing and the Israelis living in the Shomron appear as valid as the claims of the average apparatchik spreading disinformation. Your demands of Netanyahu for your support in the April elections was not made with any degree of honesty. You knew that those demands would force the Haredi Parties out of the coalition leaving Bibi with about the same situation we are facing once more, the only government available would be a unity government with Blue White which would break-up the Likud Party with many of the religious and honest conservatives fleeing to the other right wing parties which stand stronger on these issues. Your antics will eventually lead to Jewish Home, National Union–Tkuma and New Right gaining in strength where they will be able to control the discussions and sooner or later take over some future, sooner rather than later, coalition. These are your positions and the items upon which you have decided to take your stand. One of your main complaints is that the secular population and non-Jews not be forced to lead a religious life by the state. Allow us to discuss this point even if it is but the smallest part of your crusade.

 

Your demands go far beyond freeing those who would rather not be put out by religious laws and be free to desecrate the Sabbath with the blessings of the law and the State. Instead, you would instead force by the law to reside in a secular state which would force their allowing vehicle traffic on their streets on Shabbat and that Torah education be pushed into the region of an elective such as after school clubs except with a heavy study load. You have left no room, by your own admission, and refused to allow for any compromise or middle ground. Maybe there can be some middle ground such as allowing each city, township, community and neighborhood be permitted to decide such laws concerning Shabbat and whether they preferred to observe the Sabbath. Also, perhaps a certain amount of secular education could be considered to be met by any Yeshivot and other Torah or religious oriented education, in order to receiver accreditation or certification which could make them more attractive to those who desire a balanced education. The schools which fail to meet the standards would not be shuttered and those which choose to remain with their current education system be permitted to do so. People could decide for themselves which educational opportunity they wish for their children. All that is needed is for more free choice and as broad a selection be allowed to be presented to the public. There has to be some happy medium by which both communities, religious and secular, be allowed to choose for themselves. As far as the draft issue, a real sticking-point for the past few governments, could be set allowing for a percentage of the Yeshivot and other Torah or religious oriented education systems be permitted deferments. The enlistment from the Haredi and religious communities has been rising over the past decade and is predicted to continue as their communities have been slowly moving towards what you would call normalization. Your stance that it is unfair that the secular public is forced to obey religious laws and your solution is for the religious community to live under secular laws, which often makes their lives impossible as they would prefer to live them. You are simply demanding that everything be done under your preference and who cares about those who have different views and desires.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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