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.

 

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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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June 18, 2019

Election Roller-Coaster Taking Abrupt Turns

 

There have been a few spins and fast turns of late. Some revealed opportunism while others clarified the politics of others. Some were potentially expected and known while others leave one scratching their head as two leaders of one party appear to be heading for different goals. There are some facing an upwards climb in order to remain at the top while others see them simply dancing on in and taking whatever position they desire making any demand they wish. Some of the above may be hyperbole, but it has been a fun and interesting ride this past week leaving much to ponder. Where it will all fall out is anybody’s guess. Likud still expects to form the next coalition and the United Right plans on retaining what they fought over so desperately to put together. Blue White Party is working on damage control on two fronts. First, they are seeking to tone down the anti-Haredi messages and are requesting that Yair Lapid not be so out front and take a quiet seat allowing the all-knowing generals to lead. This is their, as one writer put it, “Rolling out the Generals.” This was a left-wing tactic which has been used before with the most memorable being Ehud Barak, who as having been a general would know every right move. Well, that one did not pan out as prescribed in the campaign and he was soon voted out of politics, then in, then out again and so on. One person not toning down the we give the Haredi too much so it is time for them to serve in greater number in the IDF is Avigdor Lieberman, who has created his own loop-de-loop, more on this later.

 

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Let’s start with Likud, the party expecting to put Bibi Netanyahu back in as Prime Minister. The reality is that they are very likely correct in their supposition unless the unexpected should befall us. Please do not take this as supporting Bibi Netanyahu. What must be granted is that Bibi Netanyahu has fulfilled the expectations that he invented himself. He has made the Likud believe that only he as their leader can lead Israel safely. This has allowed the Likud Party to remain as the mainstay of right-wing political expectations and prevented any mass exodus supporting anyone else. Bibi Netanyahu has also seen to the fact that nobody within the party is permitted to challenge his position. Those who do are often politically decimated or given a position which removes them from contention but also is such that one would be insane to refuse the appointment. This has led to Bibi Netanyahu leading his party for an unprecedented amount of time and as his party is the most prominent on the right, he will be the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history and will remain as such for the foreseeable future as his accomplishments politically are unprecedented in a democracy. Netanyahu will remain as the Israeli Prime Minister into the future until he, or Sarah Netanyahu, decide that it is time for him to retire and probably seek the position as President, something he is very likely to be given.

 

Meanwhile, there has been a call for a unity government with Likud Joining the Blue White Party along with the rest of the left-wing parties including Yisroel Beiteinu, where we are to expect their leader, Avigdor Lieberman, to be given the Ministry of Defense. This call was made by Avigdor Lieberman who was responsible partially, if not largely responsible, for the collapse of the last Knesset coalition. Lieberman has been suspected of socialist leanings and only joining right-wing coalitions simply to receive those guarantees of positions and monetary support for the Russian immigrants he represents. He is doing exactly that which party members expect, he is supporting the interests of his members. His problem is that his constituents are slowly decreasing as a percentage of the voting population. Avigdor Lieberman knows that any renowned achievements he might still be able to make have to come sooner rather than later as he might not have a later politically. One thing we know is that he desperately wants to be given the Ministry of Defense as from there he believes he can force Haredi into serving in the IDF. What is not being noticed by the media and others when covering Lieberman and this issue is that the Haredi are entering the IDF and National Service in record numbers without anybody pressing the issue. Reality is that the more the Haredim are pressured, the stiffer and more widespread their resistance becomes. Simply leave things to progress naturally and there will be little difference between the Haredi and the rest of the population when it comes to IDF and National Service entrants. People are very much a liquid of some unknown sort which will naturally flow more easily than being pushed which is immediately pressed back against and resisted. The Haredim entering the rest of society when it comes to working, IDF service and National Service volunteering, will probably be more easily attained the less aggressively it is pressed upon them. Sometimes, simply leaving it all up to Hashem and the problems often cure themselves. If only the entire world would take that very same approach.

 

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

 

Now allow us to discuss the variations for the future of the New Right Party. This was the effort by Naftali Bennett for him to establish a secular and accepting of religious Zionist party. His efforts appeared to many to be as if he was forming a party which would be Likud Lite, the slender and more flexible Likud which would annex most of the major settlement communities in the Shomron. They formed this party by taking the top two people and another of the Ministers from the Jewish Home Party leaving their former party lurching as it sought new leadership. The New Right rocketed immediately to twelve to as much as fourteen mandates in polling. We warned people that this was not going to last and their future would be better invested in remaining with Jewish Home. We were almost universally ignored. Well, Jewish Home anchored a three-party coalition and cleared threshold comfortably while the New Right floundered and failed to reach threshold by the slimmest of margins. Now at one extreme we have Ayelet Shaked, or at least people claiming to represent her, making moves to bring the New Right into the United Right providing that they replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the ticket with Ayelet Shaked. This has not sat well with Rafi Peretz who after being wrestled from retirement with little desire if any to enter politics into leading Jewish Home and their rebuilding after Bennett and Shaked bolted to form their own party. Now that he has taken over this responsibility, the retired General, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF and combat helicopter pilot, he is not the type to leave a job half finished. Rafi Peretz has stated that he intends to remain as the head of the United Right. But wait, there’s more.

 

At the same time there have been reports that Naftali Bennett has been trying to attract Moshe Feiglin to form a coalition of his Zehut Party with the New Right as the almost two mandates which Zehut received would easily put the New Right over the threshold to enter the Knesset. This begs the question as to how one party will be capable of making deals with two separate parties. Perhaps there is some trouble brewing in the New Right leadership. They have apparently forgotten rule one of a partnership, communication. Then there is the other possibility; they may have decided to attempt separate paths taking whichever one proves to show the most promise. In the interests of Zehut, the offer by the New Right would guarantee Moshe Feiglin making his way into the Knesset without having to compromise on any positions as they would go their separate way after the election. This might not work as well for Moshe Feiglin should there be a greater coalition of the United Right including both the New Right and Zehut which might gain the United Right an additional five or possibly as many as seven additional mandates and allow for Likud and the United Right along with the Haredi Parties, potentially they might be able to choose only one of the Haredi Parties forming a coalition without any need for Avigdor Lieberman. This possibility of a right-wing and Haredi coalition without Yisroel Beiteinu being required to clear the sixty-one mandates to form a coalition. This would be the intrigue of the pre-election machinations except for the one known, the real suspense is what ploy will Bibi Netanyahu use in the closing days to agitate and awaken his base and the other question is at whom will Bibi target with his coming emergency, all hands on deck call which we are expecting. Bibi would not let us down, would he?

 

The Labor Party is also running around with much of a frenzied emergency. One of the most successful parties in Israel history and the sole leaders of Israel politics are now facing with the distinct possibility of not clearing threshold for the first time. They are looking both to the right and the Blue White Party and to the left to Meretz Party to find anybody to throw them a life-preserver and help pull them across threshold and back from oblivion. This is one of the major results of the Israel public moving to the right as well as becoming more Zionist and religious. Labor, a secular left-wing party has been left behind. Add in the Blue White Party and the excitement they cause with their four generals and their claim that as generals they are far more suited to lead the nation than Bibi as he never reached such high rank and thus must not be as prepared to face the security threats facing Israel. We predict that Blue White might not be favorable to any approach from Labor Party as it would not provide sufficient number of votes to make the surrender of two or possibly three seats on their party list. Labor and Meretz merging would be a more natural fit and could potentially lead to a permanent merger forming a somewhat stronger far left party. They would bridge the entirety of the left between the Arab lists and the Communist party to the Blue White Party. A Labor Meretz merger would garner them likely two additional seats in the Knesset and is the only means for Labor to guarantee to get anybody into the next government. This has a potential to change in favor for the Labor Party as they are choosing new leadership and with change there is always the possibility of the unexpected.

 

Lastly, one last means of solving the apparent confusion between the two leaders of the New Right, Naftali Bennett who is wooing Zehut and Ayelet Shaked who is making approaches to the United Right and still make Rafi Peretz happy as well. First thing is to set the record straight that Rafi Peretz is and will remain at the top of the United Right with Bezalel Smotrich occupying the second position. Then simply dangle having Ayelet Shaked reappointed to the Justice Ministership as part of their criteria for joining the coalition. This would make many within the parties of the United Right somewhat more motivated, Ayelet Shaked would be receiving something she covets far more than a top slot on the ticket and possibly not becoming Justice Minister to finish her work there and Naftali Bennet could continue to take the remainder of the New Right, those who would not follow Ayelet Shaked, and he could join with Zehut. Making any offer to either Ayelet Shaked or Naftali Bennett after their disgraceful bolting from Jewish Home and almost destroying the party has to be seen as generosity seldom found in politics. The only reason we advise that this is a decent idea is due to the work Shaked has already performed at this post and it would be of benefit to Israel for her to complete her vision. Any further tweaks could be made along the road. The only other item is we bet that this election Bibi Netanyahu emergency get out the vote last minute revelation will target Avigdor Lieberman and might be sufficient to prevent his party from clearing threshold, and providing Bibi with what he believes is justifiable revenge.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 5, 2019

Is it Time to Replace Netanyahu?

 

The inability of Bibi Netanyahu to find the right formula to form a government was the result of his own doings. His craving for vengeance costed him a coalition yet much of Israel is resigned to his being Prime Minister despite his vengeful animus which threw away the chance for a solid religious Zionist right wing nationalist coalition. I hear many now demanding to know what we are referencing. Well, it comes down simply as the Bibi demanding that it is good to be the king and he plans on deciding who will be the king now and who will be the king of the future. In case you might be wondering who would be the future king, Bibi of course. Had Bibi not decided just two days before the election to promise everything which the New Right led by Naftali Bennett were using as the base for their campaign, then Likud might have lost two or three mandates and the New Right would have crossed threshold and resulted in a gain of four or more likely five mandates. This would have resulted in Bibi having sixty-three seats even without Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. But Bibi was determined to cause as much humiliation and heaped scorn on Bennett and Shaked for their betrayal of leaving Likud in order to seek more productive support. This has been further represented by Bibi fighting the prevailing mood within Likud to bring Ayelet Shaked into Likud with a high position on their list and a guaranteed Ministerial position. Many, if not most, of Likud members and those who hold positions within Likud desire bringing Ayelet Shaked back into their fold and may even see her as the heir apparent to Bibi. This has been the problem, Bibi does not desire having an heir apparent as he has no desire, despite what has been reported, of ever giving up his spot at the top of the list and as Prime Minister as a result.

 

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Since Naftali Bennett has made it very clear that he sees himself as the heir apparent and thought that any party he headed would give Likud a run for their money. Instead, he departed Jewish Home in a manner which left a bad taste throughout the party, and made his own party with Shaked as his number two. Initially, it appeared that his new party would receive over ten mandates, though we warned people that leaving Jewish Home for Bennett’s New Right was a mistake as he would be fortunate to clear threshold, he polled lower and lower and on election day did not pass threshold. The new election might breathe some fresh air into Bennett’s New Right Party but that is only if he retains Ayelet Shaked, which is starting to look very iffy as Jewish Home would also take her back, though Bennett is a wholly different matter. The real problem is because Bibi wanted to extract revenge on Naftali Bennett, and secondarily Ayelet Shaked, the New Right crumbled along with the hopes for a true religious Zionist coalition. Of course, Bibi will deny to the day he retires that this was not of his making and will blame Bennett pointing to his departure from Jewish Home as the reason, not Bibi taking the wind out of their sails.

 

Now we are looking at having no real governance until after the middle of September and also risk the left winning the election and getting first chance for putting together a coalition. Fortunately, such will be next to impossible should the Israeli voting public remain true to form. The best they could hope to patch together is possibly fifty-seven mandates, four short of a majority. This is largely due to the left requiring the Arab blocks to join them in order to even come close to reaching a viable coalition. Even should they find a means of incorporating the Arab lists into their coalition, such an unsteady group would fall apart and require new elections within the first four months. But even to make such a coalition, the Arab parties have proven to be difficult to bring on board as they simply refuse to be part of any ruling coalition where they are not the ones given total control. The simply way of stating this is that the Arab parties will make unreasonable demands and once these are met, they will demand more and more and even more. Eventually, one realizes that nothing will ever be sufficient to bring them into the government and thus making it impossible for the left to form a government at this time. That brings us back to forming a working coalition from the right.

 

There actually could be arguments made for choosing a different party leader from the right leaning parties to form a coalition. The difficulty here is that Bibi Netanyahu would refuse to permit the Likud from joining such a venture. Thus, the only means by which this could work would be through the removal of Bibi from leading Likud. Did I hear somebody say, “impossible?” That is why it is a problem. Bibi would tear the Likud Party into pieces taking a large chunk of the party with him in order to allow him to continue as Prime Minister indefinitely. There was a similar problem during the lead-up to the Gaza withdrawal when Arik Sharon was felled by American pressure to cede Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA) so they could prove their ability to form a functioning governance and state. Well, within two years the PA lost their grip on Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (controlled and provisioned by Iran) who have made war on Israel ever since their 2007 takeover. Erik Sharon was unable to convince the majority of the Likud Party to go along with the plan presented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush to permit the PA to rule Gaza unhindered. This caused him to form the Kadima Party which also included many people from leftist parties such as the Labor Party, and resulted in a coalition made up of strange bedfellows. He kept a coalition and gave away Gaza and the rest is history. The promise that Israel could simply reestablish control if things went wrong itself went wrong and now Hamas and Islamic Jihad control Gaza and threaten Israel representing Iran in the process.

 

We would not be surprised if things went awry, that Bibi would form his own party out of the remnants of Likud and whomever he could bring aboard and make a run at a centrist unity government, taking the same path as Arik Sharon. He could include the Blue-White Party, or whatever might be left after they separate from Yair Lapid and he take the most faithful of his Yesh Atid people with him. Add to this a few sprinklings from both extremes including people who decide that this is the best bet for their future. We can only issue them the same warning we gave those leaving to joining Bennett, be very careful where you cast your lot as things tend to lose their luster once revealed to the sunlight.

 

Still, we have three months plus to the September elections in which time much can come to pass. The attempts by Naftali Bennett to bring the religious-Zionist parties together to run with him leading the ticket are doomed to failure. What does he believe he has to offer after his recent defeat? This is his final push to find his path to being Prime Minister. We long ago told friends that all Naftali Bennett was is Yair Lapid with a yarmulke, nothing more. Bennett believes that he is owed the Prime Minister position on any ticket which he joins. He probably left Likud realizing that he was not going to replace Bibi from within. He left Jewish Home because he believed he was their star attraction and as such he could simply make his own party and people would flock to him and Jewish Home would be decimated. Jewish Home was in complete disarray immediately after he left partially because Bennett had refused to seat the new Central Committee and refused to allow the Central Committee to meet for over a year before he split taking the number two and another Minister along with him. Jewish Home (we) rather than collapse found a new leader, and what a great leader he is, and proceeded to form a small coalition with two other parties and broke threshold. As long as Jewish Home can retain the other parties, all looks bright. There is also the possibility that Jewish Home might pick up Zehut and in the process placing Moshe Feiglin within the top ten positions on the party ballot. Such a move would unite the religious-Zionist parties forming a block which could reach the necessary sixty-one mandates along with Likud in September. The problem will not be incorporating the New Right former Jewish Home party members into the coalition as most never officially resigned from Jewish Home and as such are still members in good standing. Those who did renounce their membership will have a more difficult road back, but will still be welcomed and might even return receiving everything they may have formerly held. These past elections were a disaster waiting to happen and Bibi gave that disaster the push it needed to squelch the New Right and their platform bringing their efforts to a premature end. It was a classic case of cutting one’s nose to spite their face.

 

So, is it time to replace Bibi Netanyahu? Even so, it remains improbable that he can be replaced. He has carefully destroyed every person who came even close to presenting him with a challenge. He did so to Moshe Feiglin and most recently to Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and has done similarly to every individual who posed a realistic challenge to his primacy. We have watched this time and again. That presents a huge difficulty in replacing Netanyahu as he controls Likud ruling it with an iron glove on one hand and silk glove on the other. Those who bed their will to his and serve to increase his power get the silk glove and those who rise to challenge him are struck cold by the other glove. This means that there are only two paths to the position of Prime Minister, one with blessings from Bibi and the other as his opposition. Thus far there has not been one who has curried Bibi’s favor to become heir apparent to his rule and perhaps none sufficiently qualified to challenge him from without. Part of the problem is that Bibi completely controls Likud and has not chosen an heir apparent thus leaving only the adversarial method for defeating him. Thus, one must look at the opponents and their likelihood for challenging Bibi.

 

The Blue-White Party with their presumed impressive list of notable people such as Yair Lapid and the four generals has a problem. The problem is that at least three, if not all four, of the generals hold to the position that some form of the Gaza withdrawal mixed with the IDF remaining in southern Lebanon as the solution they back giving the PA another chance at forming a workable society. Their leading candidate, General Benny Ganz initially spoke of how he learned from Gaza and believed if handled differently it could be applied to the settlements with slight adjustments largely consisting of leaving the IDF behind to monitor and prevent terrorism. So, he would pull back to the Security Barrier, very close to the Green Line (see map below), giving the lands beyond to the PA and declaring the conflict over and expecting the Arabs to concur. The IDF would presumably be left in place while all Israeli civilians would be uprooted and forced to find new residence within the remainder of Israel. Their claim that this time it will work is based on their intent on literally forming these borders by fiat and presenting this as the solution to the PA and expecting them to be happy about this. That will fail and do so miserably.

 

Green Line versus Separation Fence Borders

Green Line versus
Separation Fence Borders

 

The problem with this solution is the same as it has been with every solution, that being that as long as any piece of Israel remains with the Jews permitted self-rule, this will be totally unacceptable to the Arab side. The world and far too many Israelis actually honestly believe that when the Arabs refer to their demand that they be given the entirety of the 22% of the mandate, they are not speaking about some piece of land west of the Jordan River, they are talking about all the lands west of the Jordan River. The basic question is that when they chant, From the River to the Sea Palestine must be free,” what does anyone believe that would leave as the Jewish State. The 22% they are demanding has nothing to do with West Bank or Gaza or any other division of the lands, they are referring to the remaining 22% which is not Jordan which took 78% of the British Mandate. The Palestinian Arabs demand for 22% is from the British Mandate and correspond to all the lands set aside for the Jewish state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the River to the Sea. Their demand is for all of Israel and they demand that this land be Judenrein, and should any Jews remain, they have a solution, a final solution. From all we have seen, Bibi has no actionable solution to this overly-extended problem. So, who might be capable of mounting a drive and replacing Bibi?

 

This depends completely and totally upon the people of Israel. There is no lack of people who could replace Bibi Netanyahu and serve as Prime Minister of Israel. The going argument the people backing Bibi always claim is that nobody has the experience of being Prime Minister as does Bibi. That is no wonder as he will soon be the longest serving Prime Minister and is already the longest serving living Prime Minister. By this argument, Bibi can never be replaced which just might inevitably run into a problem, either his retirement voluntarily or forced by Mother Nature. We may as well face facts, the next Prime Minister after Bibi will have far less experience than does Bibi. Everyone upon being elected to lead their nation for the first time has zero job experience, but they figure out what the buttons on their phones mean and find the button for calling meetings or their aid to come take a letter, or e-mail. So, pushing such a weak argument aside as superfluous, let us move on. Yair Lapid consistently claims he is the man with a plan and if only he were Prime Minister, all the Israeli problems would disappear as he can fix everything. Well, first off, please let us not fix anything which is not broken. Simply stated, leave the economy alone unless you plan on reducing taxes. The real problem is that Yair Lapid is one of those who believes that there is a solution which can be reached if only the perfect concession of land were proffered the Arabs. Of course, he does not mean all the Jews moving to California and giving all the lands to the Arabs, so, as we have explained, whatever his proposal, the Arabs will refuse it as not sufficient. The Generals from the Blue-White Party also suffer from the same ailment. Their solution takes the worst of the Gaza disengagement, pulling the Jews from their homes, and combines this with the worst of the disaster of Southern Lebanon where Israel left the IDF in a region she had surrendered any claim which eventually led to a hasty retreat executed by one of the generals (another of the generals was responsible for the Gaza disengagement). So, their solution to the problems with the PA is to combine the Gaza disengagement with the disaster of southern Lebanon and pretend it is something which has a viable chance at success. There is a single saving grace in their plan, Mahmoud Abbas and his terrorists will refuse this as a solution as Israel will not have gone far enough to find a solution, their problem is that Israel remains. This problem only becomes worse as one would go further left, thus any replacement for Bibi is not to be found on the left.

 

This leaves a problem as Bibi has ruled the right for approaching a decade. His Likud Party has cemented the lion’s share in every election only a few times having anything approaching a problem from the left. This means that any real and viable threat to replace Bibi has to come from Likud or a surprise from another of the right leaning parties. As far as somebody rising from within Likud to challenge Bibi, such in the past has proven to be fateful and immediately followed by being placed far down the Likud list thereafter followed by their burial as a viable candidate. Some such people include Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett; both of whom have been relegated to the scrap heap of parties missing threshold. The best Naftali Bennett ever did was actually provide Bibi a challenge but as the election appeared as if it might slide to the left of Likud or Bennett’s party, Jewish Home at the time, received the lion’s share of the right wing votes so one of the two needed to fall on his sword, which Bennett did and that may have proven to be the last time he posed a threat to Bibi. Currently, there is no obvious threat to Bibi though there has been a development very recently which may provide insight of a potential challenger in the near future. The news of Bennett attempting to head a coalition of right wing-religious-Zionist parties was met with an interesting response from the current leader of the United Right and head of Jewish Home, MK Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who stated that joining their block by Naftali Bennett and the remains of his New Right Party would be welcomed but would not result in any alteration of the party hierarchy. Rafi Peretz made one thing clear, as he has come from a quiet retirement where he had no desires to enter politics or the public spotlight, his decision to lead the United Right was a casting of the dice and he will be putting forth the same efforts he has given to everything else he has undertaken. When an individual who was once a combat helicopter pilot, in and of itself an impressive challenge, and going further in the IDF to become a Brigadier General and to be the IDF Chief Rabbi and then becoming head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy in Yated, which was relocated from Bnei Atzmon after the Gaza disengagement, this is not somebody to take lightly. Once the Israeli public becomes introduced to this man of great talents, his straight talking and meaning what he says and saying what he means, there is a definitive possibility that Rafi Peretz could become the Prime Minister after Bibi and do so while Bibi is still in contention. There are two people currently who could either pose a direct challenge running against Bibi to lead the right of center coalition or becoming heir apparent. The heir apparent would be Ayelet Shaked providing she manages to rejoin Likud and Rafi Peretz under any circumstance as he gains in notoriety and thus popularity. The positive vibes we received from numerous fronts when Rafi Peretz was named as the new leader for Jewish Home was just the tip of the iceberg of the potential for him going forward. Israel would be well served having a man of such integrity and forceful character as Prime Minister and would gain even more due to his politics and love for his country. Time will tell who replaces Bibi and when, but that time is coming and who knows how much longer Bibi can retain his monopoly on the Prime Minister’s spot.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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