Beyond the Cusp

May 27, 2019

Israeli Elections Take a Familiar Route


Well, the deadline for the formation of a coalition and thus make the seating of the new Knesset came and went without a coalition. This might lead one to conclude that Israel is going to go to elections once again. Well, not so fast. President Rivlin used his power to grant a one-week extension which pushed the deadline to this coming Wednesday night, May, 29th, to tell President Reuven Rivlin that he has enough support to build a coalition, and until next Monday to present coalition agreements that would have to be voted on two days later, all of which is coming at us faster than the coalition talks. The news is that the negotiations are going on around the clock. Our suspicions are around the clock means that somebody each night is told to sleep on a proposal and their dreams count as negotiating. Whatever around the clock means, it could mean that they have a countdown-clock sitting in the middle of the table as they negotiate, it does not matter, only the deadline does as there probably will not be a second extension of the deadline.


This raises a question, with the Israeli public almost as divided between right and left as the United States, at least in Israel there has not been any declaration of war as in America, the question to be asked is would a new round of elections make any real difference. The reality is that it most definitely could provided all the parties are included and the coalitions from the most recent elections hold. From our vantage point, the Israeli public will not be kind to those who were most responsible for forcing another round of elections. Somebody has to pay the piper for the additional and unnecessary cost of holding another election. So, this begs the question, who will pay and what will be the cost. The answers to this question are where we get to guess what the mood will be. The one positive is that it will probably be a nice sunny day with a few scattered puffy clouds. The negative is it will also probably be over thirty-three degrees C which is over ninety degrees F. Depending on the distance it is to your polling station will definitely have an effect on your mood and thus potentially your vote.


Bibi Netanyahu most definitively does not desire going to elections again as he got pretty much everything he desired from this last round of voting. The two people he most desired to prevent from reaching threshold did not make it into the government. The top of this list was Naftali Bennett and his New Right Party. The main thing going for Bennett’s party was Ayelet Shaked and it would be a benefit for the Zionist wing of the Conservative parties for these two people making threshold. The other was Moshe Feiglin and his Zehut Party which hoped that backing legalizing of cannabis to compliment his right wing-Zionist platform, but it was not sufficient to get him over threshold. If there would be another round of elections, where Zehut would be unlikely to gain from this, Bennett and his New Right might clear threshold as some who may have considered voting for the New Right but with developments in the final two days of campaigning, where Bibi basically declared that he was prepared to enact everything which Bennett had staked his campaign around taking all the momentum and the wind out of his sails. Bennett likely learned his lesson and realizes that he needs broaden the subjects which he has positions on and communicate them far more clearly for the electorate. There are also doubts as to whether the Union of Right-Wing Parties will be able to hold their agreement together. The other party which might be hoping for new election is the Blue White Party which was a grouping of Israel Resilience Party with Yesh Atid. This gave Yair Lapid what he hoped was the punch to steal the elections and it almost worked. Then there was the addition of the Generals of which some had been the Chief of Staff. The leading General was Benny Gantz who was joined by generals Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi. New elections would give this party a feeling that they could take over and win as they basically tied Likud but as the right had the majority of elected ministers, Likud won the right to try and form a coalition. The Union of Right-Wing Parties, providing they can remain allied, stand to gain potentially a couple of seats should the party leader, another general, Rafi Peretz get to be heard by more people, as the Jewish Home Party is out of its crisis caused by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked who bolted from the party immediately after elections were called leaving the Jewish Home Party in disarray. As one in the Jewish Home Central Committee, I can testify to the mess from which we believe we will be stronger, especially with Rafi Peretz at the helm. The one party which stands to lose some ministerial position is Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud Party as the other right-wing parties gaining have to get their votes from somewhere. The other party which might suffer some losses is the Blue White Party as some of the things said early in the campaign have gotten more play and this could prove damaging.


Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu Miri Regev Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu Miri Regev Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett


With things as they stand, Bibi very likely does not desire going to elections. Also, there is another reality he has to fear. President Rivlin could ask the Blue White Party to try and put together a coalition in place of elections. That is unlikely but is still a possibility which might play well to have Bibi find some way of pleasing all the various requests, though with some he has two parties demanding the same Ministership. When everything is added together, the best bet is that somewhere between the wee hours before the deadline there will be some form of agreement. How it all will play out is anybody’s guess. There is always the possibility that there will be a coalition of parties making up sixty seats and Bibi will call in some favors and have one individual join the coalition independent of their party. That would be sufficient to put the coalition to the necessary sixty-one seats, the minimum required. There is always the possibility that a coalition of sixty votes will be approved again by Bibi calling in favors to have somebody vote for the coalition though not be a party to the coalition and sit in the opposition. This is extremely odd, but with Bibi, we have learned never to count anything out of the realm of possibility. Whatever will be, we will know by Thursday morning in Israel as we wait for the smoke to clear. Those of you in America will hear about the results on your evening news. We will simply wait for the new morning as if there will be new elections, we will have at least a half dozen articles out of the insanity which that would generate. Our bet, Bibi will put together the necessary parts for a coalition if for no other reason than to prevent Bennett from getting another chance and clearing threshold. Grudges are sometimes the best of motivators, especially if you have thirty years over which you have been collecting them.


Beyond the Cusp


March 11, 2019

Israeli Election Update Left vs Right


The first thing one need understand about Israeli elections is that the polling is very often slanted leftwards. This slant is not as severe as it once was, but it still exists. Thus when Haaretz has a poll, no friend to the right by any means, claiming that the right is closing the gap and that the Likud and Bibi Netanyahu are closing and may soon be even with the Blue White Party of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, then that is probably exactly what has happened and the bet now is could the left even form a coalition should they be given the opportunity. This is where things start to get sticky and personal feelings and hurt pride can play a huge role. After the elections results have come in and everything has been tallied, then all eyes will be on President Reuven Rivlin, formerly from the Likud Party where he and Bibi had a number of serious quarrels leading to Bibi not supporting him for President, though much of the party was behind him. The President is not bound to even choose the party with the most mandates for Knesset Ministership. He is not bound technically by any sort of legal limitations on who he chooses, why he chooses, or how he chooses. The reality eventually will settle the problem as the President from past traditions has always chosen one of the top two parties and their reasoning has almost always been that the party is most likely to be able to form a ruling coalition with at least sixty-one seats. Many of the polls show that the left, even if the Arab Parties were to accept an invitation to join the coalition, something which would be a break with their normal stance of refusing to be a part of any Israeli ruling coalition, they would probably need to find somewhere between five and seven more mandates.


Bibi Netanyahu, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Yair Lapid, General Benny Gantz, Bezalel Smotrich, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Avi Gabbay, Aryeh Deri

Bibi Netanyahu, Rabbi Rafi Peretz,
Yair Lapid, General Benny Gantz, Bezalel Smotrich,
Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Avi Gabbay, Aryeh Deri


The results of this poll have some very interesting predictions which include that Yisrael Beiteinu Party headed by Avigdor Lieberman and the Gesher Party each fail to pass threshold of 3.25% with their receiving 2.0% and 1.8% respectively. On the other side of threshold for the first time is Moshe Feiglin and his right-wing Zehut Party with a solid 4.0% showing. Quoting from the Haaretz article, they point to this, “Even more significant is the fact that the right-wing, ultra-Orthodox bloc is overtaking its rivals big time, and in this instance its makeup is rather different and surprising.” What they are referring to is that they are finding that these parties are making inroads in areas formerly considered to be solidly left leaning, even in neighborhoods where the extreme left once ruled unchallenged. There is just under a month to go before Election Day, and anything can happen. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to decide if he will press charges against Prime Minister Netanyahu and if he is to do so, will he decide to press these charges before the election or immediately after the election and either way, will he insist the Supreme Court rule that he is ineligible to hold the Prime Ministership while under indictment. Should Mandelblit press the charges after the election and have Bibi Netanyahu barred from holding the position of Prime Minister, you can bet the losing side of the elections will be howling demanding immediate new elections and the invalidating of the results from April 9 elections. Mandelblit has in the past declared that his office is the final decider on any legislation passed by the Knesset and it is where he decides what is best for the country and what the laws should be. With such an attitude and currently holding so many variables even to the point that he can alter orders given to the IDF by the Prime Minister and can counter orders within the IDF all in concert with the Supreme Court which has assumed such a role with the Attorney General ever since Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who served as such from 1995 to 2006 and had been on the bench since 1978 while serving as Attorney General for three years before being appointed to the Supreme Court, and believed that the Supreme Court held supreme power over all the other branches of government and much of the government and private sector when he claimed that, “everything is adjudicable.” With this ruling, the Supreme Court became the final arbiter of laws becoming empowered to override any action from the Knesset, overrule the Prime Minister, make law which was considered necessary and virtually every other level of power now sat with the Supreme Court. His legacy has had the Supreme Court countermand orders given be IDF commanders which, in our humble opinion, are simply one-step too far over the line. But why would that stop a court whose President erased all the lines which might have previously restrained the court. One can only wonder when the Supreme Court might decide that they get to appoint members of the Knesset and choose the next Prime Minister, that is about the only area they have kept their hands clean.


There are any number of variables going from numerous different directions and we have not even reached one that would have the most direct influence on the elections, terrorism. Probably the one item which could have the most direct influence on the election would be if Hamas with Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority with the PLO or Hezballah with or without troops from Iran and Syria decided to disrupt the Israeli elections and began launching rockets into Israel; this would have a huge affect on the results of the Israeli elections. Bibi Netanyahu would stand to have the most to lose simply because every step he would take would be second-guessed and criticized by those who wish to unseat him, namely General Benny Gantz (ret) and former Chief of Staff. Of course, the media would be piling on both candidates leading their parties, Gantz sharing the role with Yair Lapid, one never to allow much to restrain his criticisms of the Prime Minister and anybody else which came into his sights. Every decision would be scrutinized and taken apart to be inspected piece by piece while whatever Gantz would offer receiving similar second-guessing. Our role in this has already been posted in our article which took a fairly strong look at the career of General Benny Gantz titled, “Benny Gantz’s Israel.” We would be willing to bet that Gantz would once again remind voters that he was a general and Bibi merely a Seren (Captain). We may not have pointed directly at why this is not a fair assessment but the achievements, or lack thereof, by Benny Gantz in his less than spectacular military career where he spent much of his time not making mistakes by not making decisions whenever possible. This, as we state in the above linked article, had some serious and unholy results for which he has never really been held for the scorn and disparagement he deserved. All too often, people are impressed by the fruit salad adorning most generals’ chests, which is unsurprising when they can assign themselves any form of award to add to their salad as they choose. We would not be surprised if at some point a general assigned himself ribbons for his chest because his wife liked the colors and the way they blended. We are not attempting to infer that Gantz had ever done so as we would not disparage a man of such misconduct without absolute proof. There are sufficient deficiencies in his record that we do not need to invent anything additional.


Should rockets start to fall on Israelis from Gaza or Lebanon with Hamas/Islamic Jihad or Hezballah being the source respectively or Iran launching from within Syria, Iraq or even with ballistic missiles from Iran which have sufficient range to reach Israel and can be tipped with anything from large high explosive warheads, biological warheads, chemical warheads or potentially even nuclear warheads, the reactions from the IDF as per instructions from the Knesset and Prime Minister will be criticized from every angel. There will be claims that Bibi is holding back and not responding sufficiently and at the same time others will claim he is seeking to cause an escalation so he can look tough on terrorism and everything inbetween. There is also the possibility that the Palestinian Authority using the PLO terrorist brigades and civilians promised financial rewards in the pay-to-slay program run by Mahmoud Abbas which rewards Palestinian and Israeli Arabs commensurate to the numbers of Israelis they murder and maim, this would pose probably the most difficult decisions as overreaction would be the standing criticism unless Bibi did nothing, and then it is obvious what the critics would be claiming. What we have never quite been able to figure is why the terrorist entities would desire attacking when Israel is going into an election as that usually results in a more right leaning selection for the Knesset as such a situation immediately makes security the most important issue. This is even more crucial in this election as it might reveal the realities of how far to the left Benny Gantz actually leans as well as his partner, Yair Lapid. Thus far, as we see things, Benny Gantz is leaning on his having been Chief of Staff and that this makes him far better suited to be Prime Minister than anyone else plus their party list has three other generals making theirs the party with the highest number of ranking staff personnel. Add in Yair Lapid who was a news anchor and can be convincing reading off any teleprompter no matter what he is being told to say. This allows these two to appear before any group and speak to the crowd giving them whatever they desire to hear. We just hope that these pretenders are revealed for what they are and their true beliefs laid bare for all to see and make an honest assessment. This is not to intimate that there are no Israelis who would be proud to have these two sharing the Prime Minister’s office, there are many for whom these two would be their dream team. Still, the big potential for a surprise still lies with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and whether he decides to utilize the legal system and Supreme Court as well as his powers to force the Likud to put a new candidate at the head of their party a mere few days before the elections thus making it near impossible for anybody to discover his qualifications and very possibly scaring many from voting Likud. If a mere twenty percent were to vote for Blue White instead of Likud, that could completely change the entire composition of the election results which could turn out to be very dangerous for Israel in the short term. Fortunately, Israel will have a healthy and great future as things improve and grow ever brighter as time passes, and this we have believed for quite some time and have watched it begin to unfurl.


Beyond the Cusp


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