Beyond the Cusp

June 12, 2019

Roller Coaster Pre-Election Ride Begins

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 1:54 AM
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Where to start, why not with the good, the bad and the beautiful. The good is easy but also will prove difficult to mediate. The good comes from the United Right’s current number two, Bezalel Smotrich, who has spoken the truth which the vast majority of the religious right pray for at services every day, that Israel live and keep the Torah and its commandments throughout the land. This does not mean what the media paints it to mean, as it does not demand anything from anyone who is not Jewish. They are only requested to follow the Noahic Code with seven laws. The Jews, on the other hand, have a mere six-hundred-thirteen laws in Torah. Somewhere over one-third of these refer to the service of the Cohanim and the Levites and their duties and expectations serving in the Temple. We do not currently have a Temple nor has any government Minister really pursued such a venture in the Knesset, thus it is not on the drawing boards, not in the planning stage and likely nowhere on the horizon. This means that these laws will have to await the people of Israel demanding the Temple be built, something prayed for every morning, afternoon and evening but not expected any time too soon. The rest of the laws are largely basic decency, common sense and the dietary laws of Kashrut. The majority of grocery stores sell only kosher food and are certified to have taken out the appropriate tithes and everything meets the high standards of the law. Restaurants are a separate issue but there are sufficient kosher restaurants even including some fast food establishments. What may amaze many people is that it may be likely, unless your favorite lunch location is not kosher, that the vast majority of people, Jews and non-Jews alike, probably lead lives that, outside of prayers they may ignore saying, are close to or within the demands of Torah. So, when Bezalel Smotrich spoke of his desire for Israel to become a nation whose laws and people kept to the Torah, he was speaking of a desire held by many and not transgressed by more than most might believe. He could just as easily spoken of the desire for the coming of the Mashiach, and we bet that would have drawn just as much scorn from any in the left-wing media, unfortunately that is the majority of the media. Their scare mongering will dredge up more hatred and mistrust between the people which is their intent. But speaking of such desire for Israel to become a Torah observant society is a very nice though and natural desire for the religious Zionist as well as other observant groups such as the Haredi. Nobody would even think twice had a Haredi leader made the same statement as that is acceptable from them as their voters mostly do not include the secular community. The entire flap over this was due to the attempt by the media to frighten the secular community, specifically the secular Zionists, into fearing the religious right parties over an event which was far more innocent than portrayed. Hopefully, the media feeding frenzy will be seen for what it was, an attempt at voter manipulation. It is really sad that the media here in Israel resorts to such tactics, but they will do whatever it takes to try and push the voting public into electing a left-leaning government.

 

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The bad is an internal desire which was expressed largely within the Blue White Party but which did receive some mention by the media. This was a request, perhaps a demand, for Yair Lapid to lay low and quiet over his otherwise normal denunciation of the Haredi community. Are some of the views expressed by Yair Lapid accurate and in need of a solution? The answer is of course some of these complaints necessary, but his solutions would actually be detrimental to the desires he expresses. The Haredi community are people, believe it or not, people just like all other people. As a normal community, they will adapt to changing needs and other factors at their own speed. On the other hand, if such a community believes they are being pressured, pushed and manipulated to change, they will resist such change just because people resent being pushed into change. What Yair Lapid is ignoring is simply because his vision is clouded by his personal apparent dislike for the Haredi community and their favored treatment due them legally under laws and appropriations made by the Knesset. Part of their favored treatment comes due to their guaranteed number of Ministerial positions they receive in every election from a devoted and unified community. The thing is some Haredi are already voting outside their dedicated voting bloc. This makes them what are called king makers as their bloc is necessary to reach the sixty-one mandates to form a coalition whether that coalition is left-wing or right-wing. Due to their crucial voting bloc, the Haredi will receive an identical set of concessions from either side, over the tantrum which would likely be thrown (in private) by Yair Lapid. The demand that his Blue White Party run with part of their platform for the forcing of the Haredi to allow more of their youth to be drafted for IDF service and their being coerced into joining the workforce in larger numbers would be a guarantee to never have the Haredi join them in a coalition. Their insistence that Yair Lapid tone down his Haredi rants is a purely political measure as they know that if they would ever be chosen to form a coalition, they would absolutely be required to include the Haredi parties.

 

Ayelet Shaked

Ayelet Shaked

 

The beautiful is easy as former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (pictured above) has made a semi-official announcement that she will be running for a position in the Knesset in the coming September elections. This semi-announcement about her return left out one important item; she forgot to mention exactly which party she intended to make her run with and what position she wished to take in their list. There have been those claiming she will be part of the Likud Party and others have called for her to replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the United Right Party list. Which one is the most likely? Well, I have doubts that she will replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the list with the United Right and Bibi Netanyahu has stated that he is not considering inviting Ayelet Shaked into the fold with Likud. So, where does this leave Ms. Shaked now as the leader of one list is not expecting to be replaced and the head of the other party simply is not interested in having her join the party. Perhaps we can find a small hint from her statements at the small ceremony given when she left the Justice Ministry. One of her comments was that she expects to return to the Justice Ministry. The interesting thing about her desire to return to the Justice Ministry does not require that she head any party’s list. She was not the leader of Jewish Home when she received the Justice Minister posting. She was number two behind Naftali Bennett. She was the number two behind Naftali Bennett on the list for the New Right Party which she and Naftali Bennett founded right before the last elections where that party did not quite pass threshold to make it into the Knesset. When Bibi Netanyahu was unable to reach an amicable agreement with Avigdor Lieberman who was making the same demands which he had pressed leading to the call for new elections in the first place, that situation is most likely not going to change with Avigdor Lieberman which means that should Bibi Netanyahu be tapped again, he will be relying on the right-wing, religious and, of course, religious Zionist parties. The good news for these elections is that such is very probably what will happen as long as the Haredi Parties also join the government coalition, something which is largely expected. So, the situation with Ayelet Shaked will depend on which party’s list she lands within. We can probably safely bet that she will not be placed atop of either Likud or United Right. There is still the possibility that she will remain with Naftali Bennett if the New Right is reformed for another attempt to pass the threshold this time around.

 

We can provide some free advice for Naftali Bennett, if he reforms the New Right, he should place Ayelet Shaked in the number one slot and take the second slot himself which would be more probable to put them over the threshold. There is one item which is the biggest guarantor of failure in politics such as in other professions, that is an overly inflated ego believing that they are the answer that the people are craving and if only you present yourself then they will flock to your banner. When you are Bibi Netanyahu and have been Prime Minister for the past decade and lead the strongest party, or at worst the second leading party, and may become the longest serving Prime Minister by the time of the coming elections, then you can have such an ego. No, we are not claiming that Bibi has an over-inflated ego. This is about all the actual excitement we have seen over the coming elections in Israel. More over the weeks to come and perhaps things will heat up. We can tell that the Blue White Party is confident that they should receive the nod from President Reuven Rivlin to form the next coalition. They are confident that with the Haredi Parties they will be able to form a coalition. There may be some questions as to this confidence. The Labor Party is in a tailspin and hoping primary elections for what they hope, and as Avi Gabay has decided that he will resign from leading the party and dropped from the primary list, will be a new leader as the latest polls showed that the Labor Party, the party which led Israeli politics for decades until 1979 when they lost the coalition making position, was not polling sufficient to pass threshold. Labor has also sought to join another party as a joint list, either Blue White, Meretz or another left-wing party but they have not had any takers as of yet. As the elections grow closer, they will have a better chance for this alternative. But with the left polling lower and lower, there may be doubts about the optimism of the Blue White Party. We will try and find more fun things concerning the September 17th elections in future articles.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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May 31, 2019

Trump Peace Plan Strikes Israeli Election Dysfunction

 

President Trump had announced his intention to present his much-anticipated peace plan after Ramadan and the Israeli elections. Israel had their elections and the idea was to wait for the end of Ramadan and then let loose the plan. Then there was the hiccup, Israeli elections are requiring a redo. The just completed election provided current and potentially rechosen Prime Minister Netanyahu with sixty Knesset Ministers joining a coalition. The problem is he required half of one-hundred-twenty, plus one equaling sixty-one. The holdout was Avigdor Lieberman with the five Ministers of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party. What makes this turn of events all the more frustrating is that it was Avigdor Lieberman’s pulling out of the last coalition which initiated the slow collapse which was terminated when Likud Party leader, Bibi Netanyahu, finally pulling the plug leading to this past inconclusive election. The telltale lack of a confirmation resulting from the election is that had the Blue-White Party managed to form this coalition with every Minister remaining which Bibi Netanyahu could not land, they too would have a result of sixty, one Minister short as well. All of this begs a question of whether the Israeli system has some difficulties beyond that of other parliamentary systems?

 

The main problem is the requirement to patch together a coalition of half of the total Knesset plus one. Reaching that sixty-one figure is challenging enough in a country which has so many parties which all receive four or more Ministers as each party has some area of disagreement with most of the other parties thus the conflicting demands are difficult to find a workable solution acceptable to all. But there is another difficulty which makes it more difficult for both the left-leaning parties and the right-leaning parties, the Arab parties which have never joined either side in a government and usually garner anywhere between six and fifteen seats. This past election their lists came close to ten Ministers who were never going to join either side. Now the requirement to make a government, instead of sixty-one from one-hundred-twenty, it became finding sixty-one from one-hundred-ten which meant garnering fifty-five plus percent. That might not be such a challenge in countries with two or three main parties needed to form a government. This last Israeli elections, the only combination requiring less than four or more parties would have required the two main adversarial parties to have worked together in a new government, not something which was even remotely likely, though some feared that this might be the means by which the chosen party might decide to form what are laughingly referred to as a unity government, something they truly are not. This past election, any chance of a coalition between the two main adversarial parties was completely impossible. As it was, the larger party which rose to second place was actually three parties merging so as to be capable of defeating Bibi. Even that proved insufficient. Additionally, there was mention of bringing the Arab parties on board a left-leaning government and even going to that extreme would have still only registered sixty providing they could get Lieberman to agree, the problem Bibi was unable to solve.

 

The other item was scheduled to coincide with the new Israeli government being seated and the end of Ramadan on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. This has been pushed off until some point after Tuesday, September 17, 2019 assuming that the next elections prove definitive.

 

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So, that begs another question, what is the likelihood that the next elections will not simply return more of the same. The ramifications of the last week and the theatrics and everything else the Israeli public witnessed which was being passed off intelligent disagreements over the draft and the numbers of deferments provided the Haredi population so they can pursue Torah scholarship will hopefully be reflected in the voting of the public in September. Unfortunately, much of the Israeli public, just as it is in many other nations, are dedicated to their chosen party election after election. This makes the difference in the totals merely a marginal amount between left and right parties. The two sides do have some fluctuations as to which party takes the lead and the relative strengths of the individual parties. For an extended period, the Labor Party ruled the left but has lost support in recent years. What does not move anywhere near as quickly is the public moving across the center line between right and left. As this takes quite a while for such changes, this is a good time to point out that the Israeli public has been slowly moving to the right, becoming more religious and becoming less concerned with what the Europeans, United Nations and other outside influences think Israel should act. This has resulted in a current near balance between those on the left plus the Arab lists compared to those on the right. If we had to make a concerted guess, we would place the divide at between fifty-five to sixty percent right or right-leaning and the remainder opposed.

 

This often begs the question as to why the right does not simply win outright. The answer is actually one of the most basic and simply reasons for so much of the troubles in world politics, egos. There were two right-wing parties which did not clear threshold. Between them, they cost the right wing somewhere between four and six seats which would have made the five Ministers allied under Avigdor Lieberman unnecessary which would have made him far more agreeable. One did not clear threshold mainly because Bibi Netanyahu cut their support from under them in the final two days before voting partially as revenge for past ills between Bennett and Netanyahu and partly to take the votes and the other party simply refused to merge with other right leaning parties over slight differences and an over-reliance on the polls which gave him false hopes. This will be somewhat different come September as there are now rumors that Bennett will merge his party into Likud, which we will believe when we see the report that the deal has been signed, sealed and delivered to the public. Whether the other rogue right-leaning party will join with the United Right-Wing Parties or remain on his own tilting at windmills remains to be seen. There are also rumblings that the marriage which formed the Blue-White Party may be starting to fray around the middle. Our best guess is that Lieberman and his party might find their gambit backfiring and his party not making threshold or barely getting by losing one seat. Further, Netanyahu and the Likud will very possibly be penalized by the voters costing them as many as four to five seats. These seats will mostly go to either Bennett or to the United Right-Wing Parties. The next Israeli government, without some unforeseen seismic shift in the population, will be a right of center, Zionist and nationalist government with a strong religious flavor. With the shift moving to the supporting parties from Likud, Netanyahu might finally have to find some modesty and no longer act as if the government is his plaything which must do what he demands. This could prove to be an improvement as Bibi will also need to fulfill his nationalist promises about extending Israeli civil law to the settlements, all the settlements, just as he promised. Having an increased religious-Zionist interest possibly rivaling either of the Haredi Parties, this could prove to be most interesting. The only thing left is to wait and see how everything settles out.

 

The new elections will prove revitalizing for the Jewish Home Party which was all but destroyed for the month after Bennett and Shaked left taking one more of their Knesset Ministers with them for the ride and formed his New Right Party. After some arguments, blame setting and finally deciding on the person desired to take the lead, all they had left was to convince their choice that he desired rebuilding the party. The initial answer, if the rumors are correct, told the representatives for the Jewish Home that he had no desire ever, and especially not now, to be in politics, let alone in such a responsible decision. This simply motivated the people within Jewish Home involved with the decision and they approached this gentleman again imploring him to take the challenge as it required a man of his stature and his reputation for honor, honesty, straight shooting, nerve, resolve and most of all for speaking what is in his heart and keeping to his promises as his word is his bond. Some were skeptical that any man could fill the epic hole at the heart of the party. The skeptics were dead wrong, Rabbi and retired IDF General, combat helicopter pilot, and IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz was everything that had been advertised. We here at Beyond the Cusp were amazed at the reactions we ran into when Rabbi Peretz name was mentioned for the first time to people immediately after he finally accepted the challenge. The positivity was actually amazing and now that he will have three and a half months to make speeches and be seen and heard by the average Israelis instead of having to campaign with a mere three and a half weeks to go until Election Day as he was given for the just held election. This will be an interesting election as September approaches as in Israel, elections are made or lost in the final few weeks. More to come as summer’s end nears.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 29, 2019

The Threats Come with Another Election

 

There were sufficient rough spots and unsteady unification for temporary gains which may fray right down the center exploding those somewhat tenuous bonds which barely survived last round. Another problem is that Likud barely received the necessary plurality of the vote to be chosen to try and make a coalition. Now the liberal left could take charge and get the opportunity to make the next coalition, assuming they are not provided with that exact opportunity after Bibi Netanyahu admits his inability to form a coalition. Such is unlikely but definitely a possibility and there is no guarantee against their taking such an offer and running with that straight to Avigdor Lieberman agreeing to give him the Defense portfolio and give a few other parties their ministries to which they aspire and cobble an unwieldly coalition which holds together long enough to permit more mischief in their ever present desire to exchange land for peace. The fear is not so much that they will provide Mahmoud Abbas all he demands, but, even before that, agree to meet every demand coming from the Arab and far leftist parties again simply to present a coalition. One item where the left has advantage over the right is their willingness to come together simply, whether convenient or directly against their individual goals and desired ends simply in order to wield such power.

 

Of course, such problems of holding together a somewhat less obvious coalitions together could, no matter how unlikely and illiberal, still unravel as egos clash and refuse to remain playing second-fiddle and decide to take their chances on their own. Such is most likely to breach the agreement under which the Blue White Party was formulated. Yair Lapid was promised a share in the position of Prime Minister but only after the leader of the other faction, Israel Resilience Party, was awarded the first two years. Holding his drive to be Prime Minister, specifically to be the Prime Minister under whose tutelage an agreement with the Palestinian Authority was reached, as if such is even likely. The friction is already fraying the bonds as the Generals leading the Israel Resilience Party were not as sufficient and important as to deliver enough additional voters so as to make theirs a majority outcome. Yesh Atid Party leader, Yair Lapid, is another who was willing to hold the lesser position simply as the method to attain his goals. With going to new elections, as all indicators are currently pointing, being a definite probability, every coalition will be tested. Basically put, once new elections become a reality, then everything returns to the starting point with all of the coalitions back at square-one. Expediency was the rule under which coalitions were made. What will serve as the binding reason putting coalitions together this time is anybody’s guess, but expected are similar agreements as went together last-time without as much of a ruckus.

 

For those parties which failed to clear threshold, new elections are another chance as hope springs eternal. The ones which came within a few hair widths, simply will be required to attract a few more voters for their recent break into the next Knesset. The other challenge is for the voters to maintain their enthusiasm and return to the polls and vote. The problem comes when the voters start to second-guess their reasoning and change their vote from the original party to a different one. Whatever is going to be with these elections will be held on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Should Bibi Netanyahu be neutral and not work so hard at taking vengeance on those he had adverse feelings towards, it would be unusual. Such has been the case between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Neftali Bennett. There is some unsettled business between these two individuals which has led Bibi Netanyahu to feel it is necessary for him to force Naftali Bennett from politics. Bibi was instrumental is keeping Bennett’s New Right secular Zionist Party from clearing threshold. It is doubtful that this will happen again as Bennett and his fellow party will hopefully broaden their campaign.

 

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu Miri Regev Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu Miri Regev Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

 

The big question is whether or not another election held so close together could cause much, if any, difference. That is where things actually get somewhat interesting. With new elections, Bennett and the New Right might pass threshold. Much will be dependent on whether his number two individual, Ayelet Shaked, remains in the party or bolts taking the offer made by Likud, which makes perfect sense as without her, the New Right will likely not make threshold again and will simply become another failed party. The mistake which Bennet made was on choosing to be, as it was described, a right-wing, Zionist, secular party with mild religious leanings. Basically, Naftali Bennett was attempting to fill a gap which did not exist. Bennett was seeking to place his party between Jewish Home and the Likud Parties, but there exists almost no space between the Likud and Jewish Home when it comes to voting blocks, thus Bennett was seeking to fill a gap which barely exists. He was out to make Likud Lite Party to give the Likud voter an alternative to Bibi Netanyahu, something they apparently were not seeking an alternative and thus he received minimal support. The fact that he almost made threshold was surprising but some also claimed that Bennett was seeking to be the replacement for the dead Jewish Home Party, the party where his surprise and abrupt departure taking with him the number two person from the Party as well as a third Minister of the Knesset all the day elections were called. His actions of refusing to permit a Central Committee meeting for close to a year, with the people who followed him and some other difficulties he pressed onto his former party, Jewish Home, it becomes clear he envisioned being their replacement except under conditions where he would personally choose the rabbinate of the party.

 

With likely merely a less effective strategy by which Bibi Netanyahu is able to depress the voters from the New Right, unless Likud does steal Shaked away leaving Bennett high and dry with no oars in the water, the end results of new elections will be very close to what they were. The main differences will be that Bennett will probably make threshold and the alliance of HaBayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), Ichud Leumi (National Union), and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) as a block with Jewish Home as the leading party, which they called United Right Wing Parties will probably gain another mandate or possibly two. One or two of these gains will come from Likud Party going forward. This would produce a Knesset where even without Avigdor Lieberman, there would be a right-wing coalition with sixty-three to sixty-five Mandates thus preventing Lieberman from holding the government hostage, so to speak. Further, it is possible that Avigdor Liebermann and the Yisrael Beiteinu Party could suffer from voter anger over the new elections being forced by his intransigence. These votes could end up with Likud, Blue White or any of the other parties largely favoring the right over left wing parties. Should the unspeakable occur and Yisrael Beiteinu gain seats, these could come from anywhere but in the end would be supportive of a Likud led coalition. The secret in Israel with election is to forge a coalition such that no one party, other than one’s own party. Of course, the dream would be one’s own party to reach sixty-one mandates and thus be the coalition, but as Israel has very likely more political parties than one country so small would appear capable of forming, but we have and now they all are explaining how they should run the country. This is simply another instance of, only in Israel.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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