Beyond the Cusp

June 21, 2019

Meeting Rafi Peretz

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 1:54 AM
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My regular readers know that we really like Rafi Peretz, the current leader of Jewish Home and likely to lead the United Right depending on future negotiations between the various parties with similar interests. We obviously support Rafi Peretz for even to hope that once the people of Israel meet this remarkable man, he will increase the importance of the Zionist movement for both religious and secular as we believe he would not reject anybody who honestly loves Israel as he does. I have also reported that I am a member of the Jewish Home Central Committee. We feel assured that it is not giving away any secrets as the news likely reported on our decision to support the same election agreements both for the party and the coalition should it be reestablished which is likely. The rumors about the move to place Ayelet Shaked at the top of a combined list should the New Right also join the United Right with one place claiming improbably that she was intending to join as an independent candidate leaving the New Right partner Naftali Bennett behind. Where we might see opportunity should Shaked and Bennett split up their long-term apparent agreement, this would also pose some interesting future decisions.

 

I would like to give my impressions of Rafi Peretz whom I was fortunate to meet running into him, almost literally, on my way into the Central Committee meeting and once more before leaving the event. I was given the good fortune of spending some time in conversations with him. I also met Ben Dahan who was hurrying, so was not able to get a good read of the man and as the interaction was so abbreviated that I feel that any commentary about him would be unfair to our readers and to him. To give a review of the meeting, to put it simply, it was as bland as expected. There were the regular speeches by a few of the officers, a reading of the new business, the vote, Rafi Peretz gave the closing address and then everyone descended from the seats to meet Rafi Peretz. I went to the stage and this was where I met Ben Dahan where I thanked him and told him it was his articles amongst other items which persuaded us to become members of the Jewish Home Party; but that is a tale for, well, never, it would be boring. We can add that the trip down and back was a pair of adventures as initially the trains were not running from Nahariya; so it was necessary to take a bus to get to the train one station south. Coming home I managed to be dropped off at a different station than the one I used on arriving, which claimed that my train would be on track 1 which was closed and there were almost no workers at this station that I could ask. I got home and this is how the story ends. So, first an obligatory picture of myself with Rafi Peretz on our way right before exiting the building.

 

Chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz and I

Chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz and I

 

Rafi Peretz is a man with a very interesting past. When he took over the Jewish Home Party after Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked decided to leave Jewish Home, we did some research on him reading many of the articles. General (ret), Rabbi Rafi Peretz entered the IDF and flew combat helicopters initially and by the time he retired as a Brigadier General he was serving as the Chief Rabbi of the IDF. If such a life of a man going from attack helicopters on to become the Chief Rabbi is not the basis for a novel which then would become a movie, then perhaps what he has done since leaving the IDF would allow this to qualify. Rabbi Peretz formed a Yeshiva in the Gaza region when, in August 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon executed the Gaza withdrawal removing all Israeli presence down to reinterring the dead and erasing all record of their presence being left behind other than usable buildings and the million-dollar greenhouses. Rabbi Rafi Peretz was undeterred and restarted his Yeshiva in the Shomron. Rabbi Peretz is a man who obviously is not easily deterred and a person who intends to complete anything he agrees to undertake. He has stated that he intends to remain at the top position in the United Right coalition though he will gladly accept others who wish to enter in a reasonable manner. These are personal ideas of BTC and not official Jewish Home positions, a necessary disclaimer.

 

My meetings with Rabbi Rafi Peretz were unbelievably pleasant and he was a very personable person. He does not come across as most political people we have met, and since we ran a campaign for the United States Congress for the Eighth District in Maryland, we met two up close and personal as we debated a number of times and appeared at numerous of the same locations. Further, growing up in Washington D.C. area, I also have met any number of politicians sometimes as customers of a store I managed or in public casually as well at events. Of all the politicians I have had opportunities to meet, very few felt as real, honest and personally involved and interested in those around them. Chairman Peretz is warm and willing to do all the things which make people feel comfortable and is willing to talk and exchange with others as equals. I am not going to reveal our discussions or any of the points but he was patient and willing to go the extra yard. He willingly waited to meet everyone who waited to talk with him without hurrying away despite the meeting going fairly late. You understand, some of the speakers took full use of the microphone. The fact is that he had no entourage which many politicians use as a means of avoiding having to be approached by too many people on their way out the door. I understand that as a Central Committee member, I do get a special situational advantage for bending the Chairman of the Party’s ear. Still, my impression is that Chairman, Rabbi Peretz would spend the time to listen and give the proper time and respect to the people who wished to approach him with questions or simply to get a measure of the man. My belief is that we need to get him out and before as many Israelis we can emphasizing towards our base. This includes any Zionist, religious Zionists or Secular Zionists and those between. Rafi Peretz could become a future leader of the State of Israel and she would be in caring and strong hands. Any man who has performed with excellence as a combat helicopter pilot, then becoming the IDF Chief Rabbi, founding a Yeshiva and having it pulled from under him by the Gaza withdrawal forcing him to make a difficult decision in which he took his students out of Gaza orderly and without attacking the IDF troops, reforming his Yeshiva and finally answering the call to restore order to the Jewish Home Party in our hour of need; can return respectability and decorum to the leadership of the party. If Prime Minister were a directly elected position where the different party leaders competed in a two round election where the top three from the initial where all the party coalitions were included and, if none received over fifty percent then a final competition between the top two, he would have a very presentable chance of winning. But Israel has the system they desired, or at least what was decided back at the beginning of the nation. Israel could be placed in worse hands than those of Chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz, retired Brigadier General, Yeshiva Rabbi, IDF Chief Rabbi and beginning as a combat helicopter pilot. I would also like to thank him for his kindness in our interactions.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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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.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

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

 

April 15, 2019

Not Bibi Again!

 

This has been the whine heard from almost everyone from the center and leftwards as well as from a fair number on the right. What is interesting is the further you get from the center, right or left, the louder the complaints become. The one nice thing about these people and their complaining is that at least we know they did not vote for Likud guaranteeing more Bibi. Of course, from the media we are about to be fed a steady stream of whining over Bibi returning as Prime Minister mixed with a dash of hope that the Attorney General will find something which sticks to Bibi long enough to charge him and then it might be bye, bye Bibi. For those in the United States, things are not much different than in Israel as the left hangs on the hope that they can use the legal system to get something on Bibi, in your case, Trump, and then be rid of them forever. Those of us with at least one foot firmly on the grounds of reality, we realize that these attempts to incriminate Trump or Bibi with some legal misdeeds is nothing more than a witch hunt which will come up empty, but that will not stop those determined to be rid of them from continuing to try again and again. But the reality of Bibi goes so much deeper.

 

We are regularly bombarded with praises heaped upon Bibi lauding him as the consummate political maneuverer and a master of the game. We are not quite so kind. If you want to get a line on why Bibi has been so successful and will soon become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, ask those whom he has all but destroyed. Currently at the top of that is Naftali Bennett whose New Right Party just missed clearing threshold. Naftali Bennett left the Likud Party taking Ayelet Shaked with him and went to Jewish Home where Bennett believed he had found his horse to ride straight to the Prime Minister’s House. Both Bennett and Shaked had worked directly for Bibi in his offices. Needless to say, Bibi took their leaving a bit personally. Two elections after Bennett and Shaked had moved to Jewish Home, a sort of miracle was in the making and Bennett actually was polling as almost even with Bibi and Likud with Jewish Home Party, formerly just a minor Religious-Zionist Party not terribly right of center. It was looking really close, until Bibi promised to treat Bennett and Shaked really nicely. What was the problem was that a center-left party was polling ahead of Likud and Jewish Home but well behind their combined totals. Bibi demanded that Bennett fall on his sword such that Bibi would defeat this upstart from the left threatening that if Bennett refused that there may very well be a left-wing government. Bennett made the fateful speech claiming not to be ready to be Prime Minister quite yet. The next morning, presto-chango, Likud was polling comfortably in the lead and Jewish Home was polling in single digits well below the day before. Bennett and Shaked got their Ministerial position, and Shaked as Justice Minister performed near miracles and will be missed from that position as her work was far from completed.

 

This was the first revenge Bibi took out on Bennett, and possibly Shaked as well, as when the next election cycle came around, Jewish Home was struggling to reach double digits, and this would not serve Bennett reaching Prime Minister. In private with only a select group of faithful who were to follow Bennett, Neftali planned to leave Jewish Home and form a new party. He would have been wished well had he done this differently, but his plan was also to rid himself from any competition from his former party. For reasons untold, every attempt to have the Central Committee meet, something important as a new Central Committee had been elected (I was somehow amongst the chosen for my town) and new leadership needed to be selected. This was not to be as it would have left some semblance of organization when Bennett and Shaked split as soon as elections were announced. The New Right, as Bennett’s party was named, shot up into double digits in the polls while Jewish Home, after losing its top two candidates, having no new leader, having a central committee now decimated as people streamed off with Bennett, all power structures pretty much destroyed with some key positions which remained held by people left behind to make sure the chaos destroyed Jewish Home (though this will be denied to the end of time), Jewish Home polled at best around ‘one.’ I personally begged two of those leaving to remain and warned they would regret leaving, but off went even friends.

 

 

Slowly, with the election growing closer, a committee of self-appointed leaders claimed they would reconstitute the party by fiat. The remains of the Central Committee protested and threatened to use their powers under the Party Constitution and this caused a surprised group who expected only slavish thanks to step back and listen. A system was worked out that nobody would be assigned any leadership without Central Committee approval, and slowly the Party was rebuilt only getting finalized with but a few days left to place a Knesset list for the elections. Jewish Home submitted their list with Rafi Peretz as their new leader, and what an improvement he will be if we can keep him long enough. Polls came and polls went and for quite a while Bennett appeared to have made a wise choice but inevitably the New Right started slipping, Jewish Home gained and with the election done Jewish Home, a party destroyed just mere months ago came in with five mandates and Bennet with his New Right failed to reach threshold and will not be in the government.

 

Moshe Feiglin, founder of the Zehut Party, is another person whose history crossed paths with Bibi Netanyahu. Feiglin made a critical mistake, as have others before him, as he began to become popular both in the Liked and in the public eye. His popularity grew for quite a while until it began to appear as should this continue; he would be able to challenge Bibi. That was his breaking of the cardinal rule, Bibi is king and it is good to be the king. Suddenly, through things and rules which are still very hazy, the next election found Feiglin buried to a position in the mid-to-high thirties, well beyond any hope of being in the Knesset. Well, that began the slide of Feiglin in Likud and he soon realized that Bibi had buried him just as he has anyone who showed even a glimmer of being a threat to the Bibi. People need to understand something about Bibi, he does not compete with people for the top spot, he eviscerates those who approach his level of popularity at the crucial point where they would become a threat soon but before the point where they become difficult to stop. Feiglin probably came the closest but Bibi learned from his predecessor and mentor, Ariel Sharon.

 

Ariel Sharon once ruled the roost in Likud. There was this younger, more energetic upstart who was climbing towards being able to challenge Sharon for the top spot. Sharon decided to give this upstart a challenge, a challenge which had proven the death of all who previously had this position foist upon them. Bibi was made finance secretary, once upon a time a dead end Ministership which ate up Ministers and spat them out finished politically. Well, perhaps Sharon should have checked Bibi’s resume where he would have noted that MBA along with degrees in economics. Bibi took on that challenge and all but rebuilt the economic picture in Israel and Israel is still running along with all those changes paying off with dividends. The old Socialist clogging of the economic spigot have been cleared and a Capitalist system put in its place which rewards entrepreneurs, investors and those who take the risks and does not overly penalize corporations for becoming bigger and controlling certain sectors as in Israel that is simply a challenge put down for others to unseat the giant. That is part of why we are the start-up nation. Ariel Sharon eventually fell to the demands of an American President, George W. Bush, and committed the Gaza disengagement. This Gaza Disengagement is what General Gantz (please do not confuse him with General Peretz who leads Jewish Home) of the Blue White coalition with Yair Lapid, claimed he had learned valuable lessons and believed it could be wisely used elsewhere to lead to peace, namely in the Shomron. He had a plan to simply give Mahmoud Abbas most of the Shomron and tell him this would make peace between us. This would have worked just as well as it did in Gaza and that is the peace, we would have received with one difference, instead of Sderot being the target in easy range, it would have been Tel Aviv within range. Anyway, Bibi rose after Sharon was felled by a stroke and has ruled Likud ever since felling one challenger after another almost as if it were nothing.

 

The picture for the future is simple and may result in costing Israel dearly. For as long as the Likud Party remains entrenched as the preeminent party on the right, Bibi will remain Prime Minister. General Gantz probably posed as hard a challenge as anybody has since Lapid threatened and Bibi had Bennett self-destruct so he could beat Lapid. This sacrifice of Bennett was not sufficient. A couple of days before the vote this past election, Bibi announced in a very public setting, that he intends to extend civil law to all, every last one regardless of size, the Jewish settlements in the Shomron. He made the announcement repeatedly in interviews, in a photo op with the leaders of most of the Shomron communities and pretty much everywhere else including probably at breakfast to prepare for the words of the day. This was the entire pitch which Bennett was running upon and Bibi’s announcement simply cut his legs from beneath him. Bennett had siphoned off a fair amount of support extensively from the Likud, he had already taken the top two slots and another of the Jewish Home top ten along with half of the financing received by parties for the campaign while leaving the entire debt he had run up behind hampering Jewish Home, and with this one announcement Bibi had retrieved those votes right back to Likud as now there was no difference between Bibi position on the Shomron and Bennett and Bibi was more likely to be Prime Minister and Bennett was cooked. This was Bibi’s burying of Bennett and getting his revenge for Bennett taking Shaked and deserting Likud for Jewish Home. Bibi also recognized that Bennett wants to be Prime Minister and will stop at nothing to get there. Well, Bibi is Prime Minister and will stop at next to nothing to remain there, and in politics the person on top has all the advantages.

 

Bibi remains Prime Minister because he recognizes any and everyone who has that desire, that gleam in their eye, that spring in their step that says I’m on my way up, and Bibi knows how to bury them politically so deep that they no longer know which way is up. There have been those rare few who such tactics would have proven ineffective as they were already too established for premature political burial. Reuven Rivlin is one perfect example. He had ridden high in the Likud list for a fair while. Burying him would be difficult and would cost Bibi too much to even try. So, how to put him aside where he can cool down until he is no longer a threat. There is a position in the Israeli government where one basically makes speeches and represents Israel at funerals and other state functions which the Prime Minister may not choose to attend though both can be at the same event from time to time. This position is called President. Currently, Reuven Rivlin is serving as President of Israel. He is about to perform the one very political role the President is assigned, deciding which party leader to choose to attempt to form a coalition and become Prime Minister. We hear you, here comes his opportunity to get even. Absolutely not. Reuven Rivlin had two competing dreams, Prime Minister and President. This was the perfect opportunity for Bibi to cut down on the competition and also give a person he calls friend (not a position we would envy) the chance to live his dream. But not every challenger would go away as easily.

 

There are a couple of such individuals off in the wings who, should they decide to give it their all, could step into a position leading one of the existing Religious-Zionist Parties and challenge Bibi. They are probably aware that such a move would be a one-off and if their challenge falls short, then that is it for them politically. Another was Danny Danon. The main claim against him was that his English was not perfect. Not perfect is being generous, but in Israel he only needs to speak Hebrew and if he were ever Prime Minister, he could have Bibi be his translator, that would be sweet to see. As Danny Danon rose slowly through the Likud ranks and in the settlement communities as a potential champion, they need as many as can be found, his political star appeared about ready to burst to light as a star does upon reaching that critical point. This was the point where Bibi suggested he become the United Nations Ambassador from Israel. Well, that prize was just too shiny to turn down, and Danny Danon was not seen as one whose desire in life was to be Prime Minister or to become the Bibi slayer; his dream was, is and will remain to serve Israel in whatever capacity to which he is called and to fight for Israel and her people, all of her people, in whatever way is needed. So, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations is Danny Danon. Who will be the next victim from taking the Bibi challenge? Well, none of us for a simple reason, our Hebrew is not anywhere near good enough and will never likely pass such a challenge. On the other hand, one of us has experience as a candidate with no real chance making the ballot as a third-party candidate for the United States House of Representatives. No, we will simply continue with making commentary and if called upon to serve, then we would probably serve with a proviso that we were given a trusted translator. As far as the next to step forward to take on the Bibi, there probably will not be such as Bibi has intimated that this will be his final time around, his victory lap, so to speak.

 

Still, he may be facing a new challenge from President Reuven Rivlin if the rumors are true that his first tender will be to Bibi Netanyahu as well as Gantz and Lapid of the Blue White Party, which was a very close second place vote getter being edged out thirty-six to thirty-five, and proposing that they bury their differences and join together to make a National Unity coalition in order to find a path to peace. The words “path to peace” have become a loaded phrase which Israelis equate with losing land and gaining terrorism. The last great “path to peace” was the Gaza disengagement, and we all have come to realize how well that turned out, Gaza became terror central. Should President Rivlin call to meet with both Likud and the Blue White leaders, then many Israelis will become very nervous. Such a meeting implies that the soon to be announced President Trump Deal of the Century is a known plan by Bibi, Rivlin and who knows who else, and this plan will result with another Palestinian Arab entity potentially with borders which could pose an even greater threat than Gaza has proven to pose. Such a government would only be brought into existence in order to form a government which could survive any resulting caving to allow for the Deal of the Century to come into fruition. This would not necessarily be the case with any other coalition as the potential for the Likud Party to split threatening any weaker coalition would be a definitive possibility.

 

This is what happened when Ariel Sharon committed to the Gaza Disengagement when he then formed a new party (Kadima) with the remnants from Likud and a number of representatives pealed off from Labor and other smaller parties allowing Sharon to remain as Prime Minister and the rest, as they say, is history. Another such disengagement, exactly what Gantz originally stated was his intention should he become Prime Minister early on, is something the majority of Israelis are dead set against, including us. Israel’s saving grace might just be the absolute refusal by Gantz and Lapid before the election to forming such a government as they really desired to replace Bibi outright. With things now settled and being the lesser party, this may no longer be such a terrible idea for them to adopt. It is remarkable how malleable formerly stated absolutes come when the alternative is sitting in the opposition, the same opposition they claimed they were ready to ride to the next election when they just know they will win outright. The other part which makes this all the more possible is the once stated admiration Bibi held for Ariel Sharon whom Bibi claimed at that time was his mentor. This looms larger now that such things are presenting themselves, even if they are but rumors as rumors sometimes have a bad habit of becoming part of reality. The most likely path forward will be for President Rivlin to collect from each party leader the person they would choose to support as Prime Minister, Bibi or Gantz. As things sit currently, Gantz would receive at most fifty-five while Bibi is expected to receive sixty with Avigdor Lieberman waiting to have Bibi agree to his demands before making him Prime Minister. So, how do things sit now? The government will be even more shaky than the former government. Last time, when Lieberman pulled from the coalition, that left Bibi with a ruling coalition of sixty-one, the minimum for a sitting government. This time Lieberman sits between Bibi and a mere sixty which would probably result in the calling for new elections soon thereafter. Somewhere, Bibi lost one critical ministerial mandate and has an even weaker position. The editorials which claimed that we may have a new election within the year are looking to have a decent chance of being correct. Things are back to being as shaky as, as.. as.. as a Fiddler on the Roof.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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