Beyond the Cusp

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.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

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

 

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

 

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