Beyond the Cusp

June 18, 2019

Election Roller-Coaster Taking Abrupt Turns

 

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

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

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

 

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

 

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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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