Beyond the Cusp

September 16, 2019

Election Day is Almost Here

 

Well, we are going to try and elect a government one more time tomorrow. We attempted to do so back in April but that became a bad joke as nobody could reach the magic number of sixty-one mandates. There is a better than even chance that we will simply have a repeat performance by an evenly divided country. Now, we know the question on so many minds, how can there be an election without one side reaching a majority. The answer is easy to understand once one realizes that a large segment of the populace refuses to join with either the left or right, the Arab sector parties. When Ra’amBalad and HadashTa’al, both a combination of far-left party and an Arab party plus another Arab party with a Communist party, take on average around ten to a twelve mandates, this means the major parties need to gather sixty-one or more mandates out of merely one-hundred-eight to one-hundred-ten available mandates. This means that instead of being required to form a government with fifty-percent of the vote plus one mandate, to form a government they require between fifty-five-percent to fifty-seven-percent plus one to form a government, a far more difficult task. These outlier parties have as part of their platforms anti-Zionism, support for two-state-solution, socialism/communism and a general disregard, if not outright hatred, of the right and simple disdain for the left and support for Israeli Arabs plus the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority and those in Gaza. Israelis will await the results as it is unsure which side, right-wing or left-wing, will be able of forming a coalition. So, what should the world expect come Wednesday morning and the results are finalized?

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

We can all expect another close election with the balance being determined by which side gets their supporters to the polls to vote. Initial indications from those permitted to take advantage of early voting have presented a disturbing realization, they are voting at a rate measurably below their percentage in April. Should this hold valid for the turnout for the elections tomorrow, it means that whichever side loses the least in turnout will likely come out as the leader. But just because one side receives a larger percentage of the vote does not mean that they will realize sufficient support to form a government. Things have gotten to the point of absurd as Bibi Netanyahu came out making a similar announcement so as not to be outdone by the Blue White Party, where Ganz stated he would accept Arab parties in his coalition if needed to form a government and that negotiations were proceeding in that direction; Bibi stated he would not refuse to work with Arab Ministers who might join his coalition. The reality is almost every Arab Minister from the Arab parties would never join a Bibi led coalition, but Ganz could be a wholly different and definitive possibility. Even should either side make a coalition with Arab Party Ministers, such a coalition would be excessively shaky and unlikely to be sufficiently stable to survive even one year.

 

So, what has accurately changed since April? One thing is that Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, has entered into a vote sharing where should one part be close to attaining an additional seat, the other party can gift them any votes which would not cost their party a position. This is performed in order to attempt and provide one of the parties, and thus their combined number of mandates, an additional position. Lieberman had been seen as potentially leading his party along with the rest of the right-wing parties and this places Yisrael Beiteinu definitely allied with the left-wing and has removed any doubt as to their current loyalty. This is a definite change from history and was suspected when Lieberman refused to join any government led by Netanyahu, thus moving to the left of center. This could result in their receiving fewer votes and thus mandates with some of their more conservative members leaving and joining Likud or possibly even Yamina combined right party. This will be another of the variables which will be beyond the polls and prognosticators ability to accurately predict. Then there is the other difficulty which drives and makes Israeli elections different and more variable than other parliamentary governments, the fact that there are numerous, what are best described as, personality parties where they are centered around a person whose positions are often either narrow or even contradictory such as being largely a right-wing party as well as marijuana legalization, which often fail to reach the threshold in order to receive ministers in the government and thus their votes go wasted. This often leads to what becomes lost positions and mandates for either side depending on how many of such parties or alliances of such parties fail to make it into the government. On the other hand, should the majority of such parties on either side actually make it into the government, then that side will have a stronger position in forming a government.

 

So, what have the polls been claiming? Here we must be honest; we have tended to disregard Israeli polling as it is often well off the mark. If President Trump is to be believed, then Prime Minister Netanyahu will waltz to victory with ease, another thing we doubt as nothing in Israeli politics is easy. What people have mentioned in conversations about the elections is that there are polls claiming the right will form the next government and claiming the left will form the next government. There you have it, polls made to order, and that is the unfortunate reality about Israeli polling. Israel has the same dividing political criteria as in the United States. The big cities, starting with Tel Aviv, vote largely for the left-wing while the religious, Zionist and smaller cities tend to vote more right-wing. Similarly to the United States, the population is relatively evenly split with one exception, right-wing voters in Israel are often the ones more determined to make it out and vote. This may prove to be the defining difference when the dust settles and Israel will once more set out to form a government. The bigger question is which person, Bibi or Ganz and company, does the Israeli populace trust to lead the country sustaining the economy and keeping the nation safer. This is where the left very well could hit their largest problem, they are too defined by the memory of the Oslo Accords and the well over a thousand Israelis murdered in the following flood of terrorist attacks. Netanyahu has allowed for terrorism to be greatly decreased with the terror wall, technological miracles such as Iron Dome, and other mitigating factors. Netanyahu has also had the advantage of a strong economic picture. But he does have one looming fault which he has attempted to cajole and coax a picture of his turning over a new leaf and suddenly has reached a point where he claims he will extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, all of the Israeli towns beyond the Green Line and numerous other offerings to the Zionists and stronger right-wing voters. Part of this rhetoric has been his weapon attempting to drive voters from the further right Yamina into the fold of Likud. Netanyahu has gone what some may see as overboard with claims that Yamina will not pass threshold and thus voting for them is wasting your vote and only the Likud is the safe vote. This has been the main difficulty with Bibi as he desires having a coalition made up of Likud without any other parties. By attempting to reach such, he often attacks the other right-wing parties which in the end makes forming a right-wing government that much more difficult as he could cost some of the smaller parties to fail to reach threshold thanks to his attacks. His attack on Yamina would be completely unfounded as it is a coalition of parties which Bibi pushed and pressured Jewish Home, National Union and The New Right to combine so they would easily pass threshold and now he is attacking them for not being able to make threshold. Netanyahu has also been seen to be attacking largely Zionist parties such as Yamina which makes his promises for extending sovereignty all the less believable. Only a strong showing by Yamina would be capable of holding Netanyahu to his word while others would allow him to forget these promises seeing them simply as politicking for these elections.

 

Then there is always the question as to who other than Bibi can lead Israel from the right. That is a question which will have to be seen after the era of Netanyahu as the Likud is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. But this will change over time and within the next thirty years, and conceivably less, the leading party will likely be a coalition of religious-Zionist parties which will have taken control of Israeli politics. This prediction is based on simple mathematics. The religious sector in Israel, as in the United States and Europe, are reproducing at a far higher rate than the left-leaning populace. This population will be split between the Haredi Parties and the religious-Zionist parties and somewhat less for Likud. There will be, for some time, the ability for Likud to continue to lead as long as they can find some means of retaining the support of the Haredi Parties. Eventually, their allegiance will be swayed to support of the religious-Zionist groupings as they take the lead ahead of the Likud. But all of this will take a few decades and, in the meantime, Israel is a very divided nation with a fine enough balance that we might not form a government with these elections either making new elections in another three months necessary.

 

So, what happens if we have another election which does not produce a government? Well, as we have mentioned to friends and observed, Israel is doing just fine without any functioning elected government and the main difference is there is less news. We have always felt that less news is good and no news is great despite it making blogging more difficult. Eventually Israeli populous will figure out what is what and a government will be voted into power and then we will have more news than we probably desire. We have often found the old Ronald Reagan quote of, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Perhaps this is partly why we have no problem having Israel continue without a government. Further, as long as we do not have a government, we will not have Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” something we have had a great deal of trepidation concerning what it may present. We are aware that the State Department likely had a fair amount of influence, and that is one area of the United States government which has proven to be very much anti-Israel and definitively anti-Zionist. Their influence is the central figure in our consternation. Perhaps Israel being unable to form a government is Hashem’s way of protecting her from potential disasters where Israel is once again forced to make concessions without a single guarantee that such concessions will bring us any peace. The greatest three concessions Israel has made have been some of the most destructive and now constitute the greatest threats to Israel’s future. The first was the Oslo Accords which brought us the two-state-solution paradigm which promises to produce even more terror wars were it ever to be fulfilled, the pulling of the IDF out of Lebanon without any promise for safety on the northern border leading to Hezballah on the northern border representing the Iranian desires and whims and finally the Gaza withdrawal which produced Hamas and Islamic Jihad who both are also enforcers of the will of Iran. We have our doubts that Israel could survive too many more peace plans as each brings us a new disaster and the renewed threat of devastating wars in the future. The only secure resolution of the Arab threats to Israel is the world finally actually fulfilling the promises we were given and are still the only solution which meets with International Laws, treaties, conferences, Mandates and all enforceable by the United Nations. We are not fools and realize that much of the world desires an end to the state of Israel even if it costs, or especially if it costs, the lives of seven-million Jews. Perhaps the reality is Israel is safest and best off as long as she does not have a government upon which such future demands would be pressed. Yes, perhaps no government is the best government, something Thomas Jefferson would have understood and likely supported.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 21, 2013

Is Netanyahu About to Pull an Ariel Sharon?

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Since the very first day after Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu accepted as the first party into his current coalition the Hatnuah Party and placed its leader Tzipi Livni as the new government’s Minister of Justice and placed Ms. Livni as the lead negotiator of the Israeli negotiations team with the Palestinians, I have had a creeping suspicion that Netanyahu was going to fall on his sword in order to satisfy President Obama and allow anything to be bargained away if it produced a treaty. What made things even worse, Netanyahu announced that she would have complete freedom and full latitude to do whatever she believed was necessary to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the model of the two state solution. The presumed safety catch that would limit anything that Minister of the Knesset Livni may eventually give away was presumably that there would have to be a Knesset vote to ratify any potential treaty and then if particular lands given away met the criteria, then there would also be a referendum of the Israeli people to decide whether or not any treaty would be accepted and ratified. But even here there are some suspicions and recent events and announcements have only served to deepen my qualms that all is not well in Jerusalem.

 

Before we theorize on the future and what we believe are the signs we will need to be on the lookout for and where such paths lead, perhaps we should review some of the most pertinent facts from the Gaza disengagement fiasco and what the steps were the last time such events transpired. The first item was that the President of the United States was George W. Bush who was perceived to be a good friend of Israel and one who, while not perfect, at least was not going out of his way to destroy and compromise Israel. The Secretary of State was Condoleezza Rice, who despite her misconceptions and misgivings such as believing the Palestinians were being persecuted in a similar manner to the Black Americans during the Jim Crow era; despite her idiosyncrasies, Secretary Rice honestly thought she was working towards a good end and really pursued peace and a better future for all, both the Palestinians and the Israelis; and despite their intents, the Bush Administration fell into a number of traps which doomed their efforts we can claim with some assurance as to its validity that they had honest and good intentions. Their first misstep was their decision to force Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into disengaging all Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip and turning it over to Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians presumably so that the Palestinian leadership could demonstrate their abilities to rule and manage their own areas and live at peace alongside the Israelis. The thought was that once the Palestinian leadership had proved to administrate the Gaza Strip while preventing any terrorist attacks on Israelis or their territories, then the final formation of a Palestinian State could proceed without any further problems.

 

The next set of problems followed rapidly one on top of the next. President Bush gave Prime Minister Sharon guarantees that after Israel had released their control over the border areas between Egypt and Gaza, also known as the Philadelphia Corridor, that the European Union monitors and real-time remote video monitoring by Israeli security experts would prevent the movement of weaponry into Gaza as well as monitoring the passage of people interdicting any suspected terrorists. Soon thereafter it was time for the Palestinian government to hold elections. Big mistake number two was cued up as Secretary of State Rice insisted, with the backing of President Bush, that all factions be permitted to field candidates for the Palestinian Parliament, of course including Hamas. Despite warnings from Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, and numerous Middle East experts who warned that allowing Hamas to field candidates would guarantee that Hamas would take the majority of the seats and rise to unseat Fatah as the majority in the Palestinian Authority, the elections were held allowing Hamas candidates who won a majority of the seats as the Palestinians voted for anybody but Fatah as they perceived that Hamas would not commit fraud anywhere near the levels which had been rampant to date in the Palestinian Authority. The Hamas victory scared the living daylights out of Abbas who feeling certain that Hamas would also replace him as President and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority forcing him to cancel elections for these offices in order to preserve his positions. The Americans saw no problem with this as the overwhelming Hamas sweep in the Palestinian parliamentary elections had shaken their trust that they understood the Palestinian’s moods and proclivities. Soon the worst of the disasters that followed one after another came to fruition as Hamas executed a violent coup and took complete control over the Gaza Strip forcing Fatah and their portion of the Palestinian Authority from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. With Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, the European Union monitors made a quick retreat from their posts back to their hotels in Israel never to return to their posts after which the Hamas personnel who took control of the Rafah Crossing destroyed the video monitoring equipment. This forced Israel to rely on the good graces of Egypt to monitor the Egypt-Gaza interchange which fortunately was more successful than one might have originally expected. As it turned out, the Egyptians had issues with Hamas as Hamas was directly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood which gave Egyptian President Mubarak reasons to be suspicious and to actually monitor the border.

 

Today the President of the United States Barack Obama is considered not exactly a trusted friend to Israel and some of the members of his Administration are equally not to be trusted by Israel. Some of those who cause both politicians and residents in Israel the most qualms would include Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power and some might add Vice President Biden though his record is not as adverse as others are. As anyone who has been watching the news out of Israel and the Palestinian areas has noted, the negotiations have been reinstated but at considerable cost to the Israelis who were cajoled and pressed into releasing over the period of the negotiations up to one-hundred-four terrorists who were serving life sentences, some multiple life sentences, and had much Israeli blood on their hands in order to entice and give proper cover for Mahmoud Abbas to agree to negotiate. Of course Israel only received the privilege of holding talks for their unprecedented concessions. Even with such a sacrifice by the Israelis in releasing many terrorists whom they had refused to release numerous times before, this momentous gesture was challenged by the Palestinian leadership who demanded even more. They demanded that the borders for their state be debated from the standpoint that they were to be assumed to be starting on the 1949 Armistice Lines and included every inch of the contested areas of Judea and Samaria plus they insisted they include all of Eastern Jerusalem including all of the Old City and Temple Mount. Israel refused to grant such a request but it has been leaked that Secretary of State Kerry assured Abbas that he would steer any discussion over borders in a direction that would meet his demand. Then, almost immediately after the first meeting when the Israelis announced their intention to build housing in parts of Jerusalem and the surrounding Israeli towns which the Palestinians claim is on their lands the Palestinians threatened to terminate the negotiations unless the Israelis instituted a building freeze immediately and were prevented from realizing such plans. This fortunately blew up in their faces as Secretary Kerry, to his credit, announced that the Palestinians had been offered a building freeze but had chosen the prisoner release instead and that they had been informed that such an announcement of the building was coming within the near future and they had not objected at that time. This squelched their threat to end the negotiations.

 

The negotiations are supposed to be held in complete silence with nothing to be released to the press or announced in any other manner. Thus far that criterion has unfortunately held. The first sign that trouble is on the horizon came this week when Shelly Yachimovich announced that the Labor Party is ready, willing and very able if not anxious to replace Bayit Yehudi and Naftali Bennett in order to assure that any treaty will be enacted without any difficulties. Here are some of the signs that we need to look for in the coming months of this presumably nine-month series of negotiations which are to produce a workable treaty. There will be meetings out of which there will be no announcements or release to the press held by Prime Minister Netanyahu with his inner cabinet, the same people who voted to allow the release of the hundred plus terrorists. Lead negotiator Tzipi Livni will be noticeable at each of these meetings and may even appear to have a spring in her step and a bright smile that refuses to droop. Eventually there will be disagreements which at some point will lead to a rearrangement of the makeup of the coalition. We will begin to hear rumors that Naftali Bennett and his Bayit Yehudi are being marginalized and may soon be replaced in the coalition. At the same time it is possible that Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid Party may also be mentioned as inhibiting certain objectives and may join Bennett in being replaced in the coalition. The new coalition will replace these two Zionist parties with Shas and Labor both of whom will willingly and enthusiastically approve virtually any peace agreement hammered out by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat.

 

Many people would claim that this would not make any difference as any peace treaty if it requires surrender of any sizeable amount of territories must face a referendum of the people and the Israelis would never allow Jerusalem to be divided or for all of the lands beyond the Green Line to be forfeited to the Palestinians. The problem here is the wording as I have been led to understand is rather vague on which lands being forfeit would require a referendum by the people. The last item which will signal an imminent disaster will be the start of a debate in the United States over providing peacekeeping troops to be placed in the new Palestinian State to prevent terrorist attacks and keep everything quiet between the new Palestinian State and Israel. Needless to point out that the American peacekeepers will provide little protection and instead simply provide the terrorists a plethora of targets until they are pulled due to overwhelming demands by the Americans themselves as their ire is raised over mounting casualties. Once we get to the point that there are debates in the United States over providing peacekeepers the only salvation which Israelis may pray for is either the American public raising a holy eruption of indignation that prevents President Obama from following through with his promise to provide peacekeepers or for Heavenly intervention. My prayers will be for Heavenly intervention.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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