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

 

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September 10, 2019

Why Am I not All That Worried?

 

Everyday I hear a similar question in several parts. Perhaps writing articles here at Beyond the Cusp makes them believe I actually know and understands what is going on in the world and especially in Israel. It might also be my record of making predictions which have a great amount of veracity and often coming true almost exactly. Whatever the reason, I realize these questions are posed hoping I can ease their minds or accurately warn them when to start to worry and make plans accordingly. The first part of the question is worded something like, is a war coming in the near term? This is usually followed by asking for clarification as to where. This is when I have had to provide some not so great news. The reason is that Hamas in Gaza in the south has stated that they will join in any war should Israel engage with Hezballah in Lebanon to the north while Hezballah has promised to join any war Israel might engage with Hamas. The answer is it matters little where the next conflict starts, it probably, thanks to orders from Iran, will encompass a two-front war against both Hamas (with Islamic Jihad) in the south and Hezballah in the north. This, fortunately, may not matter for the remainder of this year as my feelings are that there will not be any all-encompassing conflict, or this is my wishful thinking.

 

There have been a slowly increasing escalation from out of Lebanon and Syria where Hezballah and the IRGC are aiding Syrian forces loyal to Bashir al-Assad along with Russian air and defensive support. The escalations by these forces have gone from single or twin drones to a drone swarm and single rockets to multiple rocket launches and the use of guided anti-aircraft missiles against ground vehicles. Hamas in Gaza use rocket launchers, anywhere from two or three to as many as a dozen or two. On both fronts, the Iron Dome has intercepted the majority of these projectiles projected to strike populated regions at an unreal excellence and proficiency. There have been threats made after every exchange with Hezballah always making the claim that Israel started everything and thus they will respond to the Israeli belligerence. The only problem with their claims is that the exchanges are almost if not always initiated by Hezballah or Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hamas also has their weekly, of more accurately daily, rioting along the border replete with launching of kites, balloons and the occasional drone with explosives and incendiary packages aimed for the destruction of Israel. They love the land so much they are willing to completely destroy everything such that nobody can use the region. These are the situations which many in our circles are concerned about, even to the point where it dominates conversation more than the coming election, but not more than the general banter which makes leaving the house worthwhile.

 

To the best of my discernment, many in our circles are displaying a level of tenseness and apprehension noticeably higher than usual. They claim that my lack of uneasiness with what I write and apparently obsession with the news cycle is unexplainable, even considering that I do not believe a war is inevitable this summer or until late next spring. Tomorrow morning, I fully expect to have this conversation within fifteen minutes of meeting the first of my regular circle leading to the same reaction of head shaking and pressing their feelings of ill-at-ease adding an, are you sure, to the conversation. If I am fortunate, others will not overhear our conversing as that almost inevitably brings others echoing the same questions and disbelief and even some expressing concern for my levels of sanity. I always assure them that I am still as unbalanced as ever. The upside of this tense situation surrounding us guarantees that people will want to converse so they can ask and be reassured that there is nothing coming in the immediate time-frame as none of the enemies of Israel desire having everything they own broken and having to wait for Iran to smuggle in a resupply of the necessary components for their rockets and drones. Outside events often supercharge the conversation and the number of scenarios discussed and presented as reasons why I am confused and unfounded in holding such an optimistic, almost Pollyannaish, attitude regarding the danger level around the threats which are thrown around weekly if not daily some weeks. Between Nasrallah boasting of the competence and preparedness of the Hezballah military units being capable of returning the Galilee to Lebanese control, read as Arab control, from the occupation by the Zionist Entity and Yahya Sinwar who leads Hamas insisting that the Friday (and often other days just peeking on Fridays) rioting will continue until the occupation by the Zionist Entity has been destroyed, we are pretty much guaranteed two to five threats each week depending on the need to distract the people from their poor governance. When one includes spokespersons from Islamic Jihad, commanders of the IRGC, Iran itself and Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian Authority (read PLO) circus all coming at the same demands, that the Jews take their rightful subjugation by their Islamic superiors, we seldom go two days without some threat raising concerns.

 

Hezballah is a terror army with all the abilities of the Lebanese Army in addition to their own forces as two-thirds of the Lebanese Army are members of Hezballah or sympathizers and thus do pose a credible threat. The IRGC is a second military fielded by Iran and are Islamic hardliners with radical beliefs. They are well trained and receive the same if not better equipment than the Iranian Army. This provides them with all the same capabilities as the Iranian Army with the possible restriction of less air support. Add in the Iranian Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei with his and the Iranian fanatics chants each Friday after religious services screaming, “Death to America, Death to Israel,” there is an additional guarantee for my conversation. The way I figure things, if there really was a threat of a war coming in the near period, they would have displayed a far higher rate of increase in the attacks and terrorism. There was the latest attack by Hezballah where they fired anti-aircraft guidable missiles at an IDF base targeting the vehicles and striking a field ambulance which could be claimed was an attempted escalation, almost, as they struck a converted Merkava I battle tank, which are obsolete as a main battle tank but make for a far safer ambulance for the rescue of injured soldiers in an active battle scenario, and claimed they had injured numerous IDF soldiers and claimed possible fatalities. The entire scene at this base was set up with mannequins which were evacuated as if being actual injuries. After Hezballah made their bombastic claims, IDF spokespeople revealed the reality that no Israeli was injured or killed and that the entire exchange was a trap which Hezballah took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

 

Still, the situation which Israel faces on a daily basis is serious and threatening. In the Middle East, threatening is the natural condition, and not just between Israel and her neighbors. Syria is in the midst of a long-running civil war, Iraq is fighting its own Kurdish citizens in the north securing the northern routs for Iran to provide supplies, forces and weaponry for the IRGC, Hezballah and forces fighting supporting Bashir al-Assad, Yemen is in a civil war with the Houthis attempting to overthrow the elected government with Iranian support provided by both the IRGC and Hezballah forces, the Jordanian King is facing the threat of massive unrest from the Arab Palestinians plus all the other conflicts surrounding the MENA nations and the remainder of the world. This is also another reason why I doubt that there will be any conflict this year. Iran is behind almost half of the conflicts in the Middle East. The other violence is mostly Islamic forces attacking those of Animist, Christian or other non-Islamic faith across central Africa in the Transition Zone (see map below). There are also conflicts between India and Pakistan as well as the civil unrest on Mindanao in the Philippines among other regions of strife. With most of the Arab and Islamic world facing internal as well as external conflicts, Israel has become less of an issue throughout their world.

 

African Transition Zone

African Transition Zone

 

This lowering of the level of concern and hatred against Israel as there exists an even more menacing threat, Iran. This has sent Saudi Arabia and many Gulf States to form an almost speaking relationship with Israel. There is far less mention of the Zionist Entity and threats with an exception for the Imams whose entire repertoire consists of hating Israel and Jews. This has caused the uninitiated to express their prediction that Israel will ally with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in order to counter the Iranian threat. Put absolutely no credence in this theme as everything will revert back to hate for the Zionist Entity as soon as Iran ceases to threaten the Sunni Islamic world. Simply put, take Iran out of the equation and the Sunni world will return to their emphasizing the destruction of the Zionist Entity and the return of the region to Arab Islamic rule, their defined norm for not only Israel but to the remainder of the world. Islam has a very simple definition for the world. They divide the world into two camps, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb; being defined as the world of Islam and the world of war respectively. Making this slightly more complicated, the Sunni Muslims and the Shia Muslims each consider the other to be heretics and thus part of Dar al-Harb. This also explains the high level of animosity between the Sunni Arab states and Shiite Iran. With Iran actively holding heavy sway over Iraq and their total control of Lebanon through Hezballah and Syria where they are assisting al-Assad defeat his opposition for control of Syria; this forms what many refer to as the Shiite Crescent and has all but encircled Saudi Arabia potentially explaining their sudden affections for Israel, the sole military which is capable of restraining Iran from doing whatever they please.

 

Shiite Crescent including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran

Shiite Crescent including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran

 

There is one other reason that we doubt that there will be a war this year, and this includes elections. We can gladly say that the Israeli elections are not the main criteria but the 2020 American elections. Iran is aware that should they be caught pressing for a war anywhere in the Middle East, even Israel, then President Trump would have a free ticket to pose a massive assault on Iran destroying their nuclear program and military ability. As long as after hitting Iran and dealing them a definitive and debilitating strike President Trump departs Iran, then this would leave the rebuilding and possible selecting new governance for the people to do as they see fits them best. Should Iran return to being ruled by a governance nearly identical to their current theocracy, then they would face the same policies from the Trump administration. If the Iranians built a representative governance and called for recognition and relations with the rest of the world, this might be accomplished once their new governance was solidly in place, a constitution or similar document designed and order restored allowing for free and open elections, then perhaps Iran might join the rest of the world. This would require their disbanding the IRGC, ending all support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezballah and all other terrorist organizations, ceasing their support and control over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and liberalizing their civil laws allowing for greater human rights and other freedoms. Then the Middle East could return to their natural positions of complete and total rejection of Israel. This would work to relieve some of the terrorist threats on Israel, but all of them would remain and simply be seeking new backers such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabian entities and other support even to include the European Union, United Nations with accompanying agencies, European nations and others around the world. Things would take a while to settle into whatever the new conditions would become, and things would become more unstable as the terrorist groups would start to compete with one another while seeking funding and support. This would make things unsettled and far more dangerous and quite possibly could press a war with Israel to prove they are the real and true threat to the Jewish State. That is the Middle East, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” the description Winston Churchill gave in a radio broadcast in October 1939 talking about the actions the Russians might take in World War II.

 

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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