The Surprising, Crucial Element in Israel’s Next Elections

timesofisrael.com

To better understand what’s at stake in this election round, what change it might bring—if any at all—and especially what that new, surprising (even crucial) element is, we better analyze first where we are with these elections, and what to expect.

Not much, indeed, by way of a change. Let’s say a rich uncle has suddenly materialized in my life and is handing me a hundred dollars (a thousand, a million, all the same) to bet on the elections. Right away, I will put 50 bucks on the result of ‘no change.’ Things will stay the same, with no one being able to form a government (but hang on, as such result is important to that surprising element I promised you at the top). In other words, no side—either Netanyahu’s Likud and his rightwing block, neither the center-left block—will be able to form a sustained coalition. A stalemate, in short, will ensue.

How come? Well, essentially, nothing much has changed in the makeup of the Israeli public and electorate since the first election in this cycle took place, some two years ago. In this, the fourth round, the Knesset will be divided just as much, if not exactly right vs left but with Netanyahu’s block against the rest. No one will be able to secure a majority and therefore the impasse will remain; Netanyahu will continue to rule as a Prime Minister in transition, until another round of useless election is called and commence.

So next, I will put thirty dollars of my uncle’s money on Netanyahu succeeding after all to form a governing coalition. I’m betting here on his ability to pull another rabbit out of the hat, mainly due to him taking full credit for the vaccination success in Israel, beating down the coronavirus pandemic, and the normalization of relations with several Arab and African countries. Also, his appeal to the Israeli Arab population (his sworn enemy in the last three elections) on the one hand, and the racist Kahanist party on the other. Right now the Israeli polls indicate a slight improvement in the possibility of such an outcome, and these polls, it must be said here upfront, were pretty accurate the last two rounds.

Now to the twenty dollars left for me to bet on. I’ll put them on the opposing, anti-Netanyahu forces being able somehow to form a government. The chances are not good, but I have twenty bucks left (and it’s not my money, to boot). In fact, as I write this post, some polls do predict a slight advantage to this camp. So why only twenty dollars on them? Because this camp, while united in its disdain for Netanyahu, is so fragmented on all other issues facing the country that it will not be able to come to an agreement. Not on who will lead them, and not on what to do once they are in power. Furthermore, even in the unlikeliest scenario that they will be able to form a governing coalition, it will collapse soon thereafter and bring a new election round.
This brings me to the surprising element I promised you at the top, and to the dark horse of these elections. His name is Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, and currently the Defense Minister, the acting Justice Minister, and the government Prime Minister in reserve. He is the one who actually won the second election round but was unable to form a coalition, though he had a slight majority. He is the one who promised to never join Netanyahu’s government—but did just that anyway.

He decided, in the dead of night of the coronavirus pandemic outburst to end the debacle, hold his fingers to his nose and join the coalition. In a blogpost on April 26, 2020, titled: The Lesser of Two Evils, I supported his move. It was the right move for Israel and Israelis, I thought, but the wrong, disastrous move for him politically. I was in the minority then, supporting him, and I now find myself in the single-digit minority still thinking he did the right thing.

He prevented the annexation of the West Bank by Netanyahu; he protected the integrity and independence of the judicial system (and Netanyahu’s trial going forward); he helped to muster the resources to fight the pandemic; he served as a gatekeeper for Israel’s democracy, against Netanyahu’s attempts of destroying it. And indeed, as predicted by all, Netanyahu negated to go ahead with the agreement to rotate the premiership, and use the one loophole available for him not to pass a budget. Hence the elections. And hence the collapse of Gantz’s Blue and white party. A party all the polls are indicating is teetering on the edge of not even making it to the next Knesset. Of not passing the electoral threshold.

But guess what: If he does get into the next Knesset, and if as seems most likely the stalemate continues following this election, and the next one too, he would become the next Prime Minister on November 17! Yes, you read me right. By a basic law that the Knesset had enacted under this coalition, he would assume power—if he is still a Knesset member—November 17. No joke!

Now, to be sure, there are so many ‘ifs’ for such a scenario to become reality, that’s it’s almost unthinkable. Hence no money is put on it as a bet. But one fact remains intact: Despite all opinions, predictions and popularity contests showing otherwise, he might still be the best option to replace Netanyahu in power. So I say to all Israelis (I am one, too, but I cannot vote unless I fly back home for the elections): Vote for benny Gantz and Blue and White.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

2 Responses

  1. Please explain:

    A. What is this magic on Nov. 17 that makes Gantz PM?

    B. You can’t vote in Israeli elections unless you fly “home”? Yet many Israelis vote in American elections without needing to come “home”…

    • A. There’s no magic in the ‘Nov. 17’ date, except that in the coalition agreement that was about the half-point where Netanyahu was supposed to hand over the premiership to Gantz. As long as there’s no new government, this still holds if Gantz is still in the Knesset. B. Israel is almost alone in demanding of its citizens to be present in the country in order to vote. If Israelis vote in an American election it’s because they’re already also American citizens.

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