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Reflections on the Elections

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One: Stalemate. As was predicted here in last month’s post, pre-elections, the most likely outcome of Israelis going to the polls is another deadlock. An intractable division in which no side—right, center, or left—can form a governing coalition. In this early stage some unknown factors remain, but it will take a ‘Passover Miracle’ for anybody to form a coalition. And if successful, it will be so razor-thin a margin that it won’t last long.

Two: Bibi Netanyahu. Despite his election-night claim of victory—what else?—he lost. Not only he lost five members of Knesset (MKs) in his party (more than 10%), but his ability to establish a governing coalition has been reduced dramatically as a result. He has 52 MKs at his camp, and even with ‘Yamina’, a party to his right and a natural ally with 7 MKs, he won’t make it. He needs the help of the ‘United Arab List’, a Muslim Arab party which throughout the years he declared as the enemy of Israel and Zionism. Fat chance there, then, if not totally out of the question since he is not only fighting for his political life, but his personal life; i.e., to stay out of jail.

Three: Benny Gantz. As my readers know, I supported his move to join the coalition with the treacherous Netanyahu, and even stuck with him through thick and thin before the elections, calling on Israelis to vote for him. Apparently—they heard me. He and his Blue & White party are probably the biggest surprises of these elections. Predicted by experts during the campaign to not even pass the electoral threshold, and therefore not get into the Knesset, he now has 8 MKs and it’s the fourth biggest party. Even combat friends—such as previous prime Minister Ehud Barack –called on him publicly to withdraw from the election. Party friends and members deserted him. Yet he stuck with it. And the outlandish scenario I’d laid out before you in my last post, of him ending up being the Prime Minister as a result of this, and that of next elections’ stalemate, took another step forward to become an (unbelievable indeed) reality.

Four: Mansour Abbas. He is an Arab Israeli and the leader of the ‘United Arab List’ (Ra’am), who’s also one of the few winners of this round of elections. He’d split from the Joint Arab Party and was also not predicted to pass the electoral threshold. And yet he has passed with 4 MKs, and now finds himself in the enviable position of being declared a potential ‘kingmaker’. He can extract any price now, any deal, in order to solve the problems facing his constituency in the Arab society, in return to joining—or even just supporting in the Knesset without joining—either camp. Yes, even the rightwing Likud camp.

Five: Labor and Meretz. Another surprise. The rebirth of the Labor Party—the old party of the ‘giants,’ who fought, build, and sustained Israel from pre-independence to 1976—came out from the dead with 7 MKs, with a strong (almost Golda-like) woman leader, Merav Michaeli at its helm. Meretz, a party even left to the Labor party, which was predicted to not pass the electoral threshold too, did so with 6 MKs, enough to survive in the Israeli political arena. They should unite again, that’s my opinion, yet I’m delighted and encouraged to see them in the Knesset.

Six:  Religious Zionism. This party on the extreme right, led by Bezalel Smotricv, also won with 7 MKs. Without them Netanyahu doesn’t even have a prayer. They are the fervent supporters of ‘Eretz Shlema;’ the whole of Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This is the settlers’ party, with “lawmakers who back expelling ‘disloyal’ Arabs and vow to ‘put the Torah first’.” (Haaretz). This party includes “Itamar Ben-Gvir… the leader of this extremist right-wing party… a disciple of Meir Kahane.” Not only he’s in the Knesset, but he might be in the government too.

Seven: Israel is stuck. Split into two halves, left of center and right of center. One begins to think the whole political system has to change sooner or later before a significant change could come. Or Netanyahu is finally removed for power—before he grabs it for good—and goes to jail. Even he, the “political genius,” the  “Fox,” couldn’t muster a win. Twelve ongoing years in power, in control of everything, hailed as the coronavirus pandemic miracle worker, a receiver of tremendous political gifts from President Trump, establishing peace and normalization with about four Arab states, and yet he has lost. The problem is intractable, and even a united front of the center-left parties—very unlikely—might not bring a solution, as we saw in the first three election rounds.

Eight: A miracle. Fifth elections without decision. Benny Gantz becomes Prime Minister on November 17 because of the current coalition agreement and law. Netanyahu goes to jail eventually, or resigns with a plea agreement and is ordered to stay out of politics for good, yet a free man. This will shuffle the cards, will bring new elections with hopefully a new leader in charge. Fat chance, you say. I agree. Yet one can still hope.

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