Reflections on the Elections


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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Any Consequences for Israel’s Love Affair with Trump?

Israel Flag

You bet. But first, let’s spend a minute analyzing the picture above. We see three prominent flags being carried above a river of people—demonstrators, rioters, terrorists—on the way to the Capitol building in Washington D.C. The citadel of our fragile democracy. We don’t know whether the people we see will eventually storm the building too. Maybe they are just behind the storming mob, and will stop at the steps of the Capitol. No matter, we look at their faces and see that they are eager participants, following President Trump’s orders.

The first flag in the foreground, on the right, is the QAnon flag, slightly folded by the wind. QAnon, of course, is the largest and most notorious (alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring, etc.), most influential of all the Republicans’ conspiracy theories. A completely baseless, alternate reality gibberish. Which, nonetheless, making true believers of the president’s anti-reality, anti-truth supporters. At the center, most prominently, we see the American flag. And then on the right, farther from us, is none other than the Israeli flag.

So what are we to make of this Holy Trinity? We know that Israel was on top of the list of a few countries to benefit from the Trump administration. Any wish Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters—qualifier: almost any wish, as the annexation of the West Bank was not granted, yet was a future possibility—was happily granted by Trump and his sycophants, Ambassador Friedman and Jared Kushner. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: check. The Golan Heights recognized as Israeli territory: check. Disregard, discredit, marginalized the Palestinian issue and people: check. A hurried exit of the Iranian Nuclear Deal: check. More money and more sophisticated weapons and fighting aircrafts: check. And so on.

If you ask yourselves why this lovefest was so strong from the get-go, you couldn’t be more wrong if you thought it was Trump’s love for the Jewish State and the Jewish people. Nonsense. (He could never get used to Jared stealing his beloved daughter Ivanka away from him.) When he came to office he couldn’t point Israel, or Jerusalem, on the map if you put a gun to his head. Two reasons then: First, the Evangelical movement. His greatest supporters. And devotee supporters of Israel’s occupation, annexation, apartheid, you name it. How else will the Messiah come back to earth? And do you know that, even while the pandemic is raging on, and the country is in lockdown, some Evangelicals were allowed to enter the country to volunteer for picking up grapes in the settlements?

The second reason was that he’d hoped—stupidly, of course—or was sure that by granting all Netanyahu’s demands and wishes the majority of Jews in America will vote for him. Fat chance. We know now that between 66-76 percent (depend on the pollsters) of Jews have voted democratic, for Biden. (As yours truly had predicted, and was attacked for so predicting, in a previous post, Why Most Jews Vote Biden, 10/30/2020). Which brings us naturally to the question of what the consequences are, if any, for Israel’s love affair with Trump.

“If Israel were a U.S. state, it would be the reddest state in the Union,” said Alon Pinkas (to the New Yorker), a former consul-general for Israel in New York. But why? But how? Some adulation can be attributed to the dimwitted, or naive belief that to be good to Israel and its people, to safeguard its security and future, a president must grant every wish of its Right-wing government and majority. (Which is, of course, utter nonsense.) The other, and even more problematic, is that the anti-democracy, anti-truth, anti-reality forces in Israel are just as strong, just as large (population-wise) as in America. And that the threat of a criminal dictator like Trump—i.e. Netanyahu—is just as prominent. Hence the continuous struggle, and year-long demonstrations by Israelis fighting for the state young—in comparison to America—democracy. And without a constitution to safeguard it. As a result, the residue of the lovefest with Trump will continue to resonate as the country and its people continue the fight to retain its democracy.

The other consequence is that the gap between Israeli Jews and American Jews—not only liberals, not only reforms, but among conservatives too—is wider than it has ever been. American Jews, on the whole—excluding the ultra-orthodox, ultra-conservatives, and evangelical-prone Jews—abhor autocracy and despise anti-fact, anti-truth conspiracy theories and alternate-reality nonsense. They sew clearly what was in front of them when Trump was in power, and didn’t like it one bit. Just as they didn’t/don’t like what they see going on in Israel. Which, even if they don’t admit it loudly, know it’s way ahead into becoming an Apartheid state.

One hopes that with the change of a president, an administration and party in America, things will change—and they will, to a large or small degree—regarding Israel’s occupation and grand ambitions. But the way things are moving, especially in Israel, I don’t see this gap narrowing any day soon. This will create a fissure, and complications in Jews’ reaction to Israel. Assuming the coronavirus would be defeated at some point in time, soon hopefully, and Jews will return to services at their various congregations, they and their national organizations—even AIPAC, another Trump’s enabler when it comes to Israel—will have to work hard to narrow this gap.

Finally, in Israel, time will tell. And much will be determined in the next elections. The demographics don’t look good, though. As in Israel, unlike America—wherein seven of the last eight elections the majority of the people voted for the Democratic presidential candidates—the majority goes the other way. Traditionally the Likud and Netanyahu were always supported by the majority of Mizrachim, or Sephardim, Jews from Arab and North African countries. Joining them—the fasted growing segment of the population in Israel, and the majority of the West Bank settlers—are the Haredim, the ultra-orthodox. The fervent religious zealots. The most ardent of Trump’s supporters.

The struggle for democracy continues then, both in America and in Israel, with the consequences of the alliance of Trump and Israel to vibrate for years to come.

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