Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

The Israeli Election

September 19, 2019 --

One result of Israel's September 17 redo election was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled plans to address the UN General Assembly during the first week of the general debate which begins September 24. Apparently Mr. Natanyahu will be occupied, the week of September 23, in negotiations to hold onto power. (Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz reportedly will address the General Assembly instead of the prime minister.) According to one report, the Blue and White party, led by former Gen. Benny Gantz is tied with the Netanyahu-led Likud at 32 seats, each. Avigdor Lieberman, who broke with trhe prime minister wants a national unity government consisting of Blue and White, Likud, and his Yisrael Beitanu party, but without Prime Minister Netanyahu as prime minister. That is to say, this redo election has not changed things much from the initial election, last April -- except that the Israeli Arab Joint List coalition drew 60 percent of the Arab vote, as against some 49 percent five months ago.

The Arab Joint List seems to have won 13 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, and looks, now, to be the third largest group in that body. Compare, say, on the West Bank, where Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is in the 14th year of his four year term -- that is, Arabs under the Palestinian Authority haven't had the chance to vote in 14 years. Both Netanyahu and Lieberman are opposed to joining with the Arab coalition, which still leaves open the possibility that the Joint List, led by Ayman Odeh could lead the opposition. LPR wonders if greater Arab participation in Knesset proceedings could further discourage talk of "a two-state solution." Would Arabs in Judea and Samaria want a two state solution leading to a Palestine where, as citizens, they don't have a vote, or inclusion in the Jewish State where, as citizens, they can vote?

Apparently, the prime minister's pre-election trips to England to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to Ukraine, to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky, and to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin failed sufficiently to impress the Israeli electorate so as to increase his showing over the April election. The next days, if not weeks, will see a good deal of maneuvering among Israel's political parties. with President Reuven Rivlin deciding which party leader will be given the first chance to form a government. LPR would not be surprised if Democrats in Washington would welcome Gen. Gantz as Israel's next prime minister, as Mr. Netanyahu has become so closely identified with President Trump. One report suggests that Gen. Gantz would be more flexible in negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, but that would mean that Blue and White would be willing accept severe demands put forth by Mahmoud Abbas -- and that seems unlikely to LPR.

Bear in mind that the Trump Mideast peace plan was set to be disclosed after the September 17 redo. (The president is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on September 24, at the start of the general debate featuring world leaders.) Announcement of the Trump peace plan for the Middle East probably must now await the formation of the next government of Israel. As the Israeli people are said to be opposed to yet a third election, the political logjam is not likely to continue for long, but it is an open question if the stalemate will end in time for the Jewish New Year.

Here is an unthinkable thought: Lieberman agrees to join Likud to form a majority but with someone other than Mr. Netanyahu as prime minister. And to make this palatable for the prime minister, the next Knesset would immunize Mr. Netanyahu from criminal prosecution based on current charges.