Daily Briefing: Political Instability Continues to Plague Israel Ahead of Third Election (January 13,2020)

: The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel, on Independence Day. Taken from the south, from The Israel Museum. (Source: Wikipedia)











Table of Contents: 

Prepare for Potential Broad War Between Iran and US – INSS Annual Report:  Yonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2020

3 Things to Watch For Next Week in Israeli Politics: Eli W. Kowaz, Israel Policy Forum, Jan. 10, 2020
Groundhog Day in Israel:  Victor Rosenthal, Abu Yehuda, Jan. 9, 2020

A Crystal Ball on 2020: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2020

Prepare for Potential Broad War Between Iran and US – INSS Annual Report
Yonah Jeremy Bob
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2020

As tensions heat up between Iran, the US and Israel following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani last week, the absence of a stable government will harm Jerusalem’s ability to achieve its broader national security and foreign affairs goals, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said in its annual report on Monday.This lack of stability could be highly problematic, according to the report, if Iran and the US slip into a broader war that could engulf the region.The report was delivered by INSS executive director Amos Yadlin to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday. Researchers worked to add an additional, special section ahead of the presentation that covers the implications of the assassination of Soleimani, Iran’s IRGC Quds Force leader.According to the report, a vast array of challenges, leading with Iran, are confronting the country “against the backdrop of a continuing political crisis in Israel that will make it difficult to developed updated strategies.
The report explained some of what the institute believes will be Israel’s major challenges in the near future, including that “Iran’s increased daring and determination in the nuclear arena,” as well as its attempts to establish a presence in Syria and other areas, could provide it with “new abilities to act against Israel.”The report also noted that “Hezbollah’s attempts to obtain a large number of precision weapons and the efforts of Hamas to reduce the pressure on Gaza and to impact the terms of an understanding with Israel,” are major challenges.

Seeking to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority is mentioned in the report, but has less prominence than other issues. For example, INSS advocates for the Trump administration to publish its peace plan, but no top Israeli politicians running for prime minister are pushing for this – and there are no signs that it will be made public before mid-spring, if at all.

Regarding Iran, the report said that it is too early to know the full repercussions of the US strike on Soleimani and on Iranian-affiliated militias last week.

The report flags the question of whether these actions could lead to escalated US military aggressiveness toward Iran, or whether the Trump administration was merely hoping to act decisively in order to deter Tehran from attacking US assets and to achieve greater quiet.

Whatever Washington’s original intent was, INSS said that the situation is currently so explosive that Israel must be ready to suddenly and fundamentally shift its strategies in each and every national security arena in order to maintain its security in the face of warping challenges.

The report said that Iran would most likely retaliate against US assets for the assassination of its leader, but that American allies, like Israel and Sunni moderate Arab states, could also find themselves under fire. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

3 Things to Watch for Next Week in Israeli Politics
Eli W. Kowaz
Israel Policy Forum, Jan. 10, 2020

Deadline to Register Party Lists

Next Tuesday marks the deadline when parties must submit their final lists to the Israel Elections Committee, and a few major mergers are in the cards on both sides of Israeli political map. As voters tend to flock to the two larger parties on election day, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz both fear smaller parties on their respective ends of the political spectrum will fail to reach the threshold and make their path to forming a government, or in Netanyahu’s case obtaining legal immunity – virtually impossible.

On the right, Benjamin Netanyahu is in talks to form a unified right-wing party, which would include the Likud and all parties to its right Netanyahu insisted on representing the full right-wing bloc of 55 in coalition negotiations after September elections; this prospective united ticket would be a party with a similar composition: the Likud, the New Right, the Union of Right-Wing Parties (including the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit), and two Ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

On the left, a major merger is possible but less likely, and here the major player is Labor head Amir Peretz. The Labor leader made a controversial decision in the last election by joining forces with Orly Levy, the former Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker with a social welfare agenda. Peretz hoped he would make inroads in periphery communities and among “soft-right” voters, but the results were not as good as he initially expected. He must now decide whether to join up with Meretz and the Israel Democratic Party, a decision that Orly Levy would likely veto or leave the joint ticket over. The concern here, as on the right, is that both Labor and Meretz parties are treading just over the 3.25 percent threshold and if either party were to fail, it would greatly increase Netanyahu’s chance of securing the majority he needs for obtaining immunity and forming a coalition. One idea that has been floated around is for Orly Levy to join the male-dominated Kachol Lavan, which would allow Amir Peretz and Labor to join up with Meretz, Democratic Israel, and Stav Shaffir’s Green Movement, creating a left-wing alliance that should win at least 10 seats. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Groundhog Day in Israel
Victor Rosenthal
Abu Yehuda, Jan. 9, 2020

Israel should not be in the spot it is in, without a government and heading for a third election within 12 months, an election that – if you can believe the polls – will turn out as inconclusive as the previous two.

At the same time that we see the usual stupid political ads with the stupid music in the background and hear the stupid remarks of the various political figures interviewed on the radio and TV, we watch PM Netanyahu fighting for his political life (and possibly his freedom) over the most technical of technicalities.

Bibi asked the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution, which, if he got it, would protect him until after the election. But in order to do that, his request has to be ruled on by the Knesset House Committee. If they turn it down, he loses. If they approve it, then the full Knesset votes on it.

But because the Knesset was dissolved in preparation for the election, there is no such committee. This suits Bibi because until there is a decision on immunity his trial on the indictments against him cannot be scheduled. And since the House Committee will be selected in proportion to the seats held by the various parties, it is highly doubtful that there would be a majority in favor of immunity. Bibi would like there to be no committee until after the election, which he believes he would win. Then he could ask for immunity from a friendlier Knesset.

The speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a Likudnik, would like to help him by delaying as long as possible. But the legal advisor to the Knesset has said that it is possible to create a committee now. And if that happens, the House Committee will be created by the Arrangements Committee, which is chaired by a member of the Opposition. The House Committee will then (almost certainly) deny immunity, the indictments can be sent to the court, and a trial can be scheduled. It could even begin before the election.

Yesterday the news was full of reports of threats of legal action by the fiercely pro-Bibi Justice Minister, Amir Ohana, against the Knesset’s legal advisor. The details aren’t important. This is what we’ve come to.

I’ve said countless times that Bibi is the most qualified individual to be Prime Minister. The leading opposition party, Blue and White, is a collection of mediocrities who hate each other. The whole is far less than the sum of its parts, which are not all that much by themselves. Although it seems that a right-wing government can’t be created without the Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”) parties, a center-left one would require the Arab parties. And while a majority of the Arab citizens of Israel are probably loyal to the state, their representatives in the Knesset are not. The law requires that a member of the Knesset must not oppose the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and if the law had been adhered to, they would not have been permitted to serve.
In any event, a government by the mediocrities of Blue and White supported by the votes of the Arabs in the Knesset would be a disaster, open to Arab blackmail. There were serious efforts made to form a unity government including both Blue and White and Likud, but each side refused: Blue and White would not accept Bibi being PM while under indictment, even for a few months, and probably wasn’t prepared to join a government including the Haredim. And Bibi insisted on the inclusion of his whole 55-seat bloc, because that would be his only chance for immunity. It is hard to imagine such a government being functional anyway; they would have to override laws to create additional positions for cabinet ministers in order to pay off all of the demands of the parties. My mental image is of baby birds screaming with their beaks wide open. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

A Crystal Ball on 2020
David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2020

If you had predicted one year ago that Israel would be forced into a third election within one year; that Naftali Bennett would be defense minister and Amir Ohana justice minister; and that America would recognize the legality of Judea and Samaria settlements – most people would have considered you crazy.

Yet all this happened, which tells you something about the perils of predicting political and diplomatic developments in Israel.

In fact, many of my forecasts for 2019 were off-base. I wrongly expected Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a fifth government with Benny Gantz as defense minister; the Supreme Court to declare the Jewish Nation-State Law “unconstitutional”; the launching of a full-scale IDF ground operation against Iranian targets in Lebanon and Syria; and the presentation of Trump’s long-awaited Mideast peace plan.

On the other hand, the above developments are possible-to-likely in 2020. Perhaps it’s just my timing that was off.

What I got right in last’s year’s forecast, alas, was a sharp rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on the hard-left wing of the US Democratic Party, including a call to cut aid to Israel. I also correctly predicted that, despite his repeated threats to resign, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas would cling to his perch to keep his $3 billion corrupt “authority” afloat.

Here is what I see when looking into my crystal ball for 2020:

* Elections: In March, Israel will end up with another political deadlock, but Netanyahu won’t resign or cut a plea-bargain with legal authorities. Instead, he’ll maneuver Israel into a fourth election in September while delaying his trials. President Trump will be re-elected for a second term, mainly because the Democratic field of candidates is weak, and the US economy is holding strong. There won’t be elections in the Palestinian Authority.

* Big parties: The central discourse over the next two months, advanced by Likud and Blue & White alike, will be the demand to vote only for one of these two large parties; not for any of the “splinter” parties to the right or left. Israel needs political stability, we will be told, and this means solidifying a two-party reality. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

A 4th Election? New Poll Shows No Clear Winner in March Vote:  Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom, Jan. 10, 2020 — When the Knesset called an early election several weeks ago, many Israelis hoped that this would finally break the political impasse and allow the country to swear in a new government.

Polls Indicate No Drop in Support for Netanyahu after Immunity Request:  Alexander Fulbright, Times of Israel, Jan. 2, 2020 — A pair of television polls released Thursday indicated support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party remained sturdy following the premier’s request for parliamentary immunity from graft charges, and that the third national election in less than a year would fail to break Israel’s political gridlock.

Bennett Promoting Merger of Right-wing Parties Ahead of Third Israeli Election:  Josh Breiner, Haaretz, Jan. 10, 2020 — The heads of two right-wing parties are negotiating over a joint ticket that would include all the parties to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud ahead of Israel’s March 2 general election.

Why Ultra-Orthodox Israelis Gravitate to the Political Right Mosaic, Jan. 8, 2020 — In part, Israel’s current political stalemate stems from the Likud party’s inability to garner the combined support of, on the one hand, the right-wing and secularist Yisrael Beytenu party and, on the other hand, the ḥaredi parties.