Daily Briefing: As Israel’s Election Campaign Nears Its End, Is Another Deadlock Inevitable (September 16, 2019)

Reuven Rivlin vote in Israeli legislative election (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:


Weekly Report: 15th Week of Second Israeli Election Campaign: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 13, 2019

IsraelVotes2019 | Understanding the Blocs: Dr.Dahlia Scheindlin, Fathom Journal, Aug. 2019

An Election Outcome Reflecting the Will of the People:  Isi Leibler, Jewish Press, Sept. 15, 2019

Israel’s Prince of Paradoxes:  Michael Oren, The Atlantic, Aug. 30, 2019

Weekly Report: 15th Week of Second Israeli Election Campaign
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Arutz Sheva, Sept. 13, 2019

The last full week prior to the upcoming election on September 17th did not change the overall lackluster campaign atmosphere. Rockets once again were fired from Gaza into Israel. On one occasion, a campaign event for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other politicians in Ashdod was interrupted by rocket sirens. Netanyahu left the podium. He returned to speak afterwards.

An important issue under debate was the proposed law to place cameras at voting stations. Attorney General Mandelblit attended a cabinet meeting to lobby against this proposed bill. During the week this bill was voted down as it did not reach the required 61 votes. Netanyahu blamed Avigdor Liberman — leader of Yisrael Beytenu — for the failure of the bill to pass.

During the Knesset session, the leader of the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, was forcibly removed from the plenum after he placed a cellphone camera directly in front of the Prime Minister’s face in response to the PM saying that cameras are everywhere. today. Earlier the Supreme Court rejected a petition of Blue and White to freeze the Likud’s bill to legalize videotaping polling booths on election-day even before it becomes law. The Supreme Court stated that this could only be done if it becomes law through approval in the Knesset.
During the campaign, some fatigue regarding Netanyahu and the Likud was found among part of the right-wing voters. One expression of this was when former Likud Minister Benny Begin announced that he would not vote for the party.

In the last five polls, by September 10, Blue and White had on the average 32 seats, one more than Likud. This however did not represent an increase of the center-left block because the Democratic Union only polled 6 seats on the average and Labor-Gesher was between 5 and 6 seats. Other polls showed the Likud leading.

One poll found that if Blue and White canceled the rotation between Gantz and Lapid it would increase support for the list by one seat. This seat, however, would be taken away from the Labor-Gesher list so that the center-left block would not gain anything.

The main new element of the last five polls was that in four out of five of them, the extreme right Otzma Yehudit party passed the electoral threshold gaining four seats. This had only happened once previously, in the more than fifty polls since the Knesset was dissolved. It was reported that Likud research had found that many English speaking voters had switched to Otzma Yehudit from Zehut after it dropped out of the election due to an agreement with the Likud. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

IsraelVotes2019 | Understanding the Blocs
Dr.Dahlia Scheindlin
Fathom Journal, Aug. 2019


The way the Israeli people self-identify – as Right, Centre or Left – is still the best predictor in how people will vote in the elections. Yet when we talk about which party will win and what coalition they might form, the most important thing is to look at the blocs, namely Right, Left and Centre and to understand the numbers. When we ask people whether they consider themselves to be Firm Right, Moderate Right, Firm Left, Moderate Left, or Centrist, the responses are very consistent. The largest proportion of people – 45 percent of the entirety of Israeli society rather than just those who vote – self-identify as right-wing (Firm Right and Moderate Right); about 25 to 28 percent consider themselves Centrist, and about 20 percent Left. When the Left and Centre are combined, for example, when those parties are together in the opposition which is what happened after the 2015 elections, there is almost parity between the blocs.
However, when you look at the breakdown among those who actually turn out to vote, the Arab community votes in significantly lower numbers (they account for roughly 10 percent of the vote, despite comprising 20 percent of the population). For this reason, it is important to understand the ideological self-definition among Jewish voters, which changes the balance between the blocs. The breakdown among Jews can reach up to 55 percent for the Firm Right/Moderate Right, 25 to 30 percent Centrist, and Left drops down to 15 percent. And it is these numbers that were reflected in the last Knesset where there were 66 MKs from the Right versus 54 from the Opposition.

Until those numbers significantly change, it’s very hard to see how there will be a change in the dynamics of the next coalition, even if the parties themselves reconfigure. Even when parties merge or reform, for the most part, Israelis have a clear sense of which side of the bloc they belong to.


There will not be a major change in the composition of the next government without a noticeable shift in Moderate Right voters to a different bloc. But this group is actually quite large. If you look at the 45 percent who comprise the Total Right, its two components, the Firm Right and Moderate Right break down pretty evenly. This makes the Moderate Right approximately a quarter of the voting population or approximately half of the Total Right.

There is a significant difference between the Firm Right and Moderate Right on most issues, such as their approach to the two-state solution, religion, and state, national identity issues. The question is, who out of those in the Moderate Right would consider a) shifting parties and also b) shifting across blocs.

Benny Gantz has reached out to those people by emphasising his security credentials and his actions in Gaza and he seems to think that will appeal to the Moderate Right. Whether it will or not is unclear, but he certainly understands that without that shifting between blocs there will not be a change of government. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

An Election Outcome Reflecting the Will of the People
Isi Leibler
Jewish Press, Sept. 15, 2019

The decision to hold this election was disgraceful and should have been avoided. Indeed, one of the big questions that could be critical for the outcome are the voters who are fed up with our dysfunctional politics and will simply not bother casting their ballots.

Yet ironically, there is a possibility that the outcome could achieve stability and the new government to be formed may even reflect a national consensus. Although recent opinion polls have proven to be utterly misleading, it would seem that Likud combined with the Haredi and right-wing groups but without Yisrael Beytenu will again fail to win sufficient seats to obtain the majority required to form a right-wing government. As nothing Likud could offer would satisfy Avigdor Lieberman’s primary personal goal of politically destroying Benjamin Netanyahu, a repeated deadlock seems inevitable.

Yet, any suggestion of holding a third election is not an option. Besides, the fact is that, apart from supporters of the Joint Arab List and the Haredim, most Israelis will vote holding their noses. Likud supporters will be voting for a government that would include an eccentric like Moshe Feiglin and would support the legalization of marijuana.

Yamina, formerly the New Right, is headed by able and charismatic Ayelet Shaked but will have as one of its leading personalities the coarse, loud-mouthed Bezalel Smotrich, whose views radically contrast with those of religious Zionism’s founders, moderates like Haim-Moshe Shapira and Yosef Burg.

Those traditionally supporting Labor Zionist parties are forced to choose between Amir Peretz’s Labor-Gesher party and the Democratic Union, a merger of Meretz with failed former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party.

Blue and White supporters have two issues to contend with. Many shudder at the prospect of Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid – often referred to as “flapping gums” – becoming prime minister after a rotation of two years with Benny Gantz, unless, as is likely, the partnership is abruptly terminated after the elections.

The other concern is the lackluster pre-election performance of Gantz himself, who is devoid of charisma, contradicts himself, and seems to be a monotonously “nice guy” but hardly the leader Israel requires. This is highlighted with comparisons to Netanyahu who – despite a viciously hostile press, major diplomatic and military challenges, constant legal pressures, and an impending election – remains as cool as a cucumber.

Aside from the extent to which the powers of the Supreme Court to override government decisions are to be limited, there are no major political differences between Likud and Blue and White. Setting aside the right and left extremes in both parties, there is a consensus that:

  • Both major parties have identical security objectives.
  • Both agree that an independent Palestinian state at this time would mean creating a terrorist state on our borders that Iran could employ as a launching pad to destroy us. There are various streams in both parties regarding applying Israeli law to settlements and, if the US does not resist, possibly annexing and applying sovereignty to Area C. This will come to a turning point after the elections when the Trump peace plan is finally revealed.
  • Both parties oppose dividing Jerusalem or ceding further territories unless a final settlement is reached.
  • Both agree that in the context of the status quo, all efforts should be made to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the hope that they will ultimately have leaders willing to peacefully coexist.  … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Israel’s Prince of Paradoxes
Michael Oren
The Atlantic, Aug. 30, 2019

Saul thought, “I’ll pin David to the wall,” and twice threw a spear, but David dodged it both times. So, the prophet Samuel describes the tragic relationship between a weakened king and his former protégé, a drama that is now recurring in Israeli politics. Benjamin Netanyahu—master strategist, ruthless politician—is, in fact, no Saul, nor is Avigdor Lieberman a fair-haired harpist. Yet the purported decline in Netanyahu’s powers and the palpable rise of Lieberman’s have biblical overtones. Only, this time, it is David hurling the spears.

Almost daily, Lieberman, the former Israeli defense minister, impugns the prime minister’s fitness for office, assailing him as a liar and a closet leftist who gave a long list of concessions to the Palestinians—in the 1998 Wye Agreement with Yasser Arafat, the 2011 prisoner exchange with Hamas, and, most egregious, Israel’s agreement to transfer Qatari cash to Gaza’s terrorists. Lieberman, by contrast, resigned from four Israeli governments rather than back what he termed “disastrous” acts of weakness. He’s even challenged Netanyahu to a televised debate. “Let’s have a confrontation between the man from Caesarea and the man from Nokdim,” he declared—that is, between the upscale coastal neighborhood where Netanyahu owns a villa and the modest West Bank settlement where Lieberman lives.

Such sniping would be commonplace in Israeli politics, but for the fact that Lieberman was once Netanyahu’s closest ally and, prior to the elections in March, widely judged a has-been. Netanyahu led his Likud party to an impressive victory, winning 35 seats out of the Knesset’s 120, edging past the centrist Blue and White of former Israel Defense Forces Chief Benny Gantz. But then Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, with a mere four seats, blocked Netanyahu’s efforts to cobble together a right-of-center coalition. A fiery rightist, Lieberman would have been a natural partner in such a bloc, but he demanded a price for his support: a law requiring Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, men to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. That condition was rebuffed by all the Haredi parties. Withstanding immense pressures, Lieberman held firm. For the first time in their history, Israelis had failed to elect a viable government, and so for the second time in six months, they would return to the polls.

With the September 17 balloting fast approaching, Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to win as many as 12 seats. Neither the right nor the left-wing appears likely to be able to garner the minimal 60 seats required to form a coalition without the support of Lieberman. Once again, he will determine which party, Likud or Blue and White, will form the next government—or whether the two will be compelled to join in a national-unity coalition without the Haredi parties and perhaps without Netanyahu, with whom the Blue and White members currently refuse to sit. Although Netanyahu, as the serving prime minister, is immune to prosecution for corruption charges, he might have to resign and then stand trial. The kingmaker may well become the kingslayer, and then perhaps claim the throne himself.

If he does, the prospects for short- and long-term change, if not upheaval, are manifold. On the one hand, after having staked his political future on standing up to what he calls Israeli Arab and ultra-Orthodox challenges to the state, Lieberman would have to take on both of these powerful constituencies. Protests, even violence might ensue. Similarly, he would not be able to risk further failure to rid Gaza of Hamas or to confront the Iranian threat, as he has pledged. The result could be war. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

What’s Really Behind The Election ‘Cameras Bill’?:  Jerusalem Post Editorial, Sept. 9, 2019 — Kalman Liebskind, an investigative journalist at The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication, Maariv, had a question for Foreign Minister Israel Katz, a guest on his Kan Bet radio program Sunday morning. As someone who’s written investigative reports on voter fraud, he wondered, why is the Likud only noticing the problem right before an election?

‘I’m Pained by Anti-Haredi Rhetoric’:  Arutz Sheva, Sept. 15,2019 — President Reuven Rivlin responded on Sunday to the criticism of Shas chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who claimed that Rivlin hasn’t protested the incitement against haredim during the election campaign.

Netanyahu Aims To Kill Otzma Yehudit: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post,  Sept. 15, 2019 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will devote the days ahead of Tuesday’s election to persuading right-wing voters not to cast their ballots for the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, a Likud spokesman said on Friday. The decision was made after studies done by the Likud’s American pollster, John McLaughlin, predicted Otzma will fail to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Report: Likud Members Deny Plan to Dismiss Netanyahu If Rightwing Bloc Falls Short of 61 David Israel, Jewish Press, Sept. 16, 2019 — Reshet Bet radio on Monday morning, the eve of the new election, reported that officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s circle are concerned that if the rightwing bloc fails to get 61 seats on Tuesday, the Likud would launch an internal impeachment process to replace Netanyahu.