Daily Briefing : Is Israel Headed for a Political Breakthrough or a Third Election? (November 4,2019)

Benny Gantz 2019 (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

Gantz Reportedly Looking to Form Minority Government With Liberman’s Backing:  Editorial staff, Times of Israel, Nov. 3, 2019

Political Affairs: Is Avoiding A Third Election Still Possible?:  Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 31, 2019

Exclusive: Kushner Calls on Gantz and Netanyahu to Form Government: Barak Ravid, Axios, Oct. 29, 2019

Why Israel’s Year of Elections Has Left a Foreign Policy Hangover: Joshua Krasna, Fathom Journal, October 2019

Gantz Reportedly Looking to Form Minority Government With Liberman’s Backing
Editorial staff
Times of Israel, Nov. 3, 2019

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is reportedly planning to invite representatives of Yisrael Beytenu and Likud to talks on forming a unity government if he is tasked with forming a coalition next week. Gantz does not expect Likud to show up, however, which he hopes will open the door for Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman to let him form a minority government, according to a Thursday report by Channel 13.

Likud’s absence would give Liberman justification to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party for preventing the establishment of a unity government, the unsourced report said. Liberman would be able to say that one side, Gantz’s Blue and White, had accepted his blueprint for a unity government, while the other, Netanyahu’s Likud, had not.

Gantz would then aim to form a minority government that would secure a Knesset majority with the backing, from outside the coalition, of Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties.

There was no official confirmation of this or any other of this week’s welter of unsourced TV reports on the possible coalition machinations.
Netanyahu must form a coalition by October 24 or inform President Reuven Rivlin that he has failed to do so. By law, Rivlin could grant him a 14-day extension, but the president is believed unlikely to do so, as the prospect of the premier — who heads a 55-strong bloc (Likud: 32 seats; Shas: 9; United Torah Judaism: 7, and Yemina: 7) in the 120-seat Knesset — making further progress in the current gridlock is seen as slim. Instead, Rivlin would then need to task another Knesset member with attempting to form a government — with Gantz the likely next candidate, though he is seen as even less likely to succeed in forming a government.

Both Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu have called for a unity government alongside Likud but without the religious parties. Gantz’s party has also called for Netanyahu to step down as head of Likud due to a possible indictment pending against him in three corruption cases, saying it will not serve under a prime minister facing grave charges of criminal wrongdoing. Blue and White has said a unity government with Likud could be formed “within an hour” if Netanyahu steps down.

The leading option for a coalition has been a proposal by Rivlin for a unity government in which power would be equally divided between Netanyahu- and Gantz-led blocs, with each of the two men serving two years as prime minister. Rivlin implied, but did not specify, that Netanyahu would take an open-ended leave of absence if he is indicted in one or more of the probes in which he faces charges. Under the arrangement set out by Rivlin, Gantz, as “interim prime minister” in such a scenario, would enjoy all prime ministerial authority. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Political Affairs: Is Avoiding A Third Election Still Possible?
Gil Hoffman
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 31, 2019

The cameo appearance of Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid at Thursday morning’s coalition talks with the Likud at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah hotel was planned well in advance. Radio reports that they came to the talks only because they “just happened to be in the area, so they stopped by” were false.

Sources in the party even suggested that journalists writing political columns for Friday’s newspapers wait to start writing only after the meeting, because they wanted the cameo’s messages to get across to the public and be internalized over the weekend.

The first message is that Gantz is a leader, shepherding the coalition talks through to success. For decades, key meetings in the White House with advisers to the president have been rewarded by a supplementary cameo by the president himself. Such presidential cameos were never truly candid and were always scripted well in advance. Yet they always had the necessary impact of creating a positive atmosphere.

The second message was that Gantz and Lapid are on the same page and fully coordinated in the negotiations. That message was intended to undermine the political spin of the Likud that Gantz wants to form a government, but the three other Blue and White leaders in the party’s leadership “cockpit” are holding him back.

The Likud ironically used the Hebrew word for “kosher supervisor” and not babysitter when describing Lapid accompanying Gantz to the meeting, claiming that Lapid came to prevent a unity government from being formed. The truth, according to Blue and White, is the opposite.

The third message is that the coalition talks are actually serious and can really result in a Gantz-led unity government, against all odds. It has not been easy for Gantz to get that message across to an extremely skeptical public that has been made weary by 10 months of nonstop intense politics. Gantz wrote a personal message to the public with that message on Facebook on Wednesday in the early evening. “I cannot deeply detail what has happened in my meetings with the heads of the parties, including those in the [Likud’s] bloc of 55 [MKs],” Gantz wrote. “I can only say that the picture displayed in the press is not necessarily accurate. There are a variety of channels of dialogue that were created in order to ensure that we make progress.”

The message was intended to preempt reports shortly afterward on the prime-time nightly news broadcasts presenting the coalition talks as stuck and doomed to failure.

The revelation of secret channels in the post was intended to give hope that there is more going on than meets the eye. So was the mention of talks with leaders of the parties on the Right, who had publicly promised to refuse a meeting with Gantz. That mention of talks with the Likud’s allies was also a dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who drafted the 55 MKs into a cohesive group working only under his leadership immediately after the election, in a strategy decided well before the vote. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Exclusive: Kushner Calls on Gantz and Netanyahu to Form Government
Barak Ravid
Axios, Oct. 29, 2019

President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner told me in an exclusive interview for Channel 13 News in Israel that he hopes the leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will work together to form a new government.

Why it matters: The fact that Kushner chose to make an unusual move and publicly convey the message — regardless that it has to do with domestic politics in Israel — shows the White House’s wish to see a unity government.
The White House is signaling that a third election campaign in Israel will hamper U.S. plans for regional initiatives in the Middle East.

Kushner met separately with Gantz and Netanyahu on Monday and spoke to them privately about the need to break the political stalemate in Israel. Kushner told me his message in the meetings with Gantz and Netanyahu was that “now in the region there really are tremendous opportunities … so it will be great for Israel to figure out how to form a government so we can start working on all the big priorities and opportunities that exist.”

He added: “They [Gantz and Netanyahu] are the experts on how to put this together and hopefully they will be able to find a way to do that.”

Kushner said that by “opportunities,” he was referring to the long-awaited Trump administration Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and the possibility of a breakthrough in relations between Israel and Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. “You have a different sentiment in the region of countries that want to do a lot of business with Israel economically. There is a lot of desire to do military partnerships with Israel, but you need to have a government in order to seize some of those opportunities that I believe exist today,” he told me.
The big picture: Kushner’s meeting with Gantz was the first of its kind.

I asked Kushner to give me his impression of Gantz: “Benny was a great general in the IDF and he did a great job there and served Israel tremendously, and he seems to have a good intention to try and bring good to Israel, and hopefully he will be able to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and find a way to move forward,” he said.

Kushner said the White House is still keen to publish its peace plan. “We have a lot of ideas and we want to put those ideas down and hopefully use that opportunity to bring the sides together on an issue that they have been apart on for a very long time,” he added. Kushner said if the conditions are ripe, Trump could decide to release the plan before the 2020 elections.

During the interview, Kushner made several other points:

He said the U.S. peace plan takes into consideration the fact that the Jordan Valley is essential to Israel’s security, but on the other hand, he stopped short of supporting Netanyahu’s plan of annexing the area. Kushner said the U.S. is willing to engage with the Palestinians but is not willing to do it in a way that America is disrespected or making bad investments. He stressed that Palestinian poor governance and lack of security, freedoms and rule of law are the main reasons that companies don’t want to invest in the West Bank and Gaza. He said he believes the Palestinians might be willing to engage once the U.S. publishes its peace plan because “people will be rational actors.”

Why Israel’s Year of Elections Has Left a Foreign Policy Hangover
Joshua Krasna
Fathom Journal, October 2019

Israel has seen two elections in the past five months, on 4 April and 17 September. The official decision to hold early elections in April came on 26 December 2018, but early elections were in the air and being bruited openly as early as August 2018. This means that Israel has actually been in ‘election mode’ – pre-election positioning, followed by two full-scale election campaigns and subsequent coalition-building – for over a year. Dramatic foreign policy developments have coincided with an election cycle widely thought to be do-or-die for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its outcome determining whether and when he goes to trial for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

The prime minister has been exploiting the ‘bully pulpit’ of incumbency to the maximum. The key message of his intense year-long election campaign, as Likud advertising has emphasised, has been that he is ‘in a different league’ from his opponents: a foreign policy colossus and savant, able to match world leaders and win unprecedented achievements for Israel. Only with Netanyahu’s hand at the tiller, it is claimed, can the Israeli ship of state be navigated through perilous international waters. And the claim has some traction: Israel’s international position has improved markedly over the past decade, with expanded relations with Russia, China and India, as well as with African and, discreetly, some Arab states. There is, however, a contradiction in the Likud message: it says simultaneously that Israel’s international position has never been better but also that it has never been more threatened, not least by Iran and the BDS movement.

Little surprise then that it has been difficult over the past year to separate the strategic, the political and the personal motivations in Israeli foreign policy. The promiscuous admixture of genuine national security considerations and spurious political agendas – and the harnessing of the former by the incumbent – has been the source of much eye-rolling in Israel. It has left us with this question: in the aftermath of the long election season, and no matter who forms Israel’s next government, where will this sometimes chaotic blend of foreign policy developments and initiatives – some real and important, some poorly-timed, overexposed, and even just plain fake – leave Israel in the real world beyond the seemingly never-ending election? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

The Promises Politicians Need to Break to Prevent a Third Election:  Lahav Arkov, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 7, 2019 — With 18 days left until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must return the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin, coalition negotiations are at an impasse. No meetings have been held since Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Thursday for less than an hour, and their spokespeople said there were no breakthroughs in the talks.

Netanyahu, the Media and the Fate of Israeli Democracy:  Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom, Oct. 22, 2019 — The ongoing criminal probes against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are reaching their climax..

Analysis Netanyahu Is Sabotaging Unity Government Talks. His Scorched-earth Tactics May Backfire:  Yossi Verter, Haaretz, Nov. 1, 2019 — The preparations for a third election, aka the “coalition negotiations,” are continuing apace.

Israel after Benjamin Netanyahu Avraham Avi-Hai, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 1, 2019 — The world after Bibi seems to have begun. He failed to form a government and now the main parties are starting off in this strange new world by playing chicken.

Right-Wing, Religious Parties Vow Not To Join Minority Government: Times of Israel, Nov. 4, 2019 — A statement sent by the Likud spokesperson “on behalf of the national camp bloc” of parties that have pledged to support Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister says: “In light of security and national challenges, the leaders of the national camp factions are appealing to MK Benny Gantz to form a broad national unity government, according to the president’s plan and to avoid unnecessary elections.