Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, not pictured, conduct a press conference at the Dan Cesarea Hotel in Israel, March 25, 2011. (Source: Wikipedia)

Table Of Contents:

Three Israeli Elections Reconfirm Two Basic Facts:  Jonathan S. Tobin, Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2020

Netanyahu’s Overwhelming Victory and Gantz’s Parliamentary Putsch: Alex Traiman, JNS, Mar. 5, 2020

The Real Center Ground: The Only Political Show in Town: Melanie Phillips, JNS, Mar. 5, 2020

Is it Legal to Ban Bibi From Forming Gov’t Post-Election Win? – Analysis: Jonah Jeremy Bob, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 4, 2020








Three Israeli Elections Reconfirm Two Basic Facts
Jonathan S. Tobin
Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2020

It took Israeli politics nearly a year to get back to square one.

That’s the basic fact to understand about the third round of general voting held within a year. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right to claim the vote as a personal victory, it is only by comparison to his near defeat last September that it can be viewed as a great triumph. Israel’s crazy political system may have exhausted and infuriated its citizens, but the three contests held in this period changed very little about the way the country is governed.

As was the case before the first vote, Netanyahu is still the country’s most popular politician, though arguments can be made that no one under indictment should stay in power, even if the charges against him are questionable. And yet, a critical mass of Israeli voters doesn’t agree, let alone buy the claim that Netanyahu is a threat to democracy or the rule of law. Though it shouldn’t have taken three elections to clarify that point, when Netanyahu goes, it will be either of his own volition (something that he doesn’t seem to contemplate in the foreseeable future) or because the judicial system takes him down. As long as his fate is in the hands of the voters, he will remain prime minister.

The other main conclusion concerns policy, and it is one that many commentators are ignoring. Though the rest of the world, including some of those running for president of the United States, still advocates for Israel to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians for peace, the vast majority of Israelis have more or less stopped discussing the issue. Even if many Americans refuse to accept reality, a broad consensus on the lack of a peace partner encompasses not only Netanyahu’s right-wing/religious bloc, but also the Blue and White Party, which campaigned on stands virtually identical to those of the prime minister.

These are two basic facts about the country that its foreign friends, and especially its critics, should take to heart.

The process did give birth to a new party — Blue and White — whose sole goal was to unseat the prime minister. At times, it seemed as if its members would succeed, despite the fact that the prime minister’s success on both the economic and diplomatic fronts rendered the arguments against him to be more about change for change’s sake than anything else. More importantly, at the start of the process, Netanyahu was being threatened with indictments on corruption charges; by the third round of elections 11 months later, he was already indicted. The first procedural elements of his trial take place beginning on March 17.

Netanyahu’s opponents underestimated him. They also misjudged the skepticism with which about half the electorate viewed the legal process used to accomplish the desires of the opposition. The effort to topple a sitting prime minister on sketchy charges that, while pointing to behavior that might be characterized as inappropriate, still fall well below the standard that ought to be required in order to unseat an elected leader never seemed credible to anyone that didn’t already despise Netanyahu. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Netanyahu’s Overwhelming Victory and Gantz’s Parliamentary Putsch
Alex Traiman
JNS, Mar. 5, 2020

Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents claim that the results of the three elections the country has held over the past 12 months have been essentially unchanged, with the embattled prime minister and his right-wing bloc repeatedly proving unable to muster a parliamentary majority. But the actual numbers from Monday’s election paint a completely different picture. Looking at them, one wonders just how many votes Netanyahu needs to win by for the entire electorate to declare his victory.

Netanyahu and his bloc received more votes than ever before, at the expense of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s anti-Netanyahu but ostensibly Zionist center-left bloc. Excluding the Arab parties, which are self-declared anti-Zionists, the pro-Netanyahu bloc defeated the pro-Gantz bloc by 11 seats. That’s compared to a gap of just three seats in the Sept. 17 elections—a dramatic increase in a 120-seat parliament.

A look at these numbers shows that the Likud received 227,479 more votes than in September, while Blue and White increased by only 57,901 votes. In September, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc defeated Gantz’s bloc by 106,601 votes.  This week, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc defeated Gantz’s bloc by 467,829 votes.  That much more closely resembles a landslide than an electoral deadlock.

The rise of the Arab parties

Another clear trend to emerge over the past 12 months is the steady gains made by Israel’s Arab Parties, which increased their representation from 10 seats in April to 13 seats in September, to 15 seats now.  This increase is due to Arab voters that have never before participated in Israeli elections. These voters did not participate previously because they refused to acknowledge the Knesset’s validity, just as their Arab-party representatives have never joined a governing coalition since the establishment of the modern state of Israel. By increasing to 15 seats, the Arab parties have diminished the available pool of pro-Israel MKs to only 105. Of those 105, Netanyahu’s bloc has 58, which is a clear majority encompassing 55 percent of the pro-Israel seats.

Had the Arab parties received five fewer seats, as they did in April 2019, those seats would have been proportionally distributed among the Jewish parties, and the larger right-wing bloc would likely have received three, enabling it to form a clear majority. The Arab MKs have no intention of sitting in a government with either Netanyahu or Gantz because they are opposed to the very foundation of Israel as a Jewish state.

An unholy alliance

While Gantz knows the Arab parties are unwilling to join him to form a blocking coalition, he also knows that if they suddenly would change their tune, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party would refuse to sit alongside the Joint List, leaving Gantz still way short of a majority. So Blue and White is now advancing a different idea: the passing of a law prohibiting a sitting prime minister from serving while under indictment. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The Real Center Ground: The Only Political Show in Town
Melanie Phillips
JNS, Mar. 5, 2020

Democracy, the process through which the people get to choose who governs them, involves a choice of leaders telling competing stories about how the world should be organized. A healthy society, we have told ourselves, involves regularly changing those leaders and their stories to provide the checks and balances essential to avoid the dangers inherent in one-party rule.

In Israel, the United States and Britain, that process has stalled. The reason is that, in all three countries as elsewhere in the West, the story offered by the progressive side of politics has simply collapsed.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud delivered a decisive election victory this week with 36 mandates to 33 for Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, and with the right-wing bloc winning 58 mandates to the left-wing’s 55. It is unclear whether the prime minister will be able to cobble together a coalition government. Nevertheless, this was undeniably a personal victory for Netanyahu.

Despite the looming prosecution against him for corruption and the overwhelming hostility of the media, a majority of people still voted for him, delivering the highest vote for the Likud in decades.

The reason is clear. Regardless of his undoubtedly formidable political skills, Netanyahu is not a magician. He didn’t win this popular mandate through the dark arts of political alchemy. He won because the majority of Israelis simply don’t trust anyone else to meet their overwhelming concern—to keep the country safe from its enemies.

Gantz may have been a fine military general, but as a politician, he lacks the one quality people require: trustworthy leadership, with a clear and persuasive story to tell. His mixed, ambiguous signals left people worried that while he sought strenuously to show he’d be as tough as Netanyahu over security, his real political leanings were on the left.

And in middle Israel, the left is regarded as a danger to the nation. In the election, the Labour-Gesher-Meretz bloc won only seven mandates. The left’s unbroken commitment to a Palestine state is viewed as an existential threat to Israel’s security. This also makes the public nervous that it would fail to keep Israel safe from other threats, such as Iran.

With no alternative leader able to match Netanyahu’s strategic grasp of regional opportunities and risks, the majority of voters pragmatically decided to overlook his faults—even if he turned out to be guilty of corruption as charged—because no one else could be trusted to safeguard the interests of the nation.

In the United States, something similar is happening. The momentum in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination had been with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. After this week’s “Super Tuesday,” however, former Vice President Joe Biden, who had previously been all but written off, astonishingly emerged as the frontrunner. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Is it Legal to Ban Bibi From Forming Gov’t Post-Election Win? – Analysis
Jonah Jeremy Bob
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 4, 2020

Would it be legal for the Center-Left parties and Yisrael Beytenu to pass a new basic law banning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government because he has been indicted?

In the whiplash of Israel’s politics, the discussion has shifted dramatically since Tuesday when Israel was aflush with talk about whether Netanyahu would pass a new retroactive French law to indefinitely freeze his public corruption trial.

Those objecting to such a basic law start by attacking it as a “personal law” – a law being passed just to undermine a specific individual. Such laws are generally viewed as less democratic or anti-democratic since the idea of a law is to apply fairly to all citizens. In addition, the idea of outlawing Netanyahu from being prime minister immediately after he was the winning candidate and his Likud party won the most seats could be viewed as anti-democratic. However, multiple factors may let the Center-Left’s law go through and even get by any petition to the High Court of Justice.

First, the iron rule of Israeli law is that 61 members of the Knesset, for better or worse, can pass anything they want – whether it is the Netanyahu-friendly retroactive French law or a Netanyahu-banning law. That is what happens when there is no constitution.

Regarding the “personal law” argument, Hebrew University rector Barak Medina said that this would not invalidate the proposed “Bibi-ban” because the law does not actually fully ban him. It only bans him as long as he is indicted. If Netanyahu pushed to have his trial resolved on an expedited basis, say over a few months, and he was acquitted, he could return to being prime minister.

The proposed law also does not actually prevent the Likud from winning. If the Likud were to choose a new leader, that leader would still command the largest Knesset delegation of 35-37 seats.

In terms of whether it is legally problematic to be passing this law against Netanyahu after the election and after the voters gave him their confidence, as opposed to before the election, Medina said that the High Court likely would not invalidate it on those grounds. Medina said that though the High Court allowed Netanyahu to run for reelection over the “objection” of petitions to force his resignation before the election, the court did not dismiss the petition out of hand.

Rather, the High Court said that it had jurisdiction over the petition and could, at least theoretically, decide to force Netanyahu to resign after the election due to the indictment against him. Though many observers believe the High Court would never have kicked Netanyahu out based only on the indictment, once the Knesset passes a new basic law, the court could say that the Knesset is merely doing something that the court itself might have chosen to do. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Purim, and a Shift in the Haredi World Pini Dunner, Algemeiner, Mar. 6, 2020 Over the past few weeks, I have noted a major shift in the Jewish world, a shift that relates to the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in America and the startling decision by their most respected leaders to put up a slate for election to the World Zionist Organization (WZO).

Key Ya’alon Supporter Denounces Blue&White’s Plan for Parliamentary Coup d’État David Israel, Jewish Press, Mar. 6, 2020 — “Bogie Ya’alon announced that he is ready for a minority government supported from the outside by the Joint anti-Israel Arab List, this is a violation of his promise to the voter,” Uri Heitner, one of the early supporters of former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon when he established his Telem Party in January, 2019, posted on Facebook Thursday night.

Liberman Sets Out Secularist Conditions for Joining Coalition; Gantz Agrees:  Times of Israel, Mar. 8, 2020  Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman on Sunday laid out five preconditions for his joining a potential coalition, consisting primarily of a set of secularist demands that have no chance of being accepted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies but were quickly accepted by Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz.

Fixing the Political System – Opinion:  Mark Sabi, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 7, 2020 — For the third time in eleven months, we’ve gone through an electoral campaign and come out on the other side of Election Day with a bit of a political stalemate.

U.S. to Approve Israeli Annexations Within Months if Palestinians Don’t Negotiate:  Barak Ravid, Axios, Mar. 5, 2020 — Jared Kushner told senators in a closed-door briefing Wednesday that the Trump administration is pressing ahead with its Middle East peace plan, even with the Palestinians boycotting the process and without a stable government in Israel, White House officials tell me.