Daily Briefing: Stalemate: What’s Next? (September 19,2019)

Parliamentary elections – Ben Gurion voted, Politics of Israel (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:


Muddy Results Clearly Show Israelis Unfazed By Prospect Of Life After Netanyahu:  David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Sept. 18, 2019

IsraelVotes2019 (2) | ‘People Say He Who Wields the Dagger Rarely Sits on the Throne. Lieberman Sees Things Differently’ | An Interview With Anshel Pfeffer:  Fathom Journal, Sept. 2019

Israel’s Election Has Ended in Deadlock. Here’s What Could Happen Next:  Joseph Hincks, Time, Sept. 18, 2019

Will Joint List Leader Odeh Start To Receive National Security Briefings?:  Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post,  Sept. 19,2019
Muddy Results Clearly Show Israelis Unfazed By Prospect Of Life After Netanyahu
David Horovitz
Times of Israel, Sept. 18, 2019By early in the morning of April 10, in the predawn hours after the polls had closed in our previous elections, both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz had delivered victory speeches to their ecstatic supporters. Both, it turned out, had jumped the gun. Israel’s voters, the actual results would soon show, had not given Gantz a realistic shot at forming a coalition. And Netanyahu, who for weeks after polling day credibly believed he would muster a majority, wound up short when his longtime ally-turned-nemesis Avigdor Liberman abandoned him.By early in the morning of September 18, in the predawn hours after the polls had closed in our consequent election re-run, both Netanyahu and Gantz had delivered speeches to their supporters, but neither was claiming victory this time. Lessons had evidently been learned. Indeed, a narrow look at the predicted election results gave neither leader particular cause for celebration. Both Likud and Blue and White were seen to have lost a little of their Knesset weight.Yet while a hoarse, exhausted, and patently hugely disappointed Netanyahu struggled through his address — battling, of all things, against an infuriatingly supportive heckler, who continuously interrupted his remarks with professions of love for the prime minister, his wife and their endeavors on behalf of the State of Israel — Gantz, his fellow party leaders and their adherents were in celebratory mood. While Netanyahu was taking pains to assure his crowd that he was not going anywhere, that he would continue to protect Israel, and that he was determined to block an anti-Zionist government reliant on the backing of Arab parties, Gantz was cautiously casting his gaze toward the prime ministership.What did the people want?Voting nine parties with wildly diverse agendas into the 120-member Knesset, the Israeli electorate — which turned out to be anything but indifferent to our second round of elections in five months — bequeathed its politicians a dizzying array of possibilities and a potentially straightforward path to our next government. Both Netanyahu and Gantz spoke of unity, and a partnership dominated by their two parties would easily command a Knesset majority, but neither mentioned the other by name. In the run-up to polling day, Gantz made clear that he will not partner in government with a Likud led by Netanyahu, who faces imminent indictment for corruption. And Netanyahu relentlessly denounced Gantz as a weak leftist under whose leadership Israel would be in peril.While a Blue and White-Likud partnership is numerically straightforward, it would be a mistake to assert that this was the will of the people. Rather, the Israeli electorate has spoken in its many voices, reflecting its wide and often conflicting priorities and concerns. [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
IsraelVotes2019 (2) | ‘People Say He Who Wields The Dagger Rarely Sits On The Throne. Lieberman Sees Things Differently’
Anshel Pfeffer
In the weeks before the April election, it seemed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would once again eke out the same kind of small majority that he had before, made up of the Likud plus the religious and other right-wing parties. And, on cue, a few hours after the polls closed, he arrived at a Likud rally in Tel Aviv and gave a victory speech. We all reported (myself included) that Netanyahu seemed to have won.But not all those parties that we thought, and he thought, comprised his majority were actually with him. Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, had five seats and were not with him. And without them he had no Knesset majority.
Even if Lieberman had joined the coalition, and we had a government, Netanyahu would still be facing the legal issues that could yet bring him down. The view of the Attorney General is that he should be indicted, so I still think that we would be looking at ‘the end of the Netanyahu era’ as I put it in Fathom in the Spring. But Lieberman decided not to join his government, making Netanyahu take the ‘nuclear option’ of dissolving the Knesset.Lieberman reached the conclusion that he could position himself for the post-Netanyahu era. While many right-wingers and Likudniks do not want to be seen as being responsible for bringing Netanyahu down, because he is still very popular among large sections of the political right and certainly among Likud supporters, Lieberman sees things differently. While they do not want to be the ones wielding the dagger, on the old principle that he who wields the dagger rarely sits on the throne, Lieberman is taking the risk.Why? Well, Lieberman’s own party has been in danger of extinction for a while now. Its base is comprised of elderly and dwindling Russian-speaking voters. So he decided to try and use this twilight period during the end of the Netanyahu era to boost his own party. How? He is still a right-winger; he’s not pretending to be a centrist. But he thinks he can add an additional chunk of voters to his traditional base by attracting those people who prioritise tackling what they see as the undue and coercive influence of the ultra-orthodox over many aspects of Israeli life. It is not a large constituency, but it is worth at least a few seats. So Lieberman seized the issue of the draft of Haredi students and used it at the critical moment when Netanyahu needed his five seats to become a champion for those people.Lieberman’s tactic has not been pursued for a long time. In fact, we have not seen a right-wing party with a secular agenda running during an Israeli election since Tzomet in 1992. And if the polls are to be taken seriously, the tactic seems to be working. He has doubled his tally from 5 to 10 seats and Netanyahu is unlikely to get 61 seats without him. Polls showing that Netanyahu and the remaining parties loyal to him are missing about four or five seats for a majority. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Israel’s Election Has Ended in Deadlock. Here’s What Could Happen Next
Joseph Hincks
Time, Sept. 18, 2019

Israel’s second election in fewer than six months has ended in political deadlock, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uncertain future and paving the way for protracted coalition negotiations. As the official count filtered in on Wednesday, no side emerged with a clear path to government.

“The era of Netanyahu is over,” claimed one opposition lawmaker as exit polls emerged Tuesday night. But while the prime minister is down, he’s not yet out. As pre-election polls had predicted, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party together with allied right-wing nationalist and religious parties fell well short of securing the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority. But so did his principal opponent Benny Gantz, who leads the nominally centrist party Blue and White. With 91% of the votes counted, Blue and White had 32 seats, with Likud on 31. It remains to be seen which of the two leaders Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who occupies a largely ceremonial role, will ask to form a coalition.

Both, predictably, claimed they could. “In the next few days, we will begin negotiations to form a strong, Zionist government and in order to avert a dangerous, anti-Zionist government,” a weary-looking Netanyahu told supporters in the Likud headquarters late Tuesday night. In Tel Aviv, Gantz said his party would “act to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people.”
With Israel now set for coalition negotiations, all options are on the table, including a third election. Here are some of the scenarios that might emerge in the coming weeks.

A “National Unity” Government

The most likely outcome, although it’s far from assured would be a so-called government of national unity, bringing together the two largest parties, and possibly others across the political spectrum. Gantz and secular nationalist party leader Avigdor Lieberman — who, as polls predicted, has emerged as a kingmaker — have both expressed their preference for a liberal national unity government. It would revolve around a partnership between Likud and centrist Blue and White, with or without Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

There are several obstacles: the largest being Gantz’s vow not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, citing three looming corruption charges on which Israel’s attorney general has said he would indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing. Over the coming weeks, Netanyahu is expected to pull out all the stops to persuade Gantz to rescind on his promise. On Wednesday evening, a senior member of Likud said the door was open for negotiations with Gantz, provided he drop his demand for the party to abandon Netanyahu.
Likud jettisoning Netanyahu is a remote possibility but there is unlikely to be any talk of a putsch until the implications of the election results are clearer. For now, the party Netanyahu has molded in his image has vowed to stick with its leader.
Political deadlock and a third election.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will soon decide whether to give Gantz or Netanyahu the first shot at forming a government. Given the latter’s failure to do so in May, and Blue and White’s marginal lead at the latest count, Gantz seems the likelier bet, Israel’s Haaretz suggests. Whoever is given the mandate would have 28 days to form a government, with the option to ask for a short extension. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

A Framework For European-Russian Cooperation In Syria
Julien Barnes-Dacey 
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 17, 2019

After more than eight years of conflict in Syria, it is now clear that there won’t be a near-term political transition away from Bashar al-Assad. This is a reality that Europeans, by and large, now accept. This does not mean, however, that Europeans are prepared to re-engage with Syria’s new landscape without conditions. On the contrary, European policy remains focused on the need to secure still meaningful gains and European tools, including sanctions, reconstruction funding and any political legitimation remain tied to this end. Key European governments continue to hope that these cards can be used to extract compromises out of Damascus.

For some European governments the path to possible progress also depends on Russia, which is seen as being the only player that can force Assad to shift position. But while European officials are encouraged by recent US-Russian re-engagement on Syria, they remain cautious about what Moscow is willing to deliver. Until Europeans see some movement from Moscow towards delivering tangible progress on the ground, they will continue to believe that there is no justifiable reason to soften their position. There is some belief that Russia will only act once the costly burden of the longer-term management of Syria becomes more apparent, increasing Russia’s desire to lock in European financial and political support.

To this backdrop, it remains hard to envisage space to forge a middle ground position which could still shape more constructive European-Russian cooperation in Syria. But while hope for progress is slim, it may be possible to outline the contours of an arrangement that could still prove mutually beneficial, delivering both ground improvements sought by Europeans and the European engagement sought by Russia. Ultimately, though, this pathway can only move forward if both sides shift position, accepting an outcome that delivers less than they currently seek.

Shared European-Russian interests in Syria?
Europeans believe that they share a number of key interests with Russia in Syria. Most fundamentally, the two are seen as wanting to secure stability, one that ensures that Syria is not a source of ongoing regional instability and terrorism threats that could impact both Europe and Russia. This necessitates the sustained defeat of ISIS and the closing down of space for other similar groups to emerge. For Europeans, the desire to secure a stable Syria is linked to the possibility of seeing Syrian refugees return home, from both within the region but also European states (though there is less domestic political pressure on this issue within Europe than Russia appears to believe). This is an outcome that Russia claims to support. Finally, there seems to be some shared desire to decrease Iranian influence in Syria, albeit in a more managed, diplomatically engaged and less zero-sum fashion that is now being advanced by the US administration.

If these broad principles are shared, there are nonetheless deep and critical differences over the mutual interpretation of meaningful stability. Europeans have no confidence that the Assad order – as it is currently being reconstituted – can secure real stability able to guarantee European interests. Whereas Russia appears to be betting on the Assad-led Syrian government to recement stability, Europeans see the current system as the fundamental source of ongoing instability. Assad’s ruthless ongoing policies towards detainees and returnees are seen as prime examples, with current government policies likely to feed ongoing polarisation and block any pathway to national reconciliation.

While most Europeans have given up on insisting on Assad’s departure, they broadly share the belief that the Syrian government has to change approach and establish a new national contract capable of holding the population together. This process could conceivably be led by Damascus, though few have any confidence in Assad, needs to be meaningful and institutionalized in a fashion that has hitherto wholly not been the case. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Netanyahu Calls on Rival Gantz to Form National Unity Government:  Ariel Kahana, Yori Yalon,  et al., Israel Hayom, Sept. 19, 2019 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday morning there was no chance he could form a right-wing government after Israel’s deadlocked election and called on his main rival, Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz, to join him in a broad, unity coalition.

Who Is Benny Gantz, Israel’s Potential Next Prime Minister?:  Aiden Pink, The Forward, Sept. 18, 2019 —

Gantz was marked for greatness at a young age, but was an unexpected choice to be IDF chief of staff, much less run the country.

IsraelVotes2019 (2) | What Should be the Priorities for the New Government?:  Yossi Kupperwasser, Fathom Journal, Sept 2019 –

Governing is first and foremost about prioritising, so when Israelis go to the polls again they are in fact choosing between priorities – a product of ideology, values, capabilities, challenges, political constraints and leadership.

Jonathan Tobin, Israel Hayom, Sept. 17, 2019 —
On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election.