Likud, Israel’s Natural Party of Government: Micah Levinson, Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2018— P olls suggest that Likud is a shoo-in to win the next Knesset election, which will occur no later than November 2019.
Israel’s Battle of the Ex-Generals: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, June 11, 2018 — Israel’s political establishment is expecting the next elections to take place between March and June 2019…
Cyprus, Greece, and Israel Chart a Common Path: George N. Tzogopoulos, Algemeiner, June 12, 2018 — Cyprus, Greece, and Israel are steadily building a democratic geopolitical bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Who Leads Israel?: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2018— Israel has a problem with its security brass.
On Topic Links
Israel Needs ‘Iron Dome for Diplomacy,’ Deputy Minister Says: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, June 17, 2018
New Strategic Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, June 11, 2018
The Positive History of Israeli-African Relations: Benji Shulman, Algemeiner, June 6, 2018
Silicon Wadi: Israel’s Arab Tech Boom: Simone Somekh, Tablet, June 3, 2018
LIKUD, ISRAEL’S NATURAL PARTY OF GOVERNMENT
Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2018
Polls suggest that Likud is a shoo-in to win the next Knesset election, which will occur no later than November 2019. Although a week is an eternity in politics, Likud today boasts twice as much support as the runner-up, Yesh Atid, and enjoys systemic advantages that will prevent other parties from forming governments in the foreseeable future. The four factors likely to keep Likud in power include: (1) the Israeli political center-left’s fragmentation, (2) the decline of Shas, (3) the center-left’s alienation of religious Jews, and (4) the center-left’s reliance on the Arab parties to form a government.
After Knesset elections, the Israeli president invites the leader of the party most likely to be able to assemble a coalition representing a parliamentary majority to form a government. Because Israel uses a proportional voting system that guarantees a proliferation of parties across the ideological spectrum, the president, except for a unique case, simply invites the leader of the largest party to form a government.
Between 1973 and 1996, the Knesset contained only two large parties that could feasibly form a government. On the right was the religion and settlement friendly Likud while the Alignment (renamed Labor when its constituent parties merged in 1991), secular and more invested in the “land-forpeace” concept, dominated the left.
In recent years, however, the centrist Yesh Atid has joined the rank of first tier parties, finishing second in the 2013 election and polling second now. Militantly secular, but more nationalistic than Labor, Yesh Atid poaches more votes from Labor than Likud. Simultaneously, Yesh Atid loses many centrist votes to the medium-sized Kulanu party and some strident secularists to Yisrael Beiteinu.
Conversely, Likud’s competition on the right is declining. Traditional Jews originating from Muslim countries are an integral part of the Likud’s base. Consequently, former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef launching the Shas party in 1984 to represent the interests of religious Jews of Middle Eastern descent impaired Likud’s electoral performance. In 1999, Shas won 17 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats, only two less than Likud. However, since Yosef’s passing in 2013, Shas has been hemorrhaging voters to Likud, falling from 11 seats in the 2013 election to seven in 2015 and presently polling between four or five.
Although Shas’ influence is waning, the religious parties remain a potent bloc. To maintain majority support in the Knesset, Labor has always required the support of either Orthodox Jewish or Arab parties. Today, that poses an insuperable obstacle to the left gaining power. Any government excluding Likud would require Yesh Atid, whose uncompromising opposition to draft exemptions for yeshiva students makes a coalition with Shas or United Torah Judaism impossible.
Up until the 1970s, the Alignment included affiliated Arab parties, such as Progress and Development and the Arab List for Beduin and Villagers, in their governments. However, today’s Arab parties are explicitly anti-Zionist. Rabin’s 1992-1995 government was the only one to depend on such parties to remain in power and it compromised his government’s legitimacy in many Israelis’ eyes. The centrist Kulanu and probably even Yesh Atid would refuse to join a government reliant on these Arab parties, again making a coalition government excluding Likud impossible.
Theoretically, future breakaway parties from Likud could cancel out the effect of Shas’s demise. After Ariel Sharon created Kadima in 2005 to promote disengagement from the West Bank, Likud was reduced to just 12 seats in the subsequent election, the party’s worst performance in history. Likud also lost a few seats in the 1980s and 1990s to far-right splinter groups, such as Tehiyah and Herut, and centrist ones, like the Center Party. Such fragmentation, however, is much less likely now for two reasons: (1) A higher electoral threshold makes small splinter groups unfeasible. (2) Kadima’s establishment purged Likud of its moderates, making it nearly ideologically homogenous and immune from large splits.
Kulanu represents not so much a medium-sized centrist breakaway party from Likud than a case of a disgruntled ex-Likudnik founding a faction that includes no other Likudniks on its list and appeals to a different group of voters, namely lower-working class centrists who feel unrepresented by Lapid’s middle class centrist politics.
While Likud’s prospects look bright, some might assume that their continued success depends on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. For years, Netanyahu has topped polls asking voters which party leader they would prefer as prime minister. Yet, some surveys show Likud winning even more seats with another leader at the helm. A Testnet poll released in April 2017 found Likud winning two more seats lead by Gideon Sa’ar than by Netanyahu and the margin increased to five seats in a November 2017 Maariv poll. It appears that, whether Netanyahu retires or is felled by the current corruption investigations, Likud will remain Israel’s ruling party for the foreseeable future.
ISRAEL’S BATTLE OF THE EX-GENERALS
Al-Monitor, June 11, 2018
Israel’s political establishment is expecting the next elections to take place between March and June 2019, about half a year before the original date in early November. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon talks about the earlier election dates, as does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The most dramatic question of all is whether Netanyahu will still head the Likud list in the next elections. The answer to this question lies mainly with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Netanyahu will do everything possible to act before Mandelblit makes his decision of whether or not to indict him, and rush into the elections. The prime minister believes that he will emerge from early elections stronger than ever. For the moment, Mandelblit is taking his time and the chances are low that in the coming months he will come to a decision in regard to the investigations into the prime minister.
Behind the scenes, a real political battle is being waged: the battle of the generals. On the political stage stand former chiefs of staff, generals, defense ministers and Mossad higher-ups, all of whom want to jump into the political waters. What unites them is their bitter grudges against Netanyahu and their strong desire to bring about his replacement. What separates them is one thing: their egos.
The list includes former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Res.) Benny Gantz; his predecessor, former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; Moshe Ya’alon, a former defense minister who also served as chief of staff; Deputy Director of Mossad Ram Ben-Barak; other former Mossad and Shin Bet personages and several junior has-beens. Even the name of Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister who took a break from the political system in 2015, is still bandied about in this context.
Each party apart from the Likud dances around this company of generals in the hope that one of them will give the party an edge in the battle for second place (Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid is currently Netanyahu’s strongest rival in the polls) or help them publicly challenge Netanyahu’s position and status. Netanyahu doesn’t seem to be very worried. He has long since fortified his position as “Mr. Security.” This time, for a change, he is not dependent on external strengthening. The burden of proof is on the other side now.
To the electorate, the most interesting and attractive figure is Gantz. In recent months, Zionist Camp Chair Avi Gabbay has been pressuring Gantz to join the party. Gabbay’s position in the polls appears hopeless; he has completely lost the momentum he had created after conquering the Labor Party. To get back into the fray against Lapid, Gabbay needs Gantz. During advanced negotiations between them, an option was raised that Gantz be floated “above Gabbay’s head” and serve as the party’s candidate for prime minister while Gabbay retains the role of party chairman. Gabbay also floated this idea in a poll he recently ordered. It turns out that while Gabbay only brings about 15 Knesset seats or less to the party, Gantz would bring 25 to the 120-seat legislature. Party seniors are convinced that Gabbay and Gantz will close this deal soon. Gabbay denies this but does verify that Gantz is “becoming close” to the party.
The next in line, Ashkenazi, is playing hard to get. He has been in civvies for seven years already, enjoying his life, but the scars of the 2010 Harpaz affair have not yet healed. Ashkenazi, who is viewed as one of Netanyahu’s more stinging critics, will only roll up his sleeves to join a winning platform. He dreams that Lapid and Kahlon unite into one political entity, which he would be willing to join without any preconditions. Ashkenazi told Al-Monitor that such a unification would constitute a real alternative to the rulership that could bring about change and create new hope. Lapid was a predecessor to Kahlon as finance minister, and while they are friendly they lack mutual respect; it is mainly Kahlon who respects Lapid less. Thus, under the current circumstances, the chances are that Ashkenazi will prefer to remain a bystander.
A tragic figure is that of Ya’alon. After he was ousted from his position in 2016 by Netanyahu for the benefit of Avigdor Liberman, Ya’alon chose to quit the Likud altogether and become Netanyahu’s No. 1 nemesis. Ya’alon founded an association and spends his days and nights ploughing through the country and appearing almost every day before different audiences. But he still hasn’t seen positive results in the polls. Should Ya’alon’s takeoff continue to stall, there is a good chance that he will join one of the other existing forces on the ground, such as Yesh Atid. Lapid lacks a military background and thus is searching for an attractive general figure to retain his party’s electoral edge over Gabbay and create a springboard for himself in the battle for the premiership. He dreams about Ashkenazi, prefers Gantz, but will be happy to take Ya’alon with both hands.
The problem is really psychological in nature. Lt. Gen. (Res.) Ya’alon is the man who headed the commando unit that penetrated the villa of Khalil al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, and eliminated him 30 years ago in Tunis. A military senior of Ya’alon’s stature would have a hard time taking orders from someone like Lapid, a former military newspaper correspondent who is about 20 years younger and with far less experience. Nonetheless, Lapid hopes that Ya’alon will get used to the idea…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
CYPRUS, GREECE, AND ISRAEL CHART A COMMON PATH
George N. Tzogopoulos
Algemeiner, June 12, 2018
Cyprus, Greece, and Israel are steadily building a democratic geopolitical bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean. They are exploring ways to collaborate in fields ranging from energy to communication technology and defense. Greek- and Jewish-American communities are exploiting the momentum to further boost the developing “triangle” and encourage US support. However, despite progress among the governments and the generally positive climate, warning signs of antisemitism in Greece underline the need for grassroots action to combine political achievements with wide public support.
The fourth Cyprus-Greece-Israel tripartite summit, which took place in Nicosia on May 8, 2018, made plain the determination of the three countries to deepen their cooperation. Nicos Anastasiades, Alexis Tsipras, and Benjamin Netanyahu discussed new fields of interest, including public security, cinema co-production, maritime pollution, telecommunications, and the reduction of data roaming costs. They agreed that the fifth trilateral summit will take place within a year in Beersheba, a place described by Netanyahu as “cyber city.” At that event, the parties plan to advance their dialogue on communication technologies.
At present, the countries are emphasizing their collaboration at the military level. Symbolically, Greek fighter planes participated in an Israeli Air Force aerial show to celebrate Israel and the IDF’s 70th Independence Day. Also, the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt. Gen. Alkiviadis Stefanis, visited Israel at the invitation of Maj. Gen. Yaacov Barak, the IDF’s Ground Forces Commander, who had already visited Greece in January. According to media reports, the two sides are discussing potential joint actions against new threats, as well as exchange programs. Staff talks involving representatives of the armed forces of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel took place in the Jewish state on May 9.
Energy remains at the center of attention. Cyprus and Israel currently disagree on the division of the Aphrodite reservoir and this disagreement could lead to international arbitration. Το avoid such a scenario, Nicosia and Jerusalem are engaging in a “transparent and productive dialogue,” as Israeli Ambassador to Cyprus Shmuel Revel put it to the Cyprus News Agency. Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said that companies should first attempt to reach settlements on gas quantities on their own, but this process has not yet begun.
This issue is not expected to be easily solved. Lakkotrypis sees it as “one of the most important differences” between Cyprus and Israel. His Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz declares, “Israel cannot give up, not even as a gesture of friendship, on its territories or its natural resources.” The lack of a sharing formula on the Aphrodite gas field does not prevent Cyprus, Israel, and Greece from examining the construction of an EastMed pipeline. Following the tripartite Nicosia summit, the Israeli ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba, spoke about a fast rhythm for the potential realization of this “adventurous project.”
An EastMed pipeline would cost more than a pipeline connecting Israel to Turkey, but would enhance security in the Eastern Mediterranean. That is why it is anathema to Ankara. Following the Nicosia meeting, the Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said EastMed might not function as a route to peace and advocated for the transportation of gas resources from the Levantine Basin to Europe via Turkey. Comments like these show Ankara’s unease with the evolving cooperation among Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. The creation of a democratic bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean does not serve Turkish President’s Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations — indeed, it might disrupt them.
Executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) Endy Zemenides said in an interview that his organization and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) were coordinating an advocacy campaign in Washington to strengthen the Cyprus-Greece-Israel triangle with US support. A restriction on F-35 jet sales to Turkey and the end of the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act are among the goals. In May 2018, the fifth anniversary of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance was also celebrated in the US. The more Ankara’s tactics are exposed by Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the more the international community becomes aware of Erdoğan’s motivations.
The fourth Cyprus-Greece-Israel tripartite summit took place on the same day that US President Donald Trump made his Iran speech. This led both Cyprus and Greece to take a public position on how they view Israel’s sensitivity towards the Iranian threat — despite their need to align their policies with that of the EU. President Anastasiades told i24NEWS that he “urged Iran to pursue good relations with all of their neighbors and to respect the principle of non-interference.” Prime Minister Tsipras underlined that he shared Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s concern, but advocated for the preservation of the Iran nuclear deal. Greek companies like Hellenic Petroleum that are importing oil from Iran are reportedly coming up with alternative plans. Notwithstanding the strong momentum and high level of political support for the strengthening of the Cyprus-Greece-Israel geopolitical alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean, old stereotypes and prejudices are undermining wider acceptance.
Worryingly, signs of antisemitism are resurfacing, at least in Greece. Α Greek cartoonist recently compared the situation in the Gaza Strip with the Holocaust, and drew a parallel between Israeli policies and Nazi practices. Both the Central Israel Council of Greece and the Embassy of Israel criticized the comparison. However, the Greek blogosphere teems with articles calling the “targeting” of the cartoonist unfair and suggesting that he was correct in condemning Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
WHO LEADS ISRAEL?
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2018
Israel has a problem with its security brass. And this week we received several reminders that the situation needs to be dealt with. Since the Hamas regime in Gaza announced in March that it was planning to have civilians swarm the border with Israel, through this week’s Hamas-Islamic Jihad mortar and rocket assault on southern Israel, the IDF General Staff has been insisting there is only one thing Israel can do about Gaza.
According to our generals, Israel needs to shower Hamas with stuff. Food, medicine, water, electricity, medical supplies, concrete, cold hard cash, whatever Hamas needs, Israel should just hand it over in the name of humanitarian assistance. Every single time reporters ask the generals what Israel can do to end Hamas’s jihadist campaign, they give the same answer. Let’s shower them with stuff.
The fact that the Palestinian Authority is blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza makes no impression on the generals. For months now, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has refused to pay salaries to Hamas regime employees or pay for Gaza’s electricity and fuel. Hamas, for its part, destroyed the Kerem Shalom cargo terminal two weeks ago, blocking all transfer of gas and food to Gaza. And this week it blew up its electricity lines with a misfired mortar aimed at Israel.
Hamas’s determination to use civilians as human shields for its terrorists is a pretty clear message that it does not care about the people it controls. But for whatever reason, it didn’t register with the General Staff. As residents of the South were rushing to bomb shelters every 10 minutes or so on Tuesday, generals were briefing reporters that Israel must give them medicine.
When Hamas then refused to receive medical supplies from Israel, the generals doubled down and said that the only card Israel has to play is to give Gaza humanitarian aid. And they told reporters that their job at the next security cabinet meeting will be to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers that Israel needs to give the Hamas regime stuff.
Then there is the issue of terrorist bodies. Hamas holds the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, both killed in action during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Hamas also holds Israeli civilian hostages Avra Mengistu and Hisham a-Suwaid. In January 2017, the security cabinet decided that Israel will retain the bodies of terrorists rather than transfer them to Palestinian authorities for burial. The purpose of the decision was to pressure Hamas to release the Israeli hostages and remains of the IDF personnel it holds. Despite the cabinet decision, since the cabinet made its decision, Israel has transferred to Hamas the bodies of five terrorist murderers. Each time, the IDF General Staff stood behind the move.
Currently, the government is holding the body of Hamas terrorist Aziz Awisat who just died in prison. Media reports indicate the IDF is pushing for the government to appease Hamas again and transfer his body to Gaza for burial. To block the move, Goldin’s parents petitioned the High Court on Monday and demanded the government inform them 72 hours in advance of any transfer of a terrorist’s body to Hamas. The government agreed to the Goldin family’s demand on Thursday morning. It is inarguable that these bodies of terrorists are valuable bargaining chips in the government’s efforts to repatriate its hostages and the remains of its soldiers. The fact that the IDF General Staff repeatedly undercuts the government’s efforts to secure their release, by surreptitiously transferring the terrorists’ bodies to Hamas, is of a piece with its irrational belief that it is Israel’s responsibility to ensure a quality of life for denizens of Hamasland…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
On Topic Links
Israel Needs ‘Iron Dome for Diplomacy,’ Deputy Minister Says: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, June 17, 2018—Israel needs to create an “Iron Dome” for diplomacy, to help the nation protect its image on the battlefield of public relations, Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for public diplomacy said on Sunday at a conference on terrorism and cybersecurity in Tel Aviv.
New Strategic Dimensions of the Eastern Mediterranean: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, June 11, 2018—For the first time since the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Mediterranean is in the midst of a tectonic shift.
The Positive History of Israeli-African Relations: Benji Shulman, Algemeiner, June 6, 2018—Just last month Israel scored another big diplomatic win in Africa, when Israeli President Reuven Rivlin successfully toured Ethiopia. He took along a massive entourage, including government officials, business people, NGOs, and even Ethiopian-Israeli singer Ester Rada.
Silicon Wadi: Israel’s Arab Tech Boom: Simone Somekh, Tablet, June 3, 2018—Paulus VI is the single, narrow artery that snakes through the old city of Nazareth, choked with a seemingly endless line of vehicles. On either side of the thoroughfare, there is dust and noise and vendors chatting at high decibel in Arabic in relentless heat. For the last two years, a sign above a modern sand-colored building spells out in English, “Microsoft.”