Thursday, May 30, 2019

New Elections September 17

The 80th Congress of the United States was called the "Do Nothing Congress," but Israel has it beat as the 21st Knesset votes to dissolve itself without even forming a government.

The new election will be held on September 17th, just two weeks before Netanyahu's first indictment hearings in court on October 2 and 3rd for corruption.  In the meantime, Jared Kushner arrived in Israel yesterday in the middle of the mess instead of in the court of the new Prime Minister's government.  Jared is saved by the turmoil, as the Trump peace plan seems to be nothing more than an economic plan for further investment in Israel, the PA and the territories, mostly with Saudi and Bahrain support.  Russia and China, two of Israel's largest trade and political partners, will not attend the Trump-led conference.

More to come...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Israel's Elections 2.0 - Time for a Do-Over

Well well well.  When last we met, I gave a sweeping "ho-hum" to another Netanyahu coalition victory and his easy path to a governing coalition in the next Knesset.  Never sleep on Israel, because the impossible has happened:  Netanyahu, even with a 3 week extension from President Rivlin, has failed to form a coalition of 61/120 votes to create a government.

First, I'll summarize the electoral seats by party, and then I'll tell you what has happened.

As you see, the left/center Blue and White party TIED Netanyahu's Likud party with 35 seats each.  However, the "Right" scored 65 seats and the "Left" only 55 seats, so there is no left wing path to a majority.

Three parties, Gesher and Yemin Hadash, failed to enter the new Knesset.  The Arab parties diminished from 13 seats total to 10.  Meretz went down 1. Labor lost 12 of its 18 seats.  Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party dropped from 10 to 4, barely surviving.  Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu stayed even at 5, and the far right religious parties gained 3 seats between them.

So, with a comfortable 65 seats, how could Netanyahu fail to form a coalition of 61?  It all hangs on a single party: Yisrael Beiteinu.

Likkud (35) + Religious Parties (21) is 56. Adding Moshe Kahlon and Kulanu (4) only gets him to 60.  It is Yisrael Beiteinu's 5 seats - and only their 5 seats - that wins the day.  And Y.B.'s leader, Lieberman, is the one who left Netanyahu's coalition last December forcing elections in the first place. My how the worm turns. 

(scroll right for the full chart)
DatePolling firmHadash
MeretzLaborBlue &
Outgoing Knesset[8]5851811110530N/A35765466
16 AprElection results[9]64463504535005885565

So what happened?  Basically, Lieberman refused to accept a government without the religious population serving in the army like everyone else.  The religious parties refuse to accept a government unless their exemption from military service remains.  It's a stalemate.  This was the exact issue that dissolved the coalition in December, and it hasn't gone away.

What happens next:

Tomorrow is the deadline for Netanyahu to form a coalition.  There are exactly three possibilities:

1) Lieberman and Neyanyahu get over their problems, Lieberman gets everything he wants, and somehow the religious parties don't bolt.  This "won't happen," but it is still Israel - so we'll know tomorrow.

2) Netanyahu reports to Rivlin that he has failed, and leaves the new election in place.  Rivlin will turn to Benny Ganz, head of Blue and White, and give him a chance to form a coalition.  With only 55 seats, including 10 Arab seats, he would need all the Arabs to cooperate, and 6 more seats.  Again, Kulanu gives him a total of 59, and Yisrael Beiteinu is the king maker.  Would kulanu, yisrael beitenu and the Arab parties cooperate in a government?  Highly unlikely.

3) The current Knesset can vote to dissolve itself, and set early elections.  This is, in effect, a do-over.  The bill to dissolve the knesset has "passed its first three readings."  This seems to be the plan.  Here we go again.  

So what?  Well, in fact this third option creates all kinds of crazy.  The Yemin Hadash folks will be back in the mix. Do they recant, apologize, and join Likkud - or some other party?  

The political death/life of B.B. Netanyahu:  But more importantly, Netanyahu will be under indictment for serious corruption crimes already being raised against him.  He was counting on the new knesset passing laws granting him immunity, and granting the knesset power over the judiciary.  Those laws will now not get passed, leaving him subject to direct prosecution.  How will THAT effect the election?  Will the electorate move away from him?  Will his party depose him?  Rumors have it that he has promised Moshe Kahlon a list of spots on the likud list in the next election.  If he promises Kahlon 5-10 seats, that means 5-10 current likud winners will be pushed down beyond the threshold, and will be losing their jobs.  That is not a good maneuver for a man who needs the support of every member of his party if he is to survive.

So, we'll know more tomorrow.  I can only say, "Stay Tuned."