Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Whistleblower Complaint without comment

In accordance with federal law, the White House this morning posted the formal "Whistleblower" complaint memo to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Here is a permalink to the document.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Early Result of Israel's Re-do (Update 9/19/19)

As the final votes are tallied today, the situation in Israel has cleared up a bit.  Here are the early takeaways.  President Rivlin needs to appoint one of the largest parties to attempt to form a 61 seat coalition from the following results.

The Anti-Netanyahu Camp (44 + 13 = 57):
33 Seats: Kachol v'Lavan, the Centrist/Left (Ganz)
6 Seats: Avodah/Gesher, (Peretz)
5 Seats: The Democratic Camp, (Barak)

The Netanyahu Camp (55):
31 Seats: Likud, the Center/Right (Netanyahu)
9 Seats: Shas, (Deri)
8 Seats: United Torah Judaism, (Litzman/Gafni)
7 Seats: Yemina, (Shaked)


13 Seats: Joint List (4 Arab parties together).  Will vote anti-Netanyahu.
8 Seats: Yisrael Beitenu, (Lieberman) - The wild card.
Zero Seats: Otzma (Kahanist).  Was polling well in the last week but did not pass the threshold for representation in the Kenesset.

Summary:  The largest party is Kachol/Lavan.  Neither Ganz nor Netanyahu have a governing majority.  If the Joint List "supports" Ganz, he can form what is called a minority government.  That occurs when enough parties vote to form the government, but less than a majority actually serves in the government.  Would Lieberman join a Left-wing minority government of 57 members of kenesset that is dependent upon the Joint List's 13 votes from Arab support?  Unlikely.  Will Shas, UTJ and Lieberman come to an agreement on the drafting of the haredim into the army?  Unlikely.  So, the same stalement that was reached in April has been reached today.  Lieberman is pushing for Kahol Lavan and Likkud to form a centrist government, with him (though they wouldn't need him). 

What are the subtle differences since April and do they matter?

Group                April Election     Sept. Election       Last Kenesset

the "right"             60 seats                 55 seats           61 seats
the "left"                45 seats                44 seats           41 seats
the "Arabs"           10 seats                 13 seats           13 seats
Lieberman               5 seats                   8 seats            5 seats

So, in the last Kenesset, the right with Lieberman has 65 seats (one Likud member had defected).  That was affirmed in the April election.  Compared to April, the "right" lost 5 seats.  4 of them to Lieberman, and 1 to the math of the proportional distribution of seats in the election.  So, when the news says that Netanyahu lost from April to September, that is correct.  But his position is largely unchanged.  TOTAL: The right is down 6 from the last Kenesset.  Lieberman is plus 3.

On the Left, in April they went up to 45 seats from the previous Kenesset's 41 seats.  The Arab parties ran separately, and as a whole lost 3 seats.  So the Left's 54 with the Arabs in the Kenesset became 55 seats in the April election. In the September election, the left went back to 44, and the Arabs regained their original 13.  So, the left has gained 3 seats from the last Kenesset.  Therefore, it is correct to say that they improved, but they as a whole did not "win."


1) Rivlin gives Neyanyahu the mandate to form a government.  He can form a unity government with Ganz, or we are right back where we were in April, and there will probably be a third election.
2) Rivlin gives Ganz the mandate to form a government.  He can form a minority government with Lieberman with the support of the Arabs, or he can form a unity government.  Mathmatically he could form a majority government with the Arab parties, but as a former head of the Army he is not trusted by them and this is highly unlikely.

UPDATE SEPT 19, 2019 8:40 A.M.  Overnight both Netanyahu and Ganz, with the affirmation of President Rivlin, have called for a Unity Government.  This does not mean that it will happen.  Netanyahu wants his old allies, the UTJ, Shas, Yeminah in the government with him - which would both include cabinet ministries and a powerful voting bloc in case of conflicts.  Ganz, of course, does not want that - and does not need it once Kahol Lavan and Likud are cooperating with their combined 64 seats.

And, of course, they disagree about who should be the Prime Minister in such a government.  You may recall that Ganz had an agreement with his own partners in Kahol Lavan that 3 of them would rotate the prime ministership over the course of their elected term.

What would Shimon Perez say to the center left letting Netanyahu leading the unity coalition?  "Over my dead body."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz shake hands at a memorial service for Shimon Peres, September 19, 2019.

Netanyahu, in classic body language, seeks to co-opt and control Ganz in a unity government.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

We return to Thee oh Israeli Elections

The redux of the electoral loggerhead from last spring is due to take place on September 17, 2019.  Israel will once again demonstrate its broad and deep commitment to the electoral process, with one of the highest voluntary voter turnouts in the world.  In a world were Hamas is unstable, Hizbollah is flexing, Iran is rebuilding and Trump is Trump, the status quo may once again rule the day.  However, the future of Netanyahu as Prime Minister probably hangs in the balance, as another stalemate will force a Likud shakeup of some kind, and his pending corruption charges will surely move forward in the courts.  Here's what happened, and what might happen in the israeli elections.

Since my last blogs, the left-wing newspaper HaAretz has developed election tracking tools that are truly useful, regardless of your political views.  I recommend you click here to see descriptions of the parties in play and click here to fiddle around with their "build your own coalition" tool to understand how to get to the 61 seats needed to form a government.

Current polling shows that Lieberman, who brought down the government last December and stymied the Netanyahu led efforts to form a coalition in April, will be rewarded with as many as 10 or 11 seats in the new election.  On the far left, former prime minister Ehud Barak convened the Democratic Union with escapees from labor and meretz, only to lose control of the party and be assigned the 10th seat on their list.  Here's the quick summary of the latest average of polls:

Likud (Netanyahu)     31
Kahol Lavan (Ganz)   31

Either of these parties needs another 30 seats to form a coaltion, from the following.

Joint Arab List                           10 or 11
Yemina (Shaked/right wing)      10 or 11
Israel Beiteinu                            10 or 11
Shas (Sefardi Orthodox)               7  or 8
UTJ (Ashkenazi Orthodox)           7 or 8
Democratic Union                                 7
Labor/Gesher                                 6 or 7

No government has ever been formed that is dependent on Arab parties, so despite their being "leftist," they won't factor in the coalition building.  This puts the left at an extreme disadvantage in forming governments.  Each of those potential king-makers is competing from the remaining 58 seats after Kahol Lavan and Likkud get their 62.

So, let the math games begin.  Did you go to the coalition building tool?  Here's what you probably found. Likud, Yemina, shas and UTJ only get you 56-58 seats. They simply can't form a coaltion without Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu.  Kahol Lavan, Democratic Union and Labor Gesher only get you 44 or 45.  Even with Israel Beitinu there is no majority on the left.

This is important, because Lieberman has been saying that if Netanyahu and Shas/UTJ don't agree to draft the ultraorthodox into the army, he will "force" a national unity government of Kahol Lavan and Likkud.  But that only works if he can form a left wing government without Likkud, so Likkud would have a reason to have to do that.  Without a viable coaltion threat on the left, Lieberman's words are empty.  And what's more, even if Kahol Lavan (31) and Likkud (31) do agree to a unity government, which is highly unlikely, they could then do it without Lieberman!  - which is strange and funny.

And therefore, there is no likely coaltion AGAIN in the coming election.  And the real question will be what happens to Netanyahu in the aftermath.

Stay tuned.