Is There Any Similarity Between Israel’s Election Crisis and Britain’s Brexit?

Answer: The similarity is that they are both almost impossible to fathom!

Kurdish fighter in Mosul, March 2016. Photo by Kurdishstruggle, CC BY-SA 2.0

Israel’s Conundrum

It is now the turn of Blue and White leader, Benny Gantz, to try and form a new coalition government. For the first time in over ten years, someone other than Bibi Netanyahu of the Likud party has a mandate from President Rivlin to try and form a new coalition government. But don’t hold your breath. Although Gantz has 28 days to pull it off, his chances are pretty slim. However, the old soldier and new politician has a record of succeeding against the odds. In the IDF, he was a second choice to become chief of staff, but he did wind up with the prized promotion. Then again, the soft-spoken, mild-mannered Gantz out-ran his rivals to become the leader of the brand new Blue and White party that garnered more seats than the formidable Netanyahu in the latest election in September (33-32).

The problem is that neither candidate has been able to cobble a coalition majority in the 120-member Knesset. President Rivlin has been trying to knock their heads together to form a national unity cabinet. Actually, Blue and White, as well as Likud, have similar positions on defense and economic policy. Both take a tough stance against West Bank withdrawals to form a Palestinian state. So, on paper, they could make good bedfellows. However, Bibi insists on bringing his ultraorthodox backers to the party, a situation that would outweigh Blue and White in the coalition. Bibi and the religious MKs would total of 55 members. Naturally, Gantz says, ‘no thanks’!

The plot not only thickens but gets bogged down altogether. Avigdor Liberman and his party are potential partners with Blue and White after burning his bridges with Bibi. Liberman is insisting on a coalition excluding the religious parties. In short, it’s the biggest traffic jam in Israel’s history. But, despite the cliche ‘if there’s a will there’s a way,’ some thinking outside the box could overcome the impasse, especially because some voters will punish the party they view as being to blame for going to a third general election in a year.

IsraCast Outlook

Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, is due to decide whether or not to prosecute Bibi for fraud within several weeks. According to Israeli law, even if indicted, a Prime Minister is not obligated to leave the office. What has been mooted is that Gantz and Netanyahu would rotate the premiership after two years. Come hell or high water, Bibi is demanding the first two years to serve as PM in order to be in office if the Attorney General hauls him into court. Gantz has adopted the position that it is unacceptable that a Prime Minister could be tried in court and lead the country at one in the same time. What if Gantz now agrees that an indictment would not mean that Bibi would have to resign if their coalition gave Bibi first go as the Prime Minister of a national unity government. Anyway, with the mandate now under his belt, Gantz says he will meet with all political parties to try and hammer out a coalition government. His previous job as IDF Chief of Staff looks like a piece of cake compared to his new mission. 

Reaction to Kurdish Sellout

In his victory speech, US President Donald Trump granted Turkish leader Tayyip Recep Erdogan precisely what he demanded, adding that even the Kurds were happy about being driven out of their enclave along the Turkish border inside northeastern Syria. In effect, Trump declared, “To hell with the Middle East, who needs it!” The Russians can have it; although, he did consent to requests from Israel and Jordan to deploy a small American contingent at their joint border. Although, some members of his Republican party, and the democrats, have blasted Trump for his sellout of the Kurds. It may still be too early to conclude the impact that this will have on American voters when they go to the polls. How will middle Americans respond to Trump’s ‘bringing the boys home’? It is fair to assume that many of these combat soldiers come from middle America, and possibly communities likely not represented in opinion polls. Could this be similar to the situation before the last presidential election? 

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders of all stripes remain mum on the American withdrawal for apparent reasons. Such was the reaction of retired Gen. Amos Yadlin, a respected strategic analyst, “We are very strong, we are not dependent on 1,000 American soldiers who are evacuated from Syria, We have never asked the Americans to fight for us. So long as the US Congress and public the military aid package to Israel – this is what we need. Moreover, so long as the Trump administration casts its veto against anti-Israeli resolutions in international forums, I think we are in good shape.” 

Last week, IsraCast forecasted that Iran was planning a more aggressive stance against Israel after its highly successful cruise missile and drone strike on the Aramco oil refinery inside of Saudi Arabia last month that did not trigger a severe US response. Galai-Tzahal, the IDF’s radio station, has just reported a reliable source as saying, “Israel is preparing for a direct cruise missile or drone strike by Tehran in response to recent attacks on Iranian regional proxies that have been attributed to the Jewish state.” The source added that the IDF was already on a high state of alert for this possibility. Iran is chomping at the bit and no operative government in Jerusalem – never a dull moment. 

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