On Monday, April 5th, President Reuven Rivlin will begin political consultations with all the parties that received the required number of votes to elect at least four members to Israel’s Parliament Knesset. The “Knesset” was the Jewish people’s governing body in the biblical land of Israel – it was first convened by Ezra and Nehemiah in the 5th Century BCE – making it one of the older parliaments in the world.
Fast forward down the centuries until today – President Rivlin has an arduous duty before him. Currently, not one of the elected political parties can form a new coalition government of 61 members in the 120-member parliament. Although incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the most votes, his 30 MKs are a far cry from the required 61. Netanyahu can count, as usual, on the support of the two ultra-Orthodox religious parties plus a new Right-wing party that some say is racist called the Religious Zionism party.
At present, no other combination of political parties has emerged that will command a majority in the Knesset. This is why we are in for an uncertain period of political horse-trading as each party tries to gain concessions for its voters, and maybe there will be some “deserters” – an elected member of one party who switches sides to another party in return for, say, a cabinet post.
On the other side, Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party is the closest rival to Netanyahu but still has only a measly 17 seats in the 120-member House. And then, for some perhaps, “the unkindest cut of all” – Ra’am, a small Arab party headed by Mansour Abbas could hold the balance of power with his four elected MKs.
KNESSET ELECTION RESULTS
So, while there’s no question about Netanyahu leading the Right-wing bloc, who will emerge as the leader of the Centrist and Left-wing gaggle of parties? Yair Lapid got the most votes, but this cuts no ice with Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar, two Right-wing candidates, whereas Avigdor Lieberman can count only on a limited base of Russian voters. As for the Left-wingers, they have almost dropped off the political map in recent years.
But wait just a moment! Let’s go back to our IsraCast drawing-board with Benny Gantz, the former IDF Chief of Staff who surprised everyone by winning eight Knesset seats, despite Netanyahu orchestrating his political downfall by failing to permit him to become Prime Minister as part of their rotation agreement. Although Netanyahu made Gantz look like a political patsy, Gantz has emerged as a “straight shooter” and a man who does keep his word.
Let’s go back to the current political arena, which has Netanyahu pitted against three younger contenders – Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, and Gideon Saar for eventual leadership of Israel. But at present, they face a highly-popular leader in Netanyahu, who is now on trial for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. And there is no way of knowing whether or not Netanyahu will be convicted.
A look at the election outcome indicates the country is sharply divided among all other candidates at this period in time. So what’s required? Maybe a cooling-off period and the anti-Bibi camp agreeing on a single candidate for the premiership, and the IsraCast suggestion is that Benny Gantz could be that candidate on condition that he serve as PM for only one term, that is until Netanyahu’s trial runs its course. Otherwise, as the election results indicate, the country is fractured among numerous leaders, and it will prove to be extremely difficult to agree on who will lead these different parties.
On the other hand, Bibi will have to persuade perhaps an Israeli Arab party to join his coalition along with Naftali Bennet, who parted company with Netanyahu in anger years ago. Curiously enough, on April 5th, Rivlin begins his consultations while PM Netanyahu will also reappear in a Jerusalem court where prosecutors will present their case with state witnesses (former Netanyahu officials) as well as taped recordings.
Most readers will conclude correctly that IsraCast believes that after 12 consecutive years in power, it’s time for Bibi Netanyahu to call it a day. Granted, Bibi came through with flying colors in acquiring the Pfizer vaccine and enabling all Israelis to take it. But meanwhile, over six thousand Israelis died of the disease. This was in part due to Netanyahu’s giving in to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox Jewish political allies, who opposed imposing curfews in their overcrowded schools and neighborhoods.
However, Netanyahu’s unbridled ambitious attack on the Israeli police and the state’s legal system is unconscionable. There appear to be several pieces of evidence, including tape recordings, made by Netanyahu officials on his instruction that indicates considerable evidence for bringing him to trial.
Alas, Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to be hauled before the judge, but his predecessors took their medicine and did not try to smear Israel’s legal system. For that matter, Israel’s legal system up until now has always had a world-wide reputation for fairness and justice. As former Likud Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, who enjoyed a sterling reputation, once declared: “There are judges (fair and honest) in Jerusalem!”
Begin always put justice and equality above politics, and for this reason, his son, Benny Begin, as well as Dan Meridor, another Likud luminary, have left the party. Benny Begin has since thrown his support behind Gideon Saar, another former Likudnik who was fed up with Bibi’s dictatorial leadership.
If Israel’s politicians cannot put together another 61-seat coalition, we will go to yet another early election. This in the face of the mounting military threat from Iran and the economic slowdown in the wake of COVID-19. One final suggestion – maybe if Israel’s “young lions” cannot agree on one of their number to take on Bibi, perhaps they should revert to another biblical recommendation: “Let them cast lots!”