As if a second national election in less than half a year wasn’t enough, the aftermath of the September 17 vote in Israel now resembles something of a political circus.
You go first. No, YOU go first!
We now know that the “Blue and White” party won the most seats in Knesset, edging out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud 33-31.
Even so, it now appears that Netanyahu will get the first crack at forming the next government.
In a risky gamble, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz is hoping that by going first and failing, Netanyahu will then be compelled to enter a unity government under Blue and White’s terms.
Why will Netanyahu fail, in Gantz’s estimation?
Because Likud has already agreed to include the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties in his coalition. But, the right-wing bloc as it currently stands is well short of a 61-seat majority. They need Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and its 8 seats to form a stable government.
However, Liberman has refused to sit with the ultra-Orthodox. He staked his electoral campaign on the promise of combatting religious coercion in Israeli politics.
So, Netanyahu’s stuck, and Gantz knows it. Still, the latter is taking a risk, given that Bibi has pulled rabbits out of his hat in the past.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu wants Gantz to go first, for pretty much the same reason, and there were even rumors that Likud would recommend the Blue and White chief for prime minister. In the end, however, Likud recommended Netanyahu when its representatives met on Sunday with President Reuven Rivlin, who has the unenviable task of sorting through this mess.
How many prime ministers?!
Liberman, who finds himself in the position of “kingmaker,” declined when he met with Rivlin to recommend either Netanyahu or Gantz for prime minister. He wants to see the two come together in a secular national unity government, which is more in line with Gantz’s vision, so long as he gets to lead.
But, and this is a big “but,” what Liberman and all other Israelis calling for a unity government are ignoring for the time being is the preexisting agreement between Gantz and his party’s Number 2, Yair Lapid.
If Likud and “Blue and White” were to form a unity government, it would undoubtedly be on the condition that Netanyahu and Gantz rotate as prime minister. What’s currently being sidestepped is that Gantz and Lapid have the same agreement should Blue and White ever head the government.
So, is Israel to now have three prime ministers?
Break all the laws!
Perhaps the reason that wrench in the gears is getting little attention at the moment is that reports suggest Blue and White has tacitly agreed to the coalition demands of the Joint Arab List.
Most reports are focusing on the fact that the Arab factions might be part of an Israeli government for the first time in decades, but the real story is that those demands that Blue and White purportedly approved include repealing the Kaminitz Law.
The Kaminitiz Law, which went into effect just two years ago, is a series of amendments to Israel’s Planning and Building Law. It was made necessary due to rampant illegal building on both public and private land in Israel, a phenomenon that severely impairs city planning. The vast majority of this illegal building occurs in Arab communities.
Were Gantz to repeal this law, it would effectively signal a free-for-all in illegal Arab construction.
Seriously? ANOTHER election?!
With the situation as it now stands, there is serious talk of a third national election. But, as commentators here at Israel Today note, the outcome is likely to be exactly the same unless changes are made.
One of those changes would be to raise the electoral threshold to 5 percent, but in recent years, Netanyahu has actually been lowering it in an effort to choke out the smaller right-wing parties. The result hasn’t been as Bibi hoped, given the present political deadlock, for which there appears to be no other solution.