Last time I wrote, I focused on “good stuff,” and here I will provide more of the same. However, the good news in several instances is qualified.
Not always an easy trick: To hold fast to what is positive, celebrating the promise, while at the same time retaining a realistic perspective.
We start with news (sof sof – at last!) of a merger – as I understand it, a technical merger for the election only – between the New Right party of Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett with the Union of the Right, which is composed of Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) headed by Rafi Peretz and National Union headed by Bezalel Smotrich.
Reportedly this new merger will go by the name United Right. (If you are finding that the similarity in names of various parties and factions makes it hard to track them, know that you are not alone.)
The Union of the Right had been headed by Peretz, but he has agreed to step down and allow Shaked to head the joint list because polls indicate she is the biggest vote draw.
Below, Shaked, Bennett, Smotrich and Peretz:
As matters stand in the agreement, the top four names on the list are Shaked, Peretz, Smotrich and Bennett. In all, the New Right has four of the top ten on the list, while the Union of the Right has six – three each for Habayit Hayehudi and National Union respectively.
Slots 11 through 20 are divided evenly between the New Right and Union of the Right. It is exceedingly unlikely that this merger will secure 20 mandates, but something well beyond 10 is being predicted by the polls.
As the situation stands this is truly a case of “good news but…”
The more the right can be merged, the better for avoiding lost mandates. The problem here is that not all of the right wing parties have been enfolded in this merger, most notably Otzma, which was included last time in a technical merger with Union of the Right, and Zehut, Moshe Feiglin’s party, which ran alone and did not nearly make the threshold last time.
There is something in the current New Right – Union of the Right agreement that refers to Otzma being given slots in Likud, as had been agreed upon. But both Otzma and Likud are saying there is no such agreement, and Otzma is angry about having been left out of the United Right merger.
Shaked today said she is still hoping to include Otzma and Zehut, but how that might be accomplished now eludes me.
To add to the difficulties here are the rumors that have been circulating regarding Netanyahu’s opposition to this merger and his efforts to keep it from materializing.
He is apparently concerned that a faction with considerable strength to the right of Likud would draw from Likud’s mandates. This is worrisome for him because if Blue and White were to achieve more mandates than Likud in the election there is the possibility that the president would give Gantz the first opportunity to try to form a coalition. There is doubt that he would be successful, but this scenario is of worrisome nevertheless.
See a statement from Likud here, which says something slightly different, and may confuse more than it elucidates:
The core problem is here is Avigdor Lieberman, who continues to be a spoiler and loves every minute of it. His Yisrael Beitenu is polling well, drawing from Likud strength.
Likud is working to do everything possible to strengthen its base right now and has begun a campaign to draw Russian voters, who constitute a major element in Lieberman’s base. Posters are going out in Russian, featuring Netanyahu’s close connection to Putin.
This Thursday, August 1st, all parties running in the election must submit their final lists. That’s still three days away, and there are adjustments in the current situation that are still possible. Perhaps Otzma will run with Zehut, or be folded somehow into the United Right.
Shaked is still calling for this:
“In the coming days the party lists will be closed. I would like both Zehut and Otzma Yehudit to join the larger faction and build one big party like the Republican Party.”
My famous words on many an issue: Stay tuned.
Boris Johnson, the man who has just become prime minister of Britain, has described himself as a “passionate Zionist.” He actually spent some weeks on a kibbutz here when a young man, and traces some Jewish lineage on his mother’s side.
Many people are enormously enthusiastic about this situation. And, indeed, the prospects of a positive attitude towards Israel emanating from 10 Downing Street are very good. Especially when one considers what has been, and what might have been.
And yet, it is necessary to temper our enthusiasm – and our expectations – regarding Johnson with a touch of caution.
To provide just one example, of several: His 2017 explanation for why he supports a “two-state solution” is problematic.
“I see no contradiction in being a friend of Israel and a believer in that country’s destiny, while also being deeply moved by the suffering of those affected and dislodged by its birth,” he begins.
This statement reflects the Palestinian Arab version of history. But the Arabs were not passively “dislodged” by Israel’s birth! They engaged in a war intended to destroy the newly established Jewish state. Just a tiny omission there.
Continues Johnson: “The vital caveat in the Balfour Declaration – intended to safeguard other communities – has not been fully realized. I have no doubt that the only viable solution to the conflict resembles the one first set down on paper by another Briton, Lord Peel, in the report of the Royal Commission on Palestine in 1937, and that is the vision of two states for two peoples.”
But he is just plain wrong with regard to the safeguards in the Balfour Declaration: in endorsing establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine it cautioned that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities…”
And, in fact, Israeli Arabs do have full civil and religious rights. The Peel Report of 1937 sought to confer upon the Arabs political rights not guaranteed within Balfour. The British, who had been assigned the Mandate for Palestine, were – in theory – committed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in all of Palestine. The Peel Commission, responding to Arab violence, sought to undo the British commitment and divide Palestine.
What Johnson expresses here is the British perception of matters, and we need to understand this. He is likely the best we might hope for, and we will welcome him, hopefully with our eyes open.
A clear item of good news is the announcement of a series of tests of the long-range Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system, conducted at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak, Alaska over the course of ten days.
Moshe Patel, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, had explained back in March that the test would take place in Alaska because of the “limited ability” Israel had to shut down airspace over the Mediterranean Sea used by commercial airlines. “Arrow 3 is too big for the state of Israel. It is supposed to be good against nuclear threats that are coming from Iran. We have limitations in our arena to conduct flight tests because of safety.”
It was recently reported that Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had made a secret visit to Alaska, and now it is apparent that it was with regard to these tests. Dermer was present to witness the tests.
The missile defense system was tested against targets similar in behavior to advanced ballistic missiles being developed by Iran. The missiles were aimed at exo-atmospheric targets – targets beyond the atmosphere and demonstrated an ability to take them out that is not only exceedingly impressive but highly significant from the perspective of Israeli security.
The Arrow 3 has the capacity to switch directions dramatically, allowing it to rapidly face approaching targets. It has a reported flight range of up to 1,500 miles.
The system was developed primarily via divisions of the Israel Aircraft Industry, with the participation of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Boeing.
The tests took place only days after Iran had tested its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile.
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced these tests at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, saying:
“They were successful beyond any imagination. The Arrow 3 – with complete success – intercepted ballistic missiles beyond the atmosphere at unprecedented altitudes and speeds. The execution was perfect – all precise hits.
“Today Israel has the ability to act against ballistic missiles that could be launched against us from Iran or anywhere else. This is a great achievement for the security of Israel.”