Well the unthinkable has happened.
Israel is going to her third election in 12 months, still trying to resolve an electoral impasse that has now been going in effect, for the whole of 2019 – leading Israel to have a year of caretaker and therefore hamstrung government as a direct result.
It seems as if in many things it is no longer possible to have a reasonable debate on various issues as people are fixated on either personalities or ideological extremism – and everything is black and white.
A bit like discussing climate change. The terrible drought and bush fires afflicting Australia are either caused by it, or have nothing to do with it at all, according to the public discourse. And anyone who dares cross these divided lines with some combination of the two views is virtually dismissed by both sides.
In the same way, one is either for President Trump or against him. He is the most philosemitic President the United States has ever had, or the dog whistler of antisemitism.
There are no shades of grey.
The ongoing divide re Trump and the parallel schism within American Jewry is further exemplified by the announcement that President Trump, in an effort to combat the rising tidal wave of antisemitism on US college campuses, declared an executive order that interprets Judaism as a nationality and not just a religion.
For various reasons this will make it easier to deny funding to universities that participate in and/or promote the BDS movement and those who use the pretence of anti-Zionism as a cover for antisemitism.
When one removes the ‘noise’ around this decision, fundamentally what those American Jews who oppose Trump’s latest move continue to be challenged by is something I have discussed previously.
American Jewry’s view of itself.
Does being an American Jew mean being part of a religion or a nationality, or some combination of the two?
American Jewry feel threatened by anything that states or implies they are not part of the US melting pot.
Hence the response of one American Jew who said: “The order defines Judaism as a ‘nationality,’ promoting the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not, well, American.”
Ironically it is also their own misguided and misunderstood view of Israel and her image that they feel similarly threatened by. By association. If they accept Judaism is in part a nationality, then the home of the Jewish nation and the way she behaves, is also them.
In Israel it is hard to see what logic lies behind yet another election.
No-one actually believes that anything will be that different, but the risk seems to be all on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s side in any case.
He did worse in the second election in September than he did in the first in April. It is very difficult to imagine how he thinks he can do better next March at his third attempt.
Netanyahu must see something that most others simply cannot.
And it is his past track record that gives one some self-doubt when predicting his imminent demise.
Netanyahu remains THE election issue.
People are either for or against him. He is either innocent of all allegations which are part of a left wing conspiracy, or he is the devil Israel needs to get rid of.
For or against Netanyahu.
However in this case, not completely black and white.
There have been some significant changes.
In the coming election it is hard to see any previously anti Netanyahu voters switching to his side. But what has been notable is that despite the rusted on core of voters who will follow him come what may, there are also a growing number of influential erstwhile supporters of Netanyahu, who now say it is time for him to go.
Which seems to mean that he only has the potential to lose votes next March as compared to September.
The risk is with him.
A further complication for Netanyahu is that his own party may decide that the only path to being part of the next government is under a new leader.
Publically, only Gidon Sa’ar has put himself forward. Sa’ar is very popular within Likud but by going first, some elements will see him as taking advantage of Netanyahu whilst under fire. He will face the claim of disloyalty to the party and especially to the leader.
Supposedly we will see the two of them face off in the Likud party membership vote on December 26th.
Unless that is, David Bitan et al – Netanyahu supporters – manage to have that leadership vote cancelled, as they have been suggesting.
Despite Netanyahu currently being well ahead in internal Likud polls for party leadership, and one would expect him to win, a lot can change over the next few weeks.
In any case – yet again, the risk is with Netanyahu.
And then a further risk he takes is that the party may feel that it is time for a change – meaning that they lose faith in Netanyahu’s general electoral ability – do not wish to support Sa’ar, but do go for a compromise candidate like current Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Edelstein too is very popular within Likud, but also generally. And he is well respected.
And he will not wear the taint of having been disloyal to Netanyahu and might be ‘reluctantly co-opted’, rather than having actively run against the leader.
It is still too early to count Netanyahu out, but it is hard to not believe that we are seeing the end of his run.
This is both a national tragedy and a personal tragedy being played out in a very public way.
The question is just what sort of damage will Netanyahu’s going do to the country and to his own legacy?
A disappointing end to 2019.
Dr. Ron Weiser AM is an Hon Life Member of the Zionist Federation of Australia Executive, and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.