Last Tuesday, Israel held an election that has significantly shifted the tenor of politics in the nation – and I will offer a look at various aspects of the situation below.
But this coming Tuesday, it is America’s turn. And so I want to begin by offering my heartfelt prayers for a positive outcome (i.e., a strong Republican win) in the midterm elections. Just as we are now seeing enormous shifts in the political power structure in Israel, so may the good guys win in the US. Progressives there are well into the process of destroying the nation.
Biden has declared: “Democracy is literally on the ballot. This is a defining moment for the nation.” How very correct he is, but he has it backwards. This is a parallel to the claims on the left here that the right is destroying our democracy.
As to that enormous political shift here in Israel, the right-wing is in the main enormously optimistic if not euphoric. The promise truly IS extraordinary.
There are some expressing fears that Netanyahu – who has previously demonstrated a tendency to gravitate away from the right – might opt to go with a centrist government with Gantz rather than his right-wing coalition partners. Before the election there were rumors afloat regarding this possibility and, while diminished, they are still out there.
My own take is that this possibility is truly of miniscule concern. Netanyahu is both a smart man and an astute politician. He could not have held the premiership for 15 years if this were not the case. Cooperation with Gantz – who has actually declared he is not interested in working with Netanyahu, whatever that declaration is worth – might have seemed a viable alternative were things shaky. But what is before Bibi now is the possibility of smooth sailing for four years with a great deal he might accomplish to strengthen the country and burnish his legacy.
How long could a Netanyahu-Gantz merger last? And what would Netanyahu be able to accomplish with Gantz pulling at him from the left?
The mood in the nation leans right, not towards the centrist-left positions of Gantz, and Netanyahu is obviously well aware of this. So much is this the case that current Minister of Diaspora Affairs Shai Nachman (Labor), lamenting his party’s loss, declared, that they should have expressed “more right-wing attitudes.” Amazing.
One of the factors that makes the current situation so positive for Netanyahu is that he should be able to form a stable coalition of 64 mandates that incorporates only four factions – all right-wing. The more parties that must be included in a coalition, the more fighting over ministries, the more demands, the less working cohesiveness there is likely to be.
Our focus now must be on the formation of that coalition. Nothing happens until the government is officially a reality. And then our eyes will be on the changes that government will advance for the good of our nation.
Lapid has formally conceded and instructed all offices to facilitate a smooth transition.
Netanyahu will be meeting personally with heads of each of the parties slated to be in his coalition bloc, here in Jerusalem. That process began today (Sunday). These will be unofficial meetings intended to establish a baseline of understandings. The first meeting reportedly was with Arye Deri, head of Shas, the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party, which garnered an impressive 10 mandates in the election.
My prayer is that these talks will move smoothly. Inevitably, we are going to see some tensions and game-playing in the course of such negotiations, as members of the government-in-formation vie for power and positions. We must hope that these tensions can be kept to a minimum.
An additional prayer is for Netanyahu himself: that he remain strong in the face of international pressures.
We know that Israel does not have a friend in the White House. Biden is even stalling on calling Netanyahu to congratulate him. Bibi is familiar with such behavior from the time of the Obama administration.
Mahmoud Abbas of the PA has wasted no time in playing to the political situation and calling on Secretary of State Blinken to “compel” Israel to halt attacks on Palestinian Arabs. Blinken, in response, reiterated his support for the “two-state solution,” which will have zero support in our new government. State Department spokesman Ned Price indicated that Blinken also expressed “concern” about violence in Judea & Samaria (my term, not Blinken’s); he “emphasized the need for all parties to de-escalate the situation urgently.”
This is a boilerplate political platitude, but makes my blood boil none-the-less. Does Blinken truly have no comprehension of what’s going on here, or is he pretending? Is he actually oblivious to what would happen to Israeli citizens if we were to “de-escalate” our actions against vicious terrorists?
The point here is that such comments from the international community should not cause Bibi to modify Israel’s actions one iota. We stand alone, and so be it.
Unfortunately, the international community imagines that it has latitude in interfering in our affairs in many regards.
According to a report issued on Saturday night on Israel’s Channel 13 News, millions in American dollars were used to increase the Arab vote in Tuesday’s Israeli elections. The information came from MK Sami Abu Shehada, chair of the Balad party, which did not cross the threshold. Abu Shehada told channel 13 anchor Ayala Hasson, “A lot of American Jewish money went into Arab society to prevent Netanyahu from returning to power.” (Emphasis added) Abu Shehada said the funds went to went to Ra’am, to Hadash-Ta’al faction leader Ahmad Tibi, and others.
That there are American Jews who would support Tibi in opposition to Netanyahu is both pathetic and alarming. My assumption is that this funding was motivated in good part by a desire to stop Ben Gvir, who will sit in Bibi’s government. And I would say these funders are truly lost.
A primary focus of the new government is going to be badly needed legal and judicial reforms. This encompasses many things including: changing the system of appointing Supreme Court justices, passing a Supreme Court override law, and cancelling “breach of trust” as a criminal offense.
While there are constant charges emanating from the left that the first two above would be destructive to democracy, in point of fact they would strengthen democracy. I will visit these issues in some detail as they are brought forward. Bezalel Smotrich and Simcha Rothman, of Religious Zionists, and Yariv Levin, of Likud (pictured), are all involved with these legal matters and have come forward with plans for reforms.
Levin is strongly right-wing and number two on the Likud list after Netanyahu. He is a man to watch as events unfold.
Regavim has put out its own call for the first order of business for the new government:
On November 2, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by the Regavim Movement to compel the military commander and the Civil Administration to repeal Jordanian Law #40 passed in the 1950s, during the illegal Jordanian occupation of Judaea and Samaria, which prohibits the sale of land in Judea and Samaria to Jews – a law still in force due to Israel’s decision not to extend its law or sovereignty to territory liberated in 1967. (In 1971, the IDF Chief of Central Command issued an order permitting commercial entities to purchase land in the area.)
Now Regavim calls on the new Minister of Defense (whoever that will be) to repeal this racist law, which forbids purchase of the land by non-Muslims to this day.
Our system is replete with problems that must now at long last be addressed. Commentator David Weinberg has put out a list of 10 tips for the new coalition. Here I want to mention a few, all very important (emphasis added):
Rule emphatically in Area C.
“…approving settlements, roads and other infrastructure projects…dismantling illegal Bedouin and Palestinian settlements that purposefully impinge on strategic routes. This includes the encampment called Khan al-Ahmar, which was erected in E-1 with European Union assistance to deliberately challenge Israeli control of the Jerusalem envelope.
Build in and around Jerusalem.
Building in E-1, and expanding Ma’aleh Adumim eastwards…Before the 2019 and 2020 elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would move ahead with building 3,500 homes in E-1. Tenders were issued for 1,000 homes in Givat Hamatos, and projects in Atarot and Gilo …Since then, the projects have stalled. These must advance to keep Jerusalem Zionist and thriving.
Prepare Israel for war, the right way.
“…Israel must prepare for a broad range of war scenarios. This includes development of a credible Israeli capacity to strike Iranian nuclear targets; preparation for real war on three fronts against an Iranian-led coalition; and the ability to withstand intense missile wars.”
Brook no terror.
‘Make it clear to the Palestinians that even one bus bomb, G-d forbid, or one round of Kassam rockets, will cost them in tangible real estate and in concrete Israeli assistance of all types…
“…Israel must act to boost Israeli deterrence. This means zero tolerance for booby traps on the fence, missile fire, incendiary kites, drone incursions and the like.
It means targeting Hamas leaders if they fail to maintain the current lull; striking deep inside Syria the minute IRGC bases are identified; and knocking out more Iranian nuclear sites through subterfuge…
Retake control of the Temple Mount.
“Davka (specifically and defiantly) because Fatah, Hamas and the Israeli Islamist Arab movement have made control of the Temple Mount the centerpiece of their assaults on Israel, and because Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority continues to broadcast the venal lie that Israel is threatening the mosque on the mount – now is the time to re-assert Israeli administration of the site.
“Despite the sensitivity of the situation, Israel must demonstrate sovereignty. The best way to do this is by expanding Jewish visiting privileges and even basic prayer rights at this most holy of places to the Jewish people.”
Weinberg is a senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and in the research department of Israel’s Defense and Security Forum (Habithonistim).
A note on Mansour Abbas, who has been sitting in the government this past year as head of Ra’am. On November 5, he warned that any move by the incoming government to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount “will lead to war.” Less than a day later, in an interview, he declared that he wasn’t ruling out sitting in the Netanyahu government. Say what?
I love it: the pure craziness of what’s going on.
Head of Labor, Merav Michaeli, is blaming Lapid for the fact that Meretz, for the very first time, did not pass the threshold. But when she had been asked to allow Meretz to join with Labor for the campaign, which would have saved Meretz, she had refused.
While there are reports that Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai is exhibiting a serious case of nerves. In May 2021, at the height of Arab rioting in major Israeli cities, Shabtai made the ludicrous charge that: “The person responsible for this intifada is Itamar Ben Gvir…The police do not have the tools to deal with him.”
Ben Gvir responded on Facebook: “The sole responsibility for tonight’s events in Lod, Bat Yam, Tveria, and Akko lies with the police, who exhibited helplessness in dealing with the terrorism of the Islamic Movement, which led the masses to take to the streets after realizing that the police had abandoned the residents of Lod…”
Now, yikes! Who would have imagined it, there are rumors that Ben Gvir may be given the Ministry of Public Security, which is what he is seeking. He would be Shabtai’s boss.
According to a YNet report today, senior officers affiliated with Shabtai have approached officials close to Ben Gvir asking for a reconciliation meeting between him and the Commissioner.
A senior police officer told Ynet that Commissioner Shabtai has been “disturbed and worried” about the possibility that Ben Gvir would sack him.
I leave you with the link to Ruthie Blum’s JPost opinion piece from this past Friday: “Israel’s right to sideline the Left.” She demonstrates very clearly the level of hypocrisy being exhibited on the political left here. While professing apoplexy about attitudes among the Religious Zionists regarding gay rights and the LGBT community, the left was willing to sit with Ra’am, in order sustain a coalition. She includes a very lovely story and subsequent observations from Likud MK Amir Ohana (pictured), also up-and-coming. Ohana is gay.
He observed: “left-wing hypocrisy is nothing new. But is it really possible they don’t know that they’re sitting today in a coalition with the Islamic Movement’s Walid Taha, chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, who said only recently that he would never allow the pervert laws to pass? And that his party imposed such a strong veto that not a single LGBT bill passed during the entire duration of this coalition, which doesn’t include the Haredim, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich? Is it possible that they really don’t know that they’re sitting in a coalition with [Ra’am Party chair] Mansour Abbas, who supports conversion therapy? Is it really possible that they don’t know that the oh-so-liberal Yair Lapid doesn’t have a government without the vote of Ahmad ‘anti-gay-pride-parade’ Tibi?
“On our side…when Ben-Gvir is asked about the LGBT issue, he answers that today…he calls gays and lesbians ‘my brothers;’ and he claims that if his son were to come out as gay, he’d ‘give him a hug.’ When you manage to extract such a statement from Walid Taha, come talk to me.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.