Israel is back at polls today for the third time in less than a year. This has been rather well covered in The Lighthouse, and basically despite the media’s best efforts, in collusion (to use one of their favorite recent rends) with the upper echelons of the police and legal system, will likely I predict, fail to unseat Bibi Netanyahu, and the right leaning government he leads!
The above forces were found wanting from the very first of these 3 elections, as they were in the second and as I hope they will be on this third. The compounded problem was the unusual behavior of Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, who usually is a stalwart in any right wing government.
I have covered that at length elsewhere including my piece on his talk I attended where he aimed to explain his outlook.
Either way, between 7-9 Knesset seats’ worth of votes from the most right leaning voters in Israel being discarded (as happened in the first election), to the record high Arab turnout in the second election, the right and Bibi in particular have faced some perfect storms. They have perceived, and I am proud to say, despite all the naysayers and leftist prophets of doom, not to mention the intese pressure, refused to waiver.
With the exception of Mr. Lieberman, none in the right wing block wavered. Not individual Knesset members (who were endlessly encouraged to mutiny against Bibi from within the Likud), not the Kahlons, nor Bennetts and most impressively, not even Shas!
The Orthodox parties, Sefaradi and Ashkenazi, have learned from their mistakes. Previously seperated from the secular enterprise of the modern state, they hab deen often easily bought off with some budget items in favor of the most grotesque leftist endeavors from Oslo to the Disengangement (Hitnatkut), neither of which could have passed without them. They now see themselves as part of the patriotic and Zionist (in the true sense of the word) right wing block, and though they have important differences of opinion with the other varied parties of the bloc, just as the latter do with each other, they have come a long way in understanding that there is a fundamental bond within the bloc that is forged not only by the bonds of Yidishkeit, patriotism, nationalism, and even a healthy respect for the individual instead of for the bureaucratic apparatus of the state, but most importantly perhaps and definitely most unfortunately by the shared and very real threat that the left, together with the Arab voter, presents to the State of Israel.
The religious parties today have no illusions of what a leftist government of Israel means for our shared destiny. And unlike so many confused voters among us, they are not deluded to think The Gantz’s of the world, whether under a Gantz or a Lapid or an Olmert, be it Blue and White, the “Zionist Camp” or a Kadima, are any different from the ranks of Labor and Meretz. They differ perhaps only in their greater political cunning, or more likely in their lesser honesty, lack of ideological integrity, and absence of any strength of their convictions. But the path they would lead us down is the same if not worse than those at the helm of the most honestly leftist parties would chose themselves.
Gantz was an impressive figure for the average voter the first election because he was tall, had been IDF Chief of Staff, and had not opened his mouth about much of anything. I had criticized him back in 2012 about the Danish incident.
Regarding this trio of elections, I have been explaining all along that besides not knowing what he’s talking about, Blue and White would simply end up being an extension of a Labor-Meretz government. A proxy that would give them victory by a confused electorate.
In the first article on this election season I wrote:
Well the Israeli left… at least the economic left is getting smaller. Many of the secular Ashkenazi voters of Labor and Meretz are better educated today and more traveled than their parents. They may still think that Jerusalem might as well be Mars, and declaring a palestinian state is all well and good, but there is no reason for us to choke in socialism. Israel is not a kibbutz and we could have more prosperous and freer lives with some free market forces at work.
These folks keep migrating to the new “trendy” part of the election. It’s the Gantzes (of this election), the Lapids (of previous ones) and folks like that (even many Kadima voters started the modern trend). Many of the Russian immigrants who previously would only think of voting for a Sharansky of Lieberman are also voting for these parties today. These “center” parties keep growing in strength while the traditional left left… Labor and Meretz (literally members of SI, the Socialist International (well until Labor was unceremoniously suspended due to the SI’s BDS policies… but Labor hopes to one day be able to be admitted back, after they set things right and give Israel away)) shrink into oblivion. So it seems that the Israel electorate is moving right.
The problem is that while it may be imperceptibly moving slightly right economically (and I do mean imperceptive… the Knesset is 120 socialists that don’t quite agree on how much land we should give away to the Arabs), there is no movement right on security matters. As I have been endlessly explaining now for years, the policies of all the major parties are identical.
Israel should be given away for peace. There are slight differences in tone… how much land, how fast… to who… but certainly, the Prime Minister’s job is to make “painful compromises” for peace.
In other articles, such as this Early Elections Predictions and Followups, I correctly called the media’s claim of Gantz’ victory false and that he and he and his camp would dash to the left (Labor, Meretz and the Arab Voters) for a winning coalition, and only because this proved to be insufficient (thankfully), they required Lieberman whom they almost got. They even all entertained the absurd notion of making a “minority government” in order to fool the electorate that the Arab parties that they would use to form a government were not really in the coalition.
Finally, following the final results of the previous election, I put it as bluntly as possible in this piece about the 22nd Knesset:
At the Lighthouse, we have tried to let the people know that the Blue and White Alliance members are neither Zionists, nor centrists, but mere leftists and/or opportunists. And the voting bloc they represent and would form a government with (had it reached 61), is not a “Center-Left” bloc by any reasonable measure, as is reported, but a leftist if not far-left bloc.
Why the mislabeling? Simple, the media is dominated by leftist individuals, but the term is not popular. Blue and White tried desperately to distance itself from the term, and the media helped. As desperately as they ran to the left once the election is over to form their government.
The media can label the bloc “center-left”, but it cannot avoid naming its members.
Blue and White
Meretz (Democratic Union)
The Arab parties (Joint List)
So, though probably not in large part due to my efforts, the Israeli public has started to see through this charade. Benny Gantz has been criticized by his many gaffes, stumbles, mumbles and overall not having an idea, let alone an ideology. His camp, as I also predicted, has started to break, and was only sustained by promising the Defense portfolio to Gabi Ashkenazi (an attempt to rally support among Mizrahim as well no doubt, leading to Gantz declaring that Ashkenazi would be Minister of Defense in the government they would establish in the south of the country (where many Mizrahim reside). This of course leaves Boogie Yaalon, the most tragic member in that circus suffering the same insuffarable insult that he could not forgive neither Netanyahu nor the Likud for and made him bolt for the left. In that same piece quoted above, we lament greatly this course of events and attempt to remind Mr. Yaalon of who he was and pruported to still be.
In any event, though we still don’t know what Lieberman will end up doing, though I predict this time he will have no choice but to fall in line, I see Gantz’s numbers eroding. Hopefully the Arab turnout will be lower as well. A very united right wing list will minimize any lost right wing votes (as happened in huge amounts during the first of the 3 elections).
Lieberman is likely to lose some support do his eratic behabior, but I think in general may not suffer as much since his numbers are based mostly on a loyal Russian support base (who are either proud of the mischief he has been causing or attribute it some conspiracy-like wisdom we are not privy to) and some newer suppoorted attracted to this ant-Haredi rheteric (which detract from the left).
The Labor-Meretz union is likely to slightly diminish their numbers from their previous independent sums, though those lost are not going to the right of course, but they may be split between Blue and White (Gantz), or just saying home due to lack of enthusiasm.
In general, unless I am very wrong, the Israeli public has seen the loaded deck the media uses against Netanyahu, and the amazing, even inspiring perseverence that he has demostrated against his foes. Gantz seems a lackluster choice in comparison, where he at first seemed fresh and full of potential to more naive voters.
The world seems rather dangerous right now, from the overblown hype of the coronavirus to Russian intrigues, a strong hand on the tiller beats the mild mannered General who is for “Good” and against “Bad” as far as a platform. On the other hand, the potential of cooperation with a US President, in the form of Mr. Trump, has never seemed greater, and it is clear to the Israeli public that this would be better handled by a Netanyahu led government. So in short, I predict we are doing well today, and tomorrow morning shall tell.
Hope that Otzma either did not get any votes “wasted” on it, OR even better passed the threshold, which is unlikely unfortunately. Yamina let us hope did well, perhaps even surpassing Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu. However, I hope that Lieberman’s support staid strong, and that he has time to reflect on a different path, one consistent with who has been all along.
Israel’s destiny is far more important than personal grudges, and Bibi or not, Lieberman should work for our common good. If not, and perhaps even if so and it is too late, a diminished Gantz who knows this is likely his last chance at a poltiical career of any significant form (having done poorly and squandered the maginal appeal he was given for no apparent reason), will be eager to enter into a unity government.
A unity government, that cursed term along with the others, a concept I reated on my recent piece on Mr. Lieberman. If my predictions are proven correct, it is what is left to fear.
It is possible that they (Blue and White or part of them) could do no damage, under a Likud led government, and give it more stability along with the other right wing parties, but their “price” would be high and it would be a shame to give those clowns a series of important portfolios and ministries. Though Bibi is more comfortable being more right wing than his coalition partners, this will be a government of status quo at best, while a right wing only government, may make Bibi much more uncomfortable it just might make him actually lead to much needed achievements. Land annexed, the IDF’s deterrence restored, victory when the enemy chooses to challenge us, and defeat of the dour bureaucracy that plagues us to the benefit of our individual freedom and economic potential.
Called Precisely! Well, perhaps an even victory than I had expected!
Yamina unfortunately seems a bit less than we would have hoped. Unfortunately, Otzma could have made the difference to another 1 or 2 seats for them (which could have made the right wing victory a reality even without Lieberman!). Realizing this, I myself made the uncomfortable leap to vote for a Bennett led party for the first time (and posted about it social media). Later counts could hopefully improve this, not sure how much of Judea and Samaria and other remote areas have been counted thus far. Of course, the soldiers will help Yamina out as well. And between them and the diplomats the Arab vote could potentially drop as well, thus far they are at record highs. They are learning boycott was not the way to go. If your enemy lets you vote in their elections, by all means do so.
Lieberman as expected and I discussed is suffering a small drop, will end up with 6 or 7 seats, a significant but not massive drop from the previous round.
The Meretz-Avoda-Gesher union has been demolished. As explained above, the union, done due to fear either party will not reach the threshold as nearly occured last two rounds, will lower enthusiasm in general and lower its total. Hardcore socialists will not like the union as much as they liked Meretz and more centrist long time labor voters may cringe at joining what to them is the extreme left. In any event, that effect was larger than I expected and their total seems to have dropped from a mere 11 they had to begin with in the 22nd Knesset, to around 6 give or take. The voters that actually admit and know they are leftist in Israel are now down to 6 or 7 out of 120. The rest is achieved by smoke and mirrors, leftist in denial party lists such as Blue and White, plus of course the Arab parties which will vote along with them to the detriment of the State of Israel.
The huge winner of course is Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud. He has navigated, maneuvered and persevered with a mastery that is unequaled in Israeli history. The right wing bloc, with the exception of Liberman’s Israeli Beiteinu has also learned to be more loyal to each other and what the alternative leftist governments mean for Israel. Bibi has fostered this feeling as well, not succumbing to the populist anti-religious rantings other secular parties easily engage in to garner votes.
The media will of course describe this in milder terms. It will quote the right wing bloc at about 59 seats, short of a majority. This is again, as happened before and I explained in articles starting in the April election and continuing later on, an attempt to encourage Lieberman to not join a right wing government. Lieberman who has always said and acted as if he was far more right than Likud (and categorically assured us this in a speech in Jerusalem just days ago), is most definitely part of the right wing bloc and the victory is very large indeed. His personal animosity to Bibi aside, for the good of the country he should join a right wing government rather than pursue his odd goal of a unity government at any cost. In my previous piece on him, I discuss the fallacies of such unity governments.
However, the victory has been so large, that Mr. Lieberman is not the sole kingmaker anymore. Just a couple of defectors from Blue and White will do the trick. This is the chance of the gentleman I pictured above in the original article, General Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon, to redeem himself and leave the clowns over at Blue and White.
Ironically they have done to him no less than what Netanyahu did, which caused him to bolt far left and not only leave the coalition but even the Likud party (which started the domino effect leading to these 3 elections, made possible by two individuals personally offended by Bibi, and willing to put the nation at risk because of it). They had promised he would be Minister of Defense in any Benny Gantz led government. Gantz, in a last-ditch effort to save his absurd 4 party (3 parties and one independent) list, promised that spot to Gabi Ashkenazi (amusingly in the “government we will be creating in the south of the country”). Yaalon has been just as slighted, and now remains an absurd and disrespected appendage to this leftist list. His faction is prime to join the right wing led government, with or without Lieberman.
Any other 2 or 3 members, from among the thirty-something in Blue and White have the historic chance to do this again. Mr. Lieberman will not hold all the cards this time, but will have the option to do the right thing.
What will have to be resisted are the calls for unity government. As predicted previously a deflated Gantz may join the Likud-led government. There is no need to give those leftist and opportunistic members so many ministries and say in the government. They disagree fundamentally, and the people spoke for the opposing viewpoint in large numbers. If these calls are resisted to grant them wholesale entrance into the government, a much more logical and less impotent government will be created.
The party union (Blue and White) may break apart with some sections joining and others not, it may crumble completely, or survive for now with just a few members defecting. Either way, it should not be difficult to form a government, with or without Mr. Lieberman under the Likud. No other candidate or party has any chance of forging a coalition. How long and torturous the path will be, with how many bluffs and threats, will depend largely on Lieberman’s actions and statements in the coming days and weeks. But it seems to be, Benjamin Netanyahu has got this, and we just may not have to give our country away to the enemy.
That is despite all the excellent reasons given by the media and the general Gantz-voting populace that we ought to. Because “Bibi has been there long enough”, and/or something about either a submarine or some cigars.