Thursday, April 2, 2020

Gantz-Netanyahu unity talks: the vigil has begun

Well, apparently, maybe, the waiting is over--almost. Gantz and Netanyahu are at it again; 'it' being talks to create a 'unity' coalition. Can we at last see light at the end of the tunnel? 

Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But is that light the dawning of a unity coalition--or an oncoming train headed straight at us?

We can't tell.

Here's what we know. First, despite our collective hope for a unity government, a fourth election is still possible. Second, it's important to note that much of this week's political speculation has turned out to be accurate. For example, unity talks have indeed stalled. Gantz has indeed been tough--and obstinate. Gantz has indeed pushed an agenda that appears more Left than 'Centrist'. 

Then, third, Netanyahu's Right-wing bloc is indeed close to open rebellion. Netanyahu's Right-wing support in the Knesset fears that Netanyahu surrenders too much to Gantz (for example, here). If the Right-wing does in fact come to this conclusion, it could turn against Netanyahu. 

This is no empty threat. A Right-bloc rebellion could well put at risk any Knesset legislation Netanyahu seeks to pass (as he serves his share of days as PM). The Right bloc could abandon Netanyahu. This means the Right bloc could vote with Left and Center-Left Knesset Members against Netanyahu. The result of such a rebellion could be that any Knesset legislation Netanyahu seeks to pass in the Knesset won't attract enough support to pass. His ability to lead would be hamstrung.

These unity talks are at a crossroad. For Israel, 'unity' doesn't automatically means 'working together'. A poorly built 'unity' coalition could mean more political divisions, not less divisiveness. In the end, "unity" could turn into political chaos.   

If a 'unity' coalition can work together, Israel should be able to continue its so-far successful coronavirus battle (it's been ranked first in the world (here)). But if such a coalition can't work together, what happens then? Will Israel's corona success be degraded by infighting?   

We don't know.  

Today, Gantz's Blue-White Party has made an announcement. At app 2:15pm Israel time this afternoon (April 2, 2020), Blue-White declared that the end of the talks are near. This suggests, we believe, that a unity government will soon become a 'done deal' (here). But we can't be sure that that's precisely what the announcement actually meant to convey.  

Gantz has already said that, if there is no final agreement signed 'before the weekend', talks will be completely called off. Pesach (the up-coming, anticipated national Passover break) begins Wednesday night, April 8, 2020. If talks are called off by April 4th or 5th, Gantz's chance to get a unity coalition with Netanyahu might be finished. 

Remember, in Israel's complex and arcane election rule-book, Gantz faces a negotiation deadline--April 12, 2020.  April 12th is the final date for Gantz to control unity negotiations to form a ruling coalition. After April 12, Netanyahu gets his chance to control the unity talks to form a government (unless Gantz gets an extension--extensions are another of the arcane rules in Israel's election rule-book). 

If there's no extension, Netanyahu will have app 28 days to be successful (unless he's given a different time-frame: another rule). If Netanyahu isn't successful forming a ruling coalition, the only option for Israel will be a fourth election (another rule)--unless, that is, Netanyahu acts to call for 'early elections' (another rule)--which in fact may or may not happen (because of yet another rule--don't ask). 

Keep in  mind also that even if we get a unity agreement right now, all will not necessarily be well. That is, whenever a unity coalition is announced, we'll still not know from that announcement what, exactly, Gantz and Netanyahu agreed to. At that moment, we may not know all the dirty little details--where the devil lurks; or, as Israel's political insiders might say, the moment a unity announcement is made that a deal has been finalized, no one in Israel will immediately know for sure If such a deal makes Israel the winner--or the deal's biggest loser.  

Stay tuned. Surely, we'll soon find out what is that light at the end of the tunnel--salvation, or a train wreck about to happen?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Will the Gantz-Netanyahu unity talks lead to a fourth election?

In Israel's current government--formed in 2015--there are the equivalent of 29 Cabinet Ministers. There are also an additional 4 'Deputy Ministers' (count them here). This week, Israel's two most important political leaders, Blue-White Party leader Benny Gantz and the Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, sit down to negotiate how to divide up those 29 Ministerial positions--and those 4 Deputy positions. 

These negotiations are crucial. In Israel, he who controls any given Ministry controls the ideological path that Ministry takes. In practice, this means, for example, that a new Leftist Education Minister might seek to install education policies for Israel's public schools that could be far different from policies a Rightist leader might promote. The  same is true in all Ministries. Israel is that ideological.

For example, a leftist Education Minister might want Arabic taught in all of Israel's Jewish public schools, where 95%+ percent of students are Jewish, not Arab. By contrast, a  Rightist Education leader might want more Judaism in these same schools (in Israel, a public school can be purely secular or a combination of secular-religious).

A Leftist Education Minister might mandate that the vehemently anti-Israel 'Palestinian Narrative' be introduced into Israeli schools as a required course in each grade--or, alternatively, for all (or some) High School grades.  A Rightist Education Minister would probably reject such a mandate.

A Leftist Education Minister might see no reason for Zionism to be taught in public schools. A Right-wing Education Minister might want to see more Zionism taught in schools.

The same applies to Foreign Affairs. A Left-wing Foreign Affairs Minister might pursue a 'two-state solution'. A Right-wing Minister might reject such a policy direction.

A Left-wing Foreign Minister  might open direct talks with the Palestinian Authority with the intent to surrender 'land-for-peace' within the year. A Right-wing Minister might reject such talks.

A Leftist Agricultural Minister might want to use his office to empower what has so far been illegal Bedouin building in parts of Israel. A Rightist Minister might actually start enforcing anti-building laws against such building not typically enforced. 

In Israel, ideology counts. That means that the person chosen to lead a Ministry counts even more.

That's what these unity negotiations are all about. From what we have already heard, many of Gantz's proposed Ministers appear to be Leftists who seek to change Ministries to support a Leftist agenda, not the current Rightist agenda. Clearly, Israel's political Right wing object to this.

One might think that a 'unity' coalition would suggest some kind of 50-50 split between what Gantz and Netanyahu want to see in Israel's new government coalition. This would mean that Gantz's Blue-White Party members--along with some of his allies from Left and Center-Left Parties--could receive half the Ministry leadership positions. Netanyahu's Likud Party--along with some of his own allies on the political Right--could receive the other half of Ministry leadership positions. That might represent a reasonable 50-50 split--a sharing of power, right?

But a simple 50-50 split doesn't automatically create a balance between how much  power each side wields, nor does it create an acceptable ideological balance. To achieve those two goals--or get close to it--two things still need to be done. First, regarding power, negotiations need to take into account the relative power of each Ministry. That is, the more influential/powerful Ministries should themselves also be split 50-50. 

Then, to protect each side's ideology, there will need to be some special arrangement. Conventional wisdom suggests that a 'veto power' is that arrangement.

It's a tough call, such an arrangement. It means that, no matter which side--Gantz/Left or Netanyahu/Right--actually ran a particular Ministry, the other side could have some kind of veto power over new rules, or rule changes. This could, in theory at least, prohibit "unwanted" ideological rule changes. But it would also immediately freeze the currently existing ideological status quo of each Ministry. 

Yes, in this scenario, both sides would be protected. Both sides would have their ideological biases held in check. But would Gantz accept the current status quo? Would Netanyahu?

The point of all this discussion of 'power sharing' is simple: if Gantz and Netanyahu truly want 'unity', unity is, in theory, possible.  But that's not where these talks appear to be going. 

Rumors have circulated. Gantz doesn't seem interested in a 50-50 split. He isn't interested in 'sharing'. He isn't interested in giving Netanyahu what he (Gantz) perceives to be 'the upper hand'.

Specifically, it's been rumored that Gantz has asked for more than half the Ministries. There's a rumor that Netanyahu, appearing to aid Gantz in this peculiar endeavor, seems interested in adding seven new Ministries (for a total of 36) so that Likud and its Right-wing allies won't be shut out if Gantz gets more than half the Ministries. 

How might Likud and the Right be shut out? It's been rumored that Gantz wants 30 Ministries to join a unity government with Netanyahu. That would be 30 of 36 Ministries in Gantz 's hand--or, if you're counting, more than 80% of the Ministries.

Are we to believe that Gantz expects Netanyahu to agree to a 'unity' government where Gantz gets 80%+ of everything? That's not a 50-50 split. That's more like a complete surrender to Gantz's demands.

It gets worse. It's also been rumored that Gantz is angling to control the most powerful of Israel's Ministries. The rumor is, Gantz wants control of Foreign Affairs, Justice and the Defense Ministries.

Why are these rumors spreading? Are they just political fake news? Or, are they preparing voters for something else--perhaps a completely unexpected outcome?

Voters are expecting unity. What else is there?

Before these talks began there appeared to be a growing belief that Gantz was a political lightweight--inexperienced, unable to grasp (or articulate) complex issues, and in thrall to his (at the time) co-leader Yair Lapid. Now, during these talks, there's a new question dawning about Gantz: is he actually shrewder than Netanyahu--or does he simply and cleverly brandish before Netanyahu some kind of threat over Netanyahu?

The rumors of rift persist. How accurate are these rumors? We don't know. We just know that Israel's Right-wing is certainly in a panic over what might happen to its values if Gantz gets a dominating control over the next government coalition (here).

What's going on here? Why is a supposedly unity negotiation going down a road that threatens to exclude Israel's political Right, not include it? Why do unity talks appear to mean, not 'a coming together', but an unraveling? 

What kind of unity is that?

These rumors don't pass the smell test. Something isn't right--and no one is talking. The only thing anyone knows is this: at this moment (early morning, April 1, 2020), Netanyahu seems to face a potential rebellion from his allies on the Right--and an "escalating showdown" with an "intransigent Gantz" (here).

This isn't the news voters want to see. But the ugly truth is, there still lurks in the shadows the possibility of a fourth election, something voters have said they don't want.  

Is this the message of these rumors--that unity won't happen? That we're about to go to yet another election?

Stay tuned. This drama hasn't ended.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Gantz and Netanyahu now play the game of chicken?

The 'game of chicken' is a dangerous game.The game assures that at least one player will be crushed--or even destroyed--unless someone in the game backs down. The one who backs down is called, the chicken. He's the loser.

To picture this, think of two automobiles rushing at each other at high speed. Unless one of the cars' drivers backs down--or 'chickens out' by turning away--one or both of the drivers will probably be killed in the ensuing crash. Both would 'win'--and potentially die in the process.

That's the game of 'chicken'. Supposedly, some teenagers in the fifties played this game with real cars. Today in Israel, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu  play it with the question of sovereignty over the Jordan River valley. If neither backs down from his position (see below), unity talks between Gantz and Netanyahu could fail. 

Yes, with such a failure, each could certainly return to his base and claim 'victory'. After all, neither of the two would have 'chickened out'--because neither would have backed down.

Burt if this happened, voters in Israel would not be happy. Israel, along with the rest of the world, suffers from a coronavirus pandemic. Because of lockdown and social distancing requirements, Israel's economy begins to shut down. Israel needs a fully functioning Knesset to put up the best fight it can against this virus--and to help protect Israel's economy. 

Remember, this Knesset is still in transition, its full powers frozen until a governing coalition is fully approved. It isn't exactly operating on "all eight cylinders".

If unity talks fail, both Gantz and Netanyahu would be instantly demonized by Israel's voters. Collapsed talks for unity means no fully functioning Knesset for the foreseeable future. It means a fourth election. It means campaigning against each other instead to uniting together to fight the pandemic.

One or both politicians would be blamed. One of them--or both--would see their political careers flushed down the proverbial toilet. 

Will there really be a fourth election? At this point, we don't know.

Now, let's look more closely at this political game of chicken. That game begins with the Jordan River Valley.

Currently, the Jordan River valley (also called, 'the West Bank', and situated east of Jerusalem) is identified as either 'disputed territory' (currently controlled by Israel) or, alternatively, as Palestinian land destined to be part of the new Arab-Muslim 'Palestine' (and currently 'occupied' by Israel). In reality, the Jordan River runs as a straight North-South line that marks Israel's entire eastern edge. It serves  as Israel's eastern border much like the Atlantic Ocean serves as the United States's own eastern 'border': that is, both are natural barriers-turned-into-borders.

You may remember that, during this past year's three-national-elections-to-choose-a-new-Prime-Minister cycle, US President Donald Trump published his 'Deal of the Century' Peace Plan (now on hold). The Jordan River Valley plays a role in this Plan. At least according to news reports in the US, Trump's Plan proposes that the Jordan River Valley remain as part of Israel. According to these US reports, this Plan proposes that Israel will declare its sovereignty over the Jordan River Valley (here with map, and here).

When the Trump Plan was published--or, perhaps shortly beforehand--Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue-White Party who was campaigning to be Israel's next Prime Minister, said that, as Prime Minister, he would declare sovereignty over the Jordan River Valley (here). He said the Jordan River Valley was "an integral part of Israel" (here).

Shortly after Gantz's 'sovereignty' announcement, Benjamin Netanyahu made the same promise (here). But there are real differences between the two men over this issue of sovereignty. 

First, Gantz did say he would declare sovereignty--but only with "international agreement" to do so (here).  By contrast, Netanyahu said he'd make his sovereignty declaration without such (international) approval--and he'd do it without waiting for the Peace Plan to take effect (here

The second difference was, Netanyahu had been promising sovereignty already. He spoke of "annexing" the Jordan River Valley before the second-of-the-three national elections Israel has just experienced (here). Gantz, meanwhile, appears to have waited for the unveiling of the Trump Plan to make such a statement.

The third and most important difference between Gantz and Netanyahu's promises of sovereignty/annexation of the Jordan River Valley was this: at the time Gantz made his 'promise' to annex, some tried to argue that Gantz's declaration meant he was "aligning with" Netanyahu's own stance on this question (here) . But that was untrue. As Netanyahu himself said about Gantz's 'vow', the idea that Gantz would act on sovereignty only with international approval wasn't a promise at all. It was a meaningless assertion because, as Netanyahu (correctly) stated, the international community "would never accept such a move" (here).

This entire discussion of "sovereignty/annexation" now comes home to roost for both Gantz and Netanyahu. It's a sticking point in their unity negotiations that stalls, at least for the moment, the entire unity deal. It creates a game of chicken between the two men--a game that could kill the chance for unity. 

Netanyahu wants sovereignty for the Jordan River Valley to be agreed upon in advance before he agrees to a unity government. Gantz refuses to declare for sovereignty, suggesting strongly that Gantz actually won't declare for sovereigny at all. 

If neither man backs down, unity talks can collapse. There could be no unity government--indeed, no government coalition. That could mean only one thing: a fourth election. 

Sovereignty for Israel's political Right is important. Netanyahu's courting of the Right during the three campaigns this past year was based, to a large extent, on his promise to complete sovereignty over (at least) the Jordan River Valley. If he backs down, and accepts Gantz's refusal to agree to it, Netanyahu might lose the Right's support. The political Right could rebel against such a 'betrayal'. His half of the Prime  Ministership--to serve as PM during the first 18 months, as things now stand--could be torpedoed by his own natural backers (that is, the political Right).

Gantz, on the other hand, appears to have less to lose than Netanyahu. In theory, a Gantz surrender to Netanyahu's pro-annexation position won't create the same shock a Netanyahu surrender to Gantz would cause.

Why? Because Gantz has already shocked everyone. He's already committed the 'original cardinal sin'. He's already burnt all of his bridges with his natural backers--the Left and Left-Center. 

By agreeing in the first place to enter into a unity coalition with Netanyahu, Gantz has abandoned his most important campaign position--to get rid of Netanyahu. If he now yet again betrays his former backers (by agreeing to sovereignty), he won't add to the shock he's already delivered. This second betrayal won't be so much a shock, as it would be one of those, well, would you expect something different from such a man?  

Netanyahu, by contrast, has yet to commit his own political version of the original, cardinal sin.  

So why does Gantz now hesitate? H'e already surrendered. Why does he now choose to gamble unity with a game of chicken? 

One has one's suspicions. He might be looking for something more from Netanyahu. He might not be finished 'shopping' for Ministries to control.

Plus, a Knesset vote to make it illegal for Netanyahu to lead Israel while under indictment may not yet be totally off the table. Does Gantz hold some kind of 'ace-in-the-hole' card as his ultimate bargaining chip? Or does he have something else in mind?

We don't know.

So now what? Will the unity talks collapse? Will Gantz back down? Will Netanyahu?

Stay tuned. The game of chicken hasn't ended. It's just begun.

Monday, March 23, 2020

How do Israel's voters respond to the ongoing battle between Gantz vs Netanyahu?

March 2, 2020 is the date which represents the end of the so-far-unsuccessful-third-of-three-elections-to-elect-Israel’s-next-PM. Since March 2, the animosity we saw during the election between political challenger Benny Gantz and the current PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, seems only to have gotten worse. 

For those of a certain age, the back-and-forth attacks between these two men seems more like a Mad Magazine rerun of the famous (and never-ending) ‘Spy-vs-Spy’ cartoon. This cartoon depicted two Spies (secretly) setting bombs against each. The ongoing cartoon battle between these two Spies appeared in consecutive issues for years. Each cartoon was original, used the same bomb theme—and was typically funny.

But you've got to be of a certain age to appreciate both the reference and the humor. For the rest of you, the battle between Gantz and Netanyahu isn’t so funny. It’s either deadly (to Israel’s democracy)—or ridiculous, possibly a little insane. It's likely to kill any chance for a unity government between the two men.

Blue-White (B-W) blasts Netanyahu for post-election tactics that, it claims, lead Israel towards a dictatorship (here). B-W wants the Knesset open for business. It wants to seize control of the Knesset so as to give B-W the ability to shape all legislation according to its own, B-W political agenda. It claims that Netanyahu's refusing to allow the Knesset to open puts Israel's democracy at risk (here). B-W calls keeping the Knesset closed a ‘threat to democracy' (here).

Indeed, to B-W, Netanyahu leads Israel to a dictatorship (here). Everything about Netanyahu is, suddenly, ‘dictator-like’. For such Never-Netanyahu-ers, even his (so far successful) handling of the coronavirus pandemic is "authoritarian" (here).

Meanwhile, Netanyahu hasn't remained silent in the face of these attacks. He attacks Gantz. 

Netanyau says that it is Gantz who "undermines the foundations of democracy" (here). Netanyahu accuses Gantz of trying to steal the election (here) by trying to unseat him (Netanyahu) through a new, after-the-fact and retroactive law to disqualify Netanyahu from leading Israel during its transition period--because he’s been indicted. 

In this accusation, Netanyahu may have a point. According to the UN, democracy and the rule of law are "interlinked and mutually reinforcing" (here). They are "indivisible" (here): they cannot be separated.

This means that a democracy requires the rule of law.This, in turn, means that the current law in Israel regarding an indicted PM is Israel's democracy (see below). 

Moreover, changing the current law now in order to retroactively dump a PM, may well be undemocratic--because of something called retroactivity and justice in a democracy. 

One of the hallmarks of a democracy is how it creates and implements new law: a democracy requires that political power be exercised through "generally applicable rules" which are "announced in advance" and then implemented uniformly and impartially [emphasis mine]" (here, p. 46). Put another way, democracies don't implement new law, especially punishment for crimes, retroactively. 

A State that is committed to the rule of law cannot undermine the rule of law. But that's exactly what a retroactive law to disqualify Netanyahu would do (here, p 221ff).

In Israel, the current law is clear. A Prime Minister can  be barred from serving in his office only after he has been found guilty of crimes--and all appeals have been exhausted. Gantz assaults Israel's democracy by trying to change this law with with a new, retroactive law for Netanyahu. It is, just as Netanayahu claims, an assault on the foundations of democracy (above, ibid). 

Netanyahu clearly wants the 'current rule of law' to be followed--until perhaps it is changed to apply to future Prime Ministers, not himself. That's fair. It's how a democracy (see above) is supposed to work--by declaring in advance what a law is to be,  and then implementing it fairly. 

Netanyahu claims that it is undemocratic for B-W to overturn the current law to dump Netanyahu retroactively. That's also fair for a democracy. 

Overturning the current law would indeed subvert the voters' choice--"will of the people" (here)--who gave Netanyahu 132,000 more votes than Gantz. Netanyahu calls such a law change by B-W as something one would find in Iran: an "Iranian" law (here), not a democratic law.

Gantz doesn't care. He attempts to pass a new law against Netanyahu and then implement it retroactively. But, clearly, again, in a democracy that's not how the 'game' is played--especially for laws involving crimes. Such retroactivity is contrary to the foundations of a democracy.

Does Gantz actually know what are the foundations of a democracy? Does he know how the rule of law works? 

Oblivious, Gantz is confident. He feels that the most recent (third) election chose him to be PM. Therefore, his actions are justified.

But Gantz is wrong. Israel's arcane and complex election system doesn't give him the right to make such a claim, especially when Netanyahu collected 132,000 more votes than Gantz.

Does Gantz know how a democracy works? Given his attacks against Netanyahu, one has to wonder. 

This last election did three things. First, it demonstrated that voters clearly chose Netanyahu over Gantz. Those voters  gave Netanyahu 132,000 more votes than it gave to Gantz; second, it gave Netanyahu 36 seats in the Knesset to Gantz’s 33 seats; and third, this last election pushed Gantz to betray those who voted for him.

After Gantz had pledged repeatedly during the three-election cycle that he would include in his government only those who were (1) Jewish, (2) Zionist, (3) not extremist, and (4) committed to working for the good of Israel, he betrayed his voters by doing the exact opposite after the election. His current plan to form his government by relying on the Joint List means that Gantz will form his Government by relying on those who are (1) not Jewish, (2)  not Zionist, (3) who are very, very extreme in their hatred of Israel (demonstrated by their own words), and (4) who clearly—again, by their own words--are very much not committed to working for the good of Israel (here), but for the dismantling of the Jewish Israel (here).

In short, if the third election in this current election cycle proved anything to Gantz, it proved this: first, that Israel's voters are far less concerned about Netanyahu's impending trials than Gantz and his Blue-White Party; and second, by giving Netanyahu 132,000 more votes than Gantz, voters very clearly chose the indicted Netanyahu over Gantz (ibid).

Nevertheless, Gantz won’t give up. His hatred of Netanyahu trumps everything, even Israel’s needs in a growing pandemic,which, by the way, may well be a plague not seen on this planet since the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, some 100 years ago.

Gantz persists in resisting a unity government. He places dumping Netanyahu and toppling Netanyahu’s current control of the Knesset (even before a new ruling government has been chosen) as his sole priority. He appears not even to be discussing with anyone his task of forming a new government. He focuses exclusively on taking control of the Knesset—so as to get that new law in place to disqualify Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Rome burns. Yes, Israel valiantly fights the corona virus (in fact, better than the EU fights its own corona challenge)--but Israel fight on with one hand (the frozen Knesset) tied behind its back.

Gantz doesn’t care. He puts his hatred of Netanyahu before Israel.

How does Israel respond to these attacks? Do these incessant attacks from B-W hurt Netanyahu’s political standing? A recent poll tells the story: if there were now a fourth election, Gantz wouldn’t receive the 33 seats he’d earned in the last (third) election. His seat total would drop to 30. Netanyahu, meanwhile, wouldn’t receive the 36 seats he’d recently received; his seat total would jump to 40 seats (here).

Voters aren’t buying Gantz’s attacks. They’re increasingly supporting Netanyahu.

Where is that going to take Gantz? Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Gantz never told the voters he was a Leftist

There are those in Israel today who promote the forming of a government that includes anti-Israel Arabs. These Arab Members of Israel's Knesset are part of the political Party called, the Arab Joint List. These politicians are decidedly, vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Zionist (here).

Arabs from the Joint List (and its predecessor Parties) have never been part of an Israeli coalition government. Never. Even Israel's Left has recognized how dangerous it would be to include in a government such anti-Israel representatives. 

But now, Benny Gantz, the head of the Israeli Blue-White Party, seeks to change that narrative. He says he wants Arabs from the Joint List to be part of his coalition government. Israel's Left cheers. Israel's Right is horrified.

Leftists have been fighting against Israel's Jewishness and its Jewish religion for decades. The Left prefers 'democracy' over 'Jewish', as if the two ideas must be mutually exclusive.

They are not. A real democracy welcomes religion. A real democracy protects religion. A real democracy doesn't seek to end a religion's presence in its national life.  

But that's exactly what Israel's Left wants--to take the Jewish out of Israel. Is this where Gantz is headed? 

Consider what Gantz is doing by asking yourself a question: do you really believe anti-Jewish Arabs will support a more Jewish Israel?

As you consider Gantz's plan for his coalition, you should note that Israel's founding document--its Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel--has very little to say about 'democracy'. But it has a lot to say about 'Jewish' in Israel. In fact, you should know that Israel's founding Declaration never uses the word 'democracy'. Never (here). 

But the Left is obsessed with 'democracy'. It wants to see Israel embrace 'democracy'. Actually, the Left obsesses over both 'democracy' and 'Jewish' in Israel. 

It wants to replace what's Jewish in Israel with 'democracy'--again, as if the two are mutually exclusive. The Left wants to do this even though that same Declaration cited above never uses the word 'democracy' at all, but uses such phrases as 'Jewish', 'Jewish people' and Israel as the "Jewish national homeland' not just once or twice, but dozens of times.

'Democracy' is absent from that Declaration. 'Jewish' saturates it.

If you wish to understand what Israel is all about, you cannot ignore what's in that Declaration: Israel is, through-and-through, both Jewish and Zionist. 'Democracy' doesn't appear in that document.

Israel's Left doesn't care. The Left ignores Israel's founding document. The Left would destroy what's 'Jewish' about Israel. It would celebrate only 'democracy'.

Remember, Gantz made campaign promises that he would not invite anti-Zionists (Jew or Arab) into his government. He campaigned that he would only include those who were both Jewish and Zionist in his government (here). 

But Gantz lied.

By embracing a hostile-to-Israel Arab Joint List, Gantz has proven he is as far Left as anyone can get in Israel. Did those of you who voted for Gantz know this about him when you entered the voting booth?  

This is what happens when a politician lies about what he believes. Israelis didn't vote for Gantz because he was a Leftist. They voted for him because he was a Centrist.  

But he lied.

Gantz campaigned as a political Centrist. He openly courted Israel's Right and Religious Right to vote for him; that makes sense for a Centrist Israeli campaign. It's what Centrists do in Israel. They try to appeal to all, especially the Right. 

But Gantz lied.

Gantz has done something no Israeli Leftist has ever done--ever: he invites the anti-Israel (and anti-Zionist) Arab Joint List into his government.

We know the Arab List is both anti-Israel and anti-Zionist because of the words they have used openly to describe Israel. Indeed, we heard such words yet again just yesterday, from an MK of the Arab Joint List. This MK says, she will work to 'divest Israel from its Jewishness and its Zionism' (here). 

This divestment concept echoes what Israel's Left wants. If this divestment succeeds, it would mean the end of Israel as 'the Jewish State'. It would make Israel's founding Declaration irrelevant. It would cancel the very existence of Israel as the Jewish homeland. 

Does Jewish Israel want that? Israel's Jewish voters didn't know that's what Gantz wanted because he'd spent so much time during his campaign assuring everyone he would not sit with Arabs in a government--and when Netanyahu said he was lying, Gantz retorted, Netanyahu was lying. 

Netanyahu was not lying. Gantz was. 

Israel's Left doesn't care. It chooses anti-Israel Arabs. The Left--including Gantz--want nothing to do with 'Jewish'. Nothing. They choose anti-Israel Arabs first--and forget about 'Jewish'.

Benny Gantz does not recognize the world's only Jewish state. He says he does. But his actions speak louder. He wants what Israel's Left wants. He wants to form a coalition government that will include those who are not Jewish, not Zionist. He wants the Arab Joint List. He wants his government to be built with Israel-hating Arabs and Jewish Mks (Leftist Party members and the Party of Avigdor Liberman) who hate what's Jewish about Israel. 

For his own political ends, Gantz will bring chaos--and uncontrollable division--to Israel through such a coalition (here). For his own power, he jumps into bed with those who hate Jews, Israel and the Jewish state. 

Is this what Israelis voted for?

Gantz wants to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. But this political drama hasn't ended. Gantz may not get enough support for such a coalition as he would build. It's extremist. His Leftist gamble may yet fail--or, perhaps more likely, backfire on him. 

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A question about Benny Gantz: should an inexperienced dreamer be Israel's Prime Minister?

(Last update: March 15, 2020)

Benny Gantz is a former Israeli soldier. He's a retired Army Chief-of-Staff--the highest position an Israeli soldier can achieve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Now, out of the army, he wants a new job. He wants to be Israel's next Prime Minister.

He has no political experience. He's never run for political office. He's never been appointed to a political post. He's never served in a civilian, government administration. 

Nevertheless, he feels he's ready to be Israel's next Prime Minister. He certainly believes in his ability to step away from his life-long military bubble--and into that no-holds-barred fight club called, Israel's political stage.

 But he's wrong. Retired military leaders in Israel don't make stellar civilian leaders. Especially to a voter on Israel's political Right, too many former generals have groomed themselves to be too far Left to be trusted (here). Most such generals who became PM have not left Israel a legacy of greater security (here). 

Unfortunately for us Israelis, Gantz may not be any different. He's actually never proven he has the ability to lead successfully outside his military bubble. Indeed, the only non -military leadership experience he has had since leaving the Army ended in bankruptcy--and now, it seems, under the shadow of a criminal investigation as well (here). 

That's not exactly an auspicious foundation to a political career. It's certainly not proof he can handle the rigors of being Prime Minister. But it is proof he can run a business into the ground.

He doesn't care. He has a big dream. He believes in that dream.

He's proving himself to be unrealistic. Has he  bitten off more than he can chew--or digest?

Consider just one (rather important) item.

Gantz's initial efforts on the path to fulfilling this dream of civilian leadership seemed positive. Just 9 days after the first of the 3 current Israel elections which have attempted--but failed--to elect Israel's next Prime Minister, Blue-and-White (B/W) Party leader Gantz made a clear and rational leadership declaration. He stated, with military precision, what kind of people he would choose to serve with him in his government, should Israel's President ask him to build a governing coalition (here). 

He identified 4 criteria for anyone who sought to join his government. He said he'd choose people who were (1) Jewish; (2) Zionist; (3) not 'extremists'; and (4) who were committed to 'working for the good of Israel' (ibid). 

That was clear. It was to-the-point. It certainly sounded like something a candidate to be Israel's next leader might say, right?

Of course, that statement describing these characteristics came with a clear meaning: it meant that Benny Gantz would not choose to form a government with people who were (1) not Jewish; (2) not Zionist; (3) who were extremist in their anti-Israel views (that is, so far as most Israelis were concerned); and (4) who appeared to be spending their political careers doing everything except 'work for the good of Israel'.

Gantz understood this. We know he understood this because he also said, back in March 2019, that he'd "not engage the Arab-majority parties in his efforts to form a government" (here).

Can't get any clearer than that. Gantz wouldn't do "election business" with anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist anti-Israel Arabs.

Almost a year later, in February 2020, Gantz repeated this. He said, again very clearly: he would not rely upon the Arab Joint List. He explicitly re-stated his vow not to sit in a government with Arab Parties (here).

Can't get any clearer than that, either. Gantz, like Netanyahu, said he would not sit in a government with anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, pro-terrorist advocates.

But--despite these promises--Gantz's chief rival for the Prime Minister's seat, the current Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) didn't believe Gantz. For example, just a month after the second-of-three elections, in October 2019, Netanyahu warned that Gantz would, in fact, form a government with the backing of 'dangerous Arab Parties' (here).

The next month, Netanyahu did that again. He attacked Gantz by subtly warning that Gantz was trying to form a government by relying upon Arab Parties (here). Netanyahu said that such an attempt would expose Israel to an "unprecedented emergency" (ibid).  

Then, in February 2020, Netanyahu said it yet again. Even as Gantz stated explicitly that he would not sit in a government with the Arab Parties (here), Netanyahu said, yes, Gantz will do exactly that. Indeed, Netanyahu said in a radio interview (here), Gantz's "lie has been revealed...Gantz is admitting that he will rely on support from the Joint List in order to form a government” (ibid). 

For his part, Gantz didn't like being called a liar. He replied to Netanyahu by 'letting loose' on 'Netanyahu's 'dirty spin machine'. He said, 'Netanyahu will lie and say anything he needs in order to get elected' (here).

That, it has turned out, was an interesting comment because in the end, Netyanyahu wasn't lying about Gantz. Netanyahu was telling the truth. Netanyahu had been right all along.

Since the end of the third-of-so-far-three-elections-to-elect-a-Prime-Minister, Gantz has been working overtime to form a government by turning to anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist, terror-supporting Arab leaders in the Knesset--implying while doing that that any Netanyahu government will not serve Arab needs (here). 

 At first, Gantz said he would only rely upon the Arab Joint List to form his government, and wouldn't include Arabs in his coalition. But now, he strongly hints he will actually include those Parties in his government (here)

So much for Netanyahu being the liar, right?

Forming a government with Arab Parties has never happened in Israel, ever (here). Now, Gantz is trying to do exactly that--after having lied about it through at least two of the last three elections. His 'trick' is, he's using the coronavirus as his excuse. He claims to want 'all segments' of Israel's society to fight corona, thereby implying that a Netanyahu government won't help Israel's Arab population unless the Arab Joint List is included in a new, 'unity' government. Gantz offers no proof of such a suggestion. 

Is this what Israelis voted for him to do--break campaign promises--and make outrageous, anti-Arab suggestions?

Right now, Gantz's dream isn't doing so well. First, among the Arab Parties whose support Gantz so desperately needs to become PM, there are at least 3 Arab Members of Knesset who openly oppose supporting him. This is a potential disaster for Gantz. To become PM, Gantz needs the vote of 61 Members of the Knesset to support him for PM. If three Arab Members of the Knesset do not support Gantz, the number of votes he'd get from the Arab Parties would fall to 12 votes (the 15 votes of the entire Joint List, minus these 3 'defections'). 

Counting all those 15 votes of the Joint List as 'his', Gantz had 62 votes to become PM. He only needs 61 (of a total of 120 Knesset Members). Losing 3 such votes puts him at a new total of 59 votes. That won't be enough to become PM.

It gets worse for Gantz. One member of the Leftist (and Gantz-supporting) Labor-Gesher-Meretz Party has now also openly stated she will not support Gantz forming a coalition if Gantz relied upon the backing of the Arab Joint List (here). Her 'defection' from supporting Gantz drops the Gantz-for-PM total to 58 seats. That's the same number Netanyahu has. 

To be PM, both Gantz and Netanyahu need more than 58 seats. With this Leftist 'defection', Gantz' dream evaporates.

But it gets even worse for Gantz. There are now at least two members of Gantz's own Blue-White Party who have said they would not support Gantz attempting to form a coalition by relying on the Arab Joint List (here). This could drop Gantz' seat total further--perhaps to 56 seats.

His path to Prime Minister appears to slip away. Will it? 

UPDATE: News reports now say that the entire Arab Joint List--all 15 Arab Members of Knesset--will support Gantz for PM (here). Suddenly, Gantz has reason to hope his dream will come true.

Will it? Will he become Israel's next Prime  Minister?

Stay turned. This drama isn't over. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

After the election, Gantz stabs Israel's democracy in the back

(Last update: March 9,  2020)

Three days after Israel's latest national election, vote count still hadn't reached 100% complete. Even today--day 6, post-election--we don't know if a fourth election will be necessary to choose a Prime Minister.

This is Israel. It's the world's only Jewish democracy. It may well be also the world's only broken democracy.

Israel's election system is broken. A broken election system--a system which fails to allow the voice of the people (their votes) to choose the nation's leader--is a problem for 'democracy'. You see, the most fundamental characteristic of a 'democracy' isn't free speech or a free press or religious freedom or the freedom of assembly--important as these freedoms are--but elections. If a nation's  election system is broken, then that nation's 'democracy' is, by definition, broken. 

Netanyahu's Party--Likud--hasn't won enough seats in the nation's Knesset election (in the March 2020 election) to earn Netanyahu the Prime Minister's seat. That is to say, his Likud Party didn't win the 61 seats needed to win the Prime Ministership outright. 

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem because, if memory serves me, no Party in Israel's history has ever won enough seats in an election to win outright. It's the nature of Israel's democracy. Every election in Israel's history has therefore meant that the election winner needs to attract enough support from competitor Parties to finalize his securing the right to form a government. In theory, this could make sense: a leader for Israel's democracy must appeal to ideologies not his own, to rule. His leadership must be, at least in one sense, 'democratic'--shared with others.

The problem for Likud this time (since April 2019) has been an inability to secure enough support from competitor Parties to form a government. Likud has now tried to do this three times in less than a year. It's failed each time. 

This suggests a new political reality for Israel: we have become a divided nation. We are fractured by political beliefs. We have been broken by political and ideological hatred.

In happier times, political and ideological divisions could be soothed enough to give the leading (in votes) politician the 61 seats he needed to rule. In fact, in the past, that's exactly the way things in Israel worked. 

But no longer. Now, Israel is too broken to be soothed. At this moment, the only Party that (perhaps) appears best able to get to a total of 61 seats is Benny Gantz's Blue-and-White. But Gantz can only get his 61 seats if he does something no Party leader in modern times (post-1995) has done: rely upon help from anti-Israel Arab Knesset Members--that is, from individuals who deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state (here); who have praised terrorists and stabbing attacks against Jews (here); and who deny there was ever a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (here).

 In this latest election, Netanyahu's Likud won 36 seats. Gantz's Blue-and-White only 33 seats. Since 36 seats is the most Netanyahu has ever won in any election he's been in, those 36 seats should give Netanyahu the ability to form a government--because in the past, he's been able to do that with fewer seats.

But the hatred of Netanyahu's political enemies trumps the numbers. However successful he's been in this latest election, he still needs 61 seats in the Knesset to do that--and he's got commitments only for another 22 seats (on top of his own 36) for a total of 58 seats. He's 3 seats short of the needed 61 seats. 

At this moment, Netanyahu can't get those 61 seats. The only way he can do that is to attract 3 Members of competitor Parties--just 3--to bolt their original Party of choice, and move over to Likud. This is legal; but will it happen?

So far, certain obvious candidates for such a move have said, no thanks. If nobody moves to Likud, Netanyahu is stuck. He cannot form a government. 

Gantz , on the other hand, believes he can attract a coalition of 61 seats. He says he has the commitments. But to get to 61 seats, he'll have to break a campaign promise not to include the Arab Joint List in his decision-making. 

 To become Israel's next Prime Minister, Gantz doesn't just want to team up with anti-Israel Arabs to help him get the numbers he needs to form a government. He wants more. He wants a new law passed--against Netanyahu. 

According to election 'custom', because Netanyahu got more votes than Gantz, Netanyahu is expected to be the first of the two to try to form a government. Netanyahu will have something like two weeks to do this. If he succeeds in forming a government with 61 seats, Gantz will not be Israel's next Prime Minister. Netanhyahu will.  

But Gantz, the election loser, doesn't want to give Netanyahu that first chance. He wants to pass a new law--before Netanyahu would be chosen to try to form a government. The new law Gantz wants would ban any indicted politician from having the right to form a government coalition. If passed, Netanyahu would be out because he is currently under indictment. 

Israel's political Right is livid. Gantz wants to use his presumed 61 seat alliance to pass a new law, after the election, that stipulates that anyone who is under indictment is banned from forming a government--and the first person to have that law applied against him would be Netanyahu. 

Remember now, the voters have, by giving Netanyahu more votes than Gantz, expressed their democratic preference for Netanyahu, not Gantz. The vote totals make that obvious. 

The voters also clearly understood that Netanyahu was currently under indictment when they gave him the most votes. This means that the voters actually voted to reject that indictment--or, put another way, the voters' preference for the indicted Netanyahu was a clear indictment of the indictment against Netanhyahu (here).

By voting for the indicted Netanyahu, Israel's voters rejected all the media and political--and now judicial--efforts to get rid of Netanyahu (here). The voters' voice is clear. They support Netanyahu. They agree with Netanyahu that the indictment(s) are nothing more than a witch hunt, an illegitimate act by an aggressive anti-Netanyahu bureaucracy to get Netanyahu out of office any way it can.

The vote count supports that.

So what do we have here? Israel's democracy (its election system) is broken. Now Gantz comes along to do what? He wants to stab Israel's broken democracy in the back. 

Instead of respecting the voice of the people--something Gantz said he'd do (see below)--he seeks instead to grab the Prime  Minister's chair through a legal trick, not an election: he'll get a new law passed--post-election--to change the rules. He'll have Netanyahu banned from forming a government because he's been indicted--even though Israel's voters gave Netanyahu the most votes in this election despite those indictments.  

Elections are the voice of the people--the basis of a democracy. Gantz acknowledged this after the election by saying he would 'respect' the voice of the voters (here). 

Then he 'doubled down'. He repeated himself: he declared, “In a democratic country, election results and the decision of the voters must be respected” (here).

Unfortunately for Israel, Gantz was lying. By seeking a retroactive law against Netanyahu, Gantz rejects Israel's most basic democratic mechanism--its election. 

He will, in essence, steal the election out from under the voters' noses. 

Gantz may be stabbing Israel's democracy in the back. But the Right hasn't given up, at least, not yet. 

Who will prevail? Stay tuned.