The Israeli Election Did Have A Result: It Just Had No Winner—Yet

By

Leonard Zwelling

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/18/opinion/israel-election-netanyahu.html?searchResultPosition=2

There is a lot that America can learn from the Israeli election of September 17. In Israel, each person votes for a party, not a candidate. Then the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) are apportioned based on that party voting. One party needs to control the votes of at least 61 members to form a government.

As of now neither Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party nor Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party have the needed 61 votes under its control. In fact they have only about 32 or 33 each. Thus, whoever is going to form a government must do so with the support of other parties that control fewer seats than the two major parties do, but still have significant blocs of support. Netanyahu had been doing this with a very right wing, ultra-religious coalition. Gantz would try to form a government that would be more middle of the road and might even include the 10-12 Arab members of the Knesset although this might not be possible if he needs the votes of kingmaker Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party to form a government as Liberman will not be part of a government with either Arabs or the ultra-religious in it. It is looking more and more like President Reuven Rivlin will have a tough decision to make in assigning the first crack at forming a government to either Netanyahu or Gantz unless the two of them agree to a coalition unity government between them, that neither seems to favor.

Thus, it is not true that there was no result in this election. We just don’t know what it is yet and it could be any one of many scenarios.

When you think about it, it sounds like what we have here.

Trump is Netanyahu with a tight grip on a minority but large coalition of his followers who will vote for him no matter what. Interestingly, like Netanyahu, Trump’s support is strong on the religious right. Netanyahu has followers like Trump’s in that many are from the ultra-religious right wing of Israeli politics.

The Democrats have their own devout followers that are every bit as enthusiastic, but probably smaller in number than the Trump group.

Then there’s everyone else. Many of these folks voted for Trump in 2016, but are shopping for a new face now. This is kind of like Israel where most Israelis don’t favor Arab inclusion, don’t favor the granting of special status to Orthodox religious schools or their men who will not serve in the military, but want a center right government that can maintain greater security and allow Israel to continue to prosper.

Israel has shown us the way. They went straight down the middle and now they have to work out a way to form a government that truly represents the majority sentiment in the country, that does not give in to the desires of the Heredi (the ultra-religious) or to the Arabs on either side of the West Bank.

Maybe we in America can learn from how the Israelis settle this conundrum. I would bet that Gantz is going to get a first crack at forming a government and will try to put together a coalition with Liberman, but will still need more seats to finish the job. It is likely that an eventual government might marginalize both the ultra-religious and the Arabs.

Here, in America, we need to find a road between the uncontrolled lunacy that is governing the country now under Mr. Trump and the do-nothing Senate Republicans and an extreme left wing agenda espoused by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. However, if one of the extreme leftists becomes the Democratic nominee, he or she better run quickly to the center or we may find ourselves like Israel with an election result with no true winner able to govern just yet.

In the column I attached above, Shmuel Rosner does mark the election in Israel as the end of the Netanyahu Era. Let’s hope the 2020 election in the United States marks the end of the Trump Era and supplants it with a centrist Democrat capable of bringing us together rather than tearing us apart. I fear that neither country is quite where it needs to be yet.

Finally, in more news from the Middle East, it is looking more and more likely that the attack on the Saudi oil fields was perpetrated by Irani missiles and drones.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/18/opinion/iran-saudi.html

That in no way means the United States needs to be part of any retaliation the Saudis may wish to muster against the Iranian regime. We don’t work for the Saudis and they are an awful ally any way given the manner in which they govern their country and the fact that they send out hit squads against journalists with western affiliations.

If the Saudis want a war with Iran, let them have it. We need not participate. If Mr. Trump can get this discussed at the United Nations, good for him. It is a wise decision to do so. We don’t need to be in another shooting war—anywhere!

And in a related issue, in follow up to past blogs, the U.S. Department of Education has come down on the joint Duke-UNC Middle East studies program due to its biased curriculum and possible misuse of federal funds. Read more here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/us/politics/anti-israel-bias-higher-education.html?searchResultPosition=2

Leonard Zwelling