Can Israel Snap Out Of It?

Can Israel Snap Out Of It?


Leonard Zwelling

This editorial in The New York Times does a great job of outlining the dilemma facing the nation of Israel today. To be brief, it does not have a working government and hasn’t has had one for close to a year. It has had two elections in that time and still there is no resolution to the stalemate between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party. (Our elections may end in a draw, but the Supreme Court did call the balls and strikes in 2000.)

The problem is inherent in Israel’s multi-party parliamentary system where to control the government a party needs to control 61 of the 120 seats in the legislature called the Knesset. Neither of those two major parties have come close in the last two elections and it looks like we are headed for a third round of voting, unless…

As the author of the piece, Shmuel Rosner, suggests, the current crises surrounding Israel—Gaza, Iran and the economy–might allow everyone to come to their senses.

Likud won’t form a unity government with Blue and White that does not include its long-time leader and prime minister, now the indicted Netanyahu even though Bibi may be headed for jail on corruption charges.

Blue and White won’t form a unity government in which Likud’s partners, the ultra-Orthodox parties, have a prominent role. Thus, we are at a stalemate as long as Bibi won’t step aside and Gantz cannot control more than 35 seats.

The third most popular party is the Arab-led one that will definitely not jump on board a Likud–led government nor is Gantz inclined to include them in one he would form. So here we are. Where we are is in a period during which any member of the Knesset can try to gather a 61-seat coalition. But this too is unlikely.

What Rosner postulates is that crises as far back as the 1967 War have led to successful unity governments to get Israel through the crisis and that it is mostly the crisis that holds the unity government together. Might that occur now?

It’s anyone’s guess what would make Netanyahu blink and say he’ll retire. My guess is that if everyone agreed that Bibi can spend the rest of his life out of jail, he might step aside. Might.

What would make Gantz blink and accept the support of the Arabs and other parties so he could actually get to the magic number of 61 seats?

Rosner suggests that only a crisis can do it and that there are a few brewing. Rockets poured in from Gaza after the Israelis killed a prominent Arab leader there along with the son of another in Syria. Is this the escalation that will bring the parties to their senses and make a compromise? The Israelis definitely do not want to vote for a third time especially since the result will probably be the same with no party getting more than 35 seats.

In better times, this might be an instance when outside forces would prevail upon Bibi and Gantz to compromise for the good of the country. I guess Richard Nixon might have been able to swing that one, but no one else comes to mind. Jimmy Carter would have tried, but certainly not Donald Trump who loves Bibi and could never show credible non-partisanship in the contest between Bibi and Gantz.

Nope, as is usually the case, the Israelis are going to have to work this one out for themselves. Will Bibi take one for the team and step aside? Certainly not yet. Will Gantz acquiesce to the Arabs and allow them into his fold if they even would join Gantz? He says no, but you never know.

Israel is not heading for a crisis. It’s there. We are about to see who the true patriots in Jerusalem are. Let’s hope this occurs before there are any more rockets from Gaza or worse from Tehran.

It is frankly shocking that Great Britain, the U.S. and Israel are all struggling internally to resolve 50-50 disputes among the major parties. The Russians must be smiling.

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