Netanyahu’s Likud party is the clear winner in this most recent election, which won 36 seats. Second is centrist party Blue and White that won 33 seats. Blue and White, headed by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is comprised of Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem’s party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and his own Israel Resilience Party.
The Arab Joint List political alliance, now the third-largest party in Israel drew 15 seats. The Shas Sephardic religious party has 9, United Torah Judaism 7, and the right-wing Yamina, headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, has six seats.
Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu has 7, and the alliance of Israel’s left-wing parties – Labor-Gesher-Meretz – both won 7 seats.
The right bloc under Netanyahu’s leadership has 58 seats and the center/left bloc under Blue and White has 55, which includes the Arab Joint list of 15 seats. This leaves Lieberman’s Israel’s Home party with 7 seats alone in the middle.
PM Netanyahu may be 3 seats short
Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s block of right-wing seats is three short of the 61 seats needed to form a viable coalition government. Lieberman is once again in the role of potential kingmaker. With his 7-seat party, he could determine, by recommendation to President Reuven Rivlin, who would be the one to form a government.
Up until the evening of the elections, the second-largest party headed by Benny Gantz, composed of three ex-military generals and one popular ex-newsman, did all they could with their ‘anyone-but-Bibi’ platform. They tried three times before and couldn’t beat him. Once again, they lost. Would it be different on the fourth try?
Everyone agrees on one thing–a fourth-round is unnecessary. It isn’t efficient or logical. Three elections have confirmed that the majority of Israeli voters support the Prime Minister and his policies and that the other parties can’t beat him at the ballot box.
However, rather than admit defeat, Blue and White has chosen the irresponsible undemocratic way–instead of what’s best for the Jewish nation’s welfare. They have chosen not to end this stalemate and join with Netanyahu to form a coalition.
A strong legitimate government is needed at this time. Historic and critical decisions are pending, such as the ‘Deal of the Century’. The State of Israel has a short window of opportunity to impose sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and communities in Judea and Samaria.
The result of this election show that the right-wing block has the majority of the votes and can be expected to implement right-wing policies (excluding the anti-Zionist Arab Joint List). For the sake of the country, it is imperative to quickly form a national government that guarantees the implementation of the right-wing policies. Whoever agrees with this vision should be welcome to join. Netanyahu has started his negotiations to find Knesset Members from the opposition who might be persuaded to join with the right.
However, since the opposition Blue and White hasn’t beaten Netanyahu at the ballot box, it has chosen to try to defeat him by making him step down by using his legal issues as an excuse. By this, they completely ignore the basic law which states Netanyahu can serve as Prime Minister while he is on trial, which could be years. With this election, the public gave Netanyahu a mandate to continue at his post.
The opposition claims he can’t do his job while busy with legal matters. Netanyahu has proven repeatedly that he can function while under great pressure. He isn’t required to attend every court hearing, so his lawyers will be able to do their work at court until a final judgment is rendered, which could take years. Meanwhile, he can manage the country as the law explicitly permits. The Israeli public concurs since the majority voted for him—again!
Conspiring to create new legislation
Blue and White Party, Avigdor Lieberman, and the Arabic Joint List conspire to create new legislation that would ban a politician under criminal indictment from becoming Prime Minister. This effort to topple a serving Prime Minister on sketchy charges, or just inappropriate behavior, is clearly an act of desperation on the part of those who despise Netanyahu and are determined to topple him by any means possible.
The draft legislation can only be presented in the Knesset once the new parliament has been sworn in, some two weeks from now.
To guarantee the bill’s passage, Gantz of Blue and White will have to muster the largest number of MKs to back him as the next Prime Minister, receive the mandate to form a government from the president, and then take control of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee. A new Knesset speaker would have to be elected to replace the present speaker, Likud’s Yuli Edelstein to ensure that the bill makes it through within certain deadlines.
In this dramatic move, Lieberman’s announcement shows for the first time he is clearly taking sides in the battle between the center-left and right.
Israel is a democracy!
Right-wing politicians have denounced the law, claiming that it is a personal legislation specifically designed to prevent Netanyahu from forming a government. Netanyahu also assailed the draft law, saying, “The move led by Gantz and his associates undermines democracy.”
If passed into law, it will be an undemocratic move. It will take the power to decide who would run for the office of PM away from the people, and put it in the hands of the unelected Attorney General. The majority of the people voted for Netanyahu even with a criminal indictment against him, because they believe he is not guilty and that he is best suited for the position. Therefore, the bill will cancel the results of this recent election, when two million Israelis voted for Netanyahu’s Likud party and his right wind block. This will make the voters irrelevant, which is not what democracy is all about. For Israel to remain the democracy it claims to be, the power of the vote must stay with the people.
At present, the elected bodies of Israel’s governing system, meaning the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and the government are being checked by the legal system, but there is no one above them to check them. They can, and they do override government ruling that doesn’t suit them.
Dealing with the Arab Joint List
As it stands now, the new Knesset will be sworn on March 17. Parties will give the president their recommendation of either Netanyahu or Gantz to form the government. He will have 42 days or the decision will go over to the other candidate. Lieberman and the Arab Joint List will probably recommend Gantz. But then they will negotiate and give him their demands to actually join him in a coalition. The Arab Joint List has already hinted that their list will include more demands than last time as they feel they have more power this time because without them Gantz will not be able to form a coalition. Among their demands is that the government refuse to accept Trump’s deal.
Blue and White’s party has a two-step plan to avoid a fourth round of elections. The initial phase is to form a minority coalition with Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu, with outside support by Arab Joint List, and a second phase that assumes, once a minority government is formed, that members of various right-wing parties would be willing to join the coalition. During the whole campaign, the Blue and White party claimed they would not sit with the Arab Joint List in a coalition and would not rely on their votes to form one. Gantz declared very definitely: “No, we don’t need them. Everyone should know: we won’t sit with Arabs.” Now that they have no choice, they’re starting to negotiate with members of the Arab Joint List – at least some of them.
Will some MKs changes sides?
Meanwhile, Blue and White MKs Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel refused to back a minority government relying upon a coalition with the Arab Joint List. Without Hendel and Hauser, Gantz’s majority over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing block would fall to 60-58 and make it necessary for Gantz to rely on the three MKs of Balad, the most extreme Arab party in the Knesset whose past MKs have been convicted of aiding terrorist groups. Now another MK member, Orli Levy-Abekasis from Gesher party, who reluctantly joined the left bloc, refused to join a government that relies on the support of Joint Arab List member Balad, which denies the existence of the Jewish nation. Anyway, her natural home is not in the left block. Let’s hope the three of them will join the right block. The best Blue and White can get is a rotation as Prime Minister with Netanyahu serving the first year, followed by two years of Gantz and then whoever would be Likud’s leader serving the final year.
Let’s pray that some of the members of the Blue and White coalition, be it the ex-generals who fought against Israel’s enemies, or Amir Peretz from the Labor party who was responsible for the manufacture and use of the Iron Dome by the Israeli Army, join the winning bloc of Netanyahu’s right and form a functioning democratic government.
Protesters are planning to gather outside the homes of Hauser and Gesher MK Orly Levi. The protests are set to be held under the banner: “Don’t give the keys to the State to terrorist supporters.”