Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have secured enough votes for his conservative Likud party to form a right-wing, ultra-orthodox coalition government. Based on vote totals calculated the morning after Tuesday’s vote, the Likud party itself tallied 26.27% of the vote, which translates to 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Along with five supportive right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties that amassed enough votes collectively to secure about 30 seats amongst them, Prime Minister Netanyahu is eyeing a 65-seat governing majority. Likud’s main challenger, the Blue and White party, led by the former chief of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz along with former finance minister Yair Lapid, came in a close second with 25.94% of the vote. Although the Blue and White party’s vote total appears enough to also entitle it to 35 seats in the Knesset, it is nowhere near being able to reach the magic majority number of 61 seats with eligible coalition partners. Thus, barring some unforeseen occurrence, Prime Minister Netanyahu is on his way to commencing a record-setting fifth term, albeit under the cloud of possible indictment on bribery and other corruption charges.
President Trump wasted no time in congratulating Prime Minister Netanyahu for his victory. “He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend, I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu, that was a well-thought out race I can tell you,” President Trump said on Wednesday.
Several observations can be drawn from the election results. First, despite his serious legal challenges, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sheer force of personality and brand of Israel-first, Jewish identity politics continues to motivate his core base of supporters to rally around him. Mr. Netanyahu used red-meat rhetoric effectively, including his pledge last weekend to begin annexing settlements in the West Bank and his warnings that, if his supporters did not show up at the polls, a “leftist” government could take over. His supporters listened. The prime minister had been working with President Trump’s pollster John McLaughlin, who is expected to help President Trump in 2020 with a similar campaign strategy.
Second, Israelis showed that, by and large, they are basically satisfied with the status quo. Prime Minister Netanyahu was able to run on a relatively strong record of achievement, including a healthy economy on his watch. Above all, during his current term, he has managed to keep Israel out of any major war and has prevented any attacks or incursions from materializing into an existential threat to the country. Hamas and Hezbollah, though raising security concerns to be sure, have been largely kept in check. Israel has taken the offensive against Iranian positions in Syria without encountering major reprisals, Russian interference or a spill-over of the Syrian civil war into Israel. The bond between Israel and the United States, thanks in large measure to the relationship that the prime minister has forged with President Trump, has never been stronger. Most notably, the Trump administration has moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel did not have to make any concessions to the Palestinians in return. Israel has been working with Gulf Arab nations to challenge Iranian attempts at achieving hegemony in the Middle East region.
Third, Israel’s rightward tilt, fueled in part by the increasing strength of the religious parties, became even more pronounced in this election and may be reaching a point of no return. The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism secured third and fourth places behind the Likud and Blue and White parties. Shas’ tally of 6.10% (8 seats) and United Torah Judaism’s tally of 5.90% (8 seats) each exceeded the once dominant Labor Party’s tally of 4.46% (six seats). Meretz, a social-democratic and green party, just barely met the minimum vote threshold to be counted, with 3.3 percent of the vote. As Damon Linker, senior correspondent at TheWeek.com and former contributing editor at The New Republic, remarked, “the most far-reaching consequence of the 2019 Israeli election may well be that it verified, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is functionally no left left in Israel. It has become a country with a center, a right, and a far right, but no electorally viable left to speak of.”
Fourth, the Palestinians are the big losers in this election. Arab-Israeli citizens did not help themselves or the Palestinian cause with their low turnout, although the Arab Hadash-Ta’al did manage to come in fourth with six seats. Lacking any strong political allies on the left with a dovish agenda, there is not much they could have done in any event that would have made a difference in the Palestinians’ favor. Even if the Blue and White party had prevailed, the Palestinians’ vision of a two-state solution on their terms, despite their backing from the so-called “international community,” would not have become a reality. Gantz may have talked about desiring peace with the Palestinians, but he did not endorse a two-state solution. He promised to “strengthen the settlement blocs and Golan [Heights], where we won’t leave ever.” Whether Israelis voted for Likud or the Blue and White party, they were not casting a vote for a government mandate to pursue direct negotiations with the Palestinians for a two-state solution resembling anything that the so-called “international community” has endorsed.
With that being said, Prime Minister Netanyahu faces the challenge of an indictment that could cause him to be unseated. Reportedly, Mr. Netanyahu is seeking support from possible coalition partners for new immunity legislation, in exchange for which he may be forced to follow through on his pledge to annex West Bank settlements. Moreover, although President Trump expressed the belief that Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election improved the chances for peace with the Palestinians, the opposite is more likely in view of the far-right parties that would be essential to keep the Netanyahu-led coalition in power. If the peace plan reportedly to be released soon by the Trump administration is premised on a two-state solution that includes a contiguous independent Palestinian state – a necessary condition to having any chance of getting so-called “moderate” Arab states’ support – Mr. Netanyahu will have virtually no wriggle room to accept it. The only possible path would be a unity coalition between Likud and the more centrist Blue and White party that may have enough political capital to at least use the Trump peace plan as a starting point for negotiations. However, Mr. Gantz has rejected any unity government with Likud that includes Mr. Netanyahu while the prime minister faces possible indictment. In any case, the Palestinians have indicated that, as far as they are concerned, the Trump peace plan is dead on arrival.
While anything could still happen, the most likely scenario coming out of the Israeli election is continued containment of the conflict with the Palestinians to manageable levels and continued focus on the Iranian-Hezbollah threat with more military action to prevent their build-up of permanent bases in Syria. Further entrenchment of Israeli government support for expanded Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank is likely, with formal annexation remaining the wild card.
One thing is for sure. As long at least as Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump remain in office, there will be no daylight between the United States and Israel. Compared with the Obama administration, that alone is like night and day
BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti (YouTube)
Omar Barghouti, founder and leader of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was denied entry to the United States on Wednesday.
He was informed by airline staff at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel that U.S. immigration officials told the American consul in Tel Aviv to block him from boarding the flight.
A State Department official told NPR, “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”
The US Capitol Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Four of Israel’s most dedicated supporters in the US Congress on Friday expressed concern that the Jewish state may annex the West Bank, as results from Israel’s election earlier this week confirmed the likelihood of a right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank,” said a joint statement from Democratic representatives Eliot Engel (NY), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The final image sent by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet before it crash-landed on the moon. Photo: courtesy of Space IL.
Astronauts and scientists at the US space agency NASA commended the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL for its efforts afyer its spacecraft “Beresheet” failed to land safely on the moon on Thursday.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit.”
“Der ewige Jude” – “Theeternal Jew” movie poster . (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The lead article Thursday on the opinion page of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the 1940 Nazi antisemitic movie The Eternal Jew.
The article was titled in the paper “The Eternal Netanyahu” in a word play in connection with director Fritz Hippler’s antisemitic pseudo-documentary, based on the medieval legend of the wandering Jew, that served as a cinematographic justification for the Holocaust.
As an orthopedic surgeon for 30 years in Washington, D.C. I see patients from all over the world and from every walk of life and what has become clear to me is that everyone is fundamentally the same. As a rule, I shy away from political or religious discussions with my patients as they have no bearing on their care. But occasionally, the discussions are thrust on me.
Several years ago I treated a professor of political science from a local university and had established a good rapport with him. On his last visit before saying goodbye he popped a question.
It is well-known by some and wholly ignored by others that Islam has a long, sad history of antisemitism, a bigotry that originated in the seventh century CE (the first Islamic century) and has grown more vicious in the 21st. Combined with an almost universal anti-Zionism and bolstered by many on the political “left”, it is today the most ubiquitous and deadliest form of Jew-hatred. It takes the form, not just of insults, boycotts, and lawfare, but of wars, terrorist attacks, and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Jews.
Amman – The streets in Amman’s Jebel al-Weibdeh are crowded in the early evening with sounds of young people looking for a place to relax. Coffee shops intermix with art studios selling crafts for tourists. At the Maestro bar and restaurant, a band is getting ready for a live performance. The lights are dimmed and someone has put “no smoking” signs on the tables – they are out of place with the ash trays. Apparently, Monday has jam sessions and anyone can bring their instrument to join in. But it’s Wednesday.
A few of my readers recently asked me to explain the difference between “Palestinians” living inside and outside of Israel’s borders. Who are the “Palestinians” anyway? First, see below:
“Palestine” does not exist today as a nation-state, but at multiple times in history, including the present, it has been one of the names of a place. The Romans, recalling the defunct Philistines – non-Arab Sea People – coined it after defeating [Jewish general] Bar Kochba in 135 CE to disassociate what had been Judaea from Jews.
President Trump’s peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict surfaced two years ago and to this day – remarkably – only he and a handful of aides know its precise details. A stream of leaks, however, contains enough internal consistency that their collation, supplemented by conversations with administration officials, provides a plausible outline of the plan’s contents.
On March 31, a South Bend grandma brought her grandson to the hospital. The 11-month-old baby boy had been shot. His grandmother’s car had also taken fire. It was another early morning in South Bend.
Around the same time, Mayor Buttigieg, was toting up the $7 million in donations from his charm offensive as his bid for the 2020 Democrat nomination got underway. The national media never bothered reporting the shooting of an 11-month-old boy in the city he was supposed to be running, but instead confined its coverage of South Bend matters to a publicity stunt wedding officiated by Buttigieg.
The Palestinian students are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.
While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other’s supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes.
As an American Christian who has had the privilege of working in senior-level positions for four US presidents and who has enjoyed a close association with three of Israel’s prime ministers, I believe it is my obligation to provide the Israeli people with my views. I think my viewpoint is important because a vast number of American Evangelical Christians believe as I believe. In addition, Evangelical Christians are, without question, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.
Does Case 3000 – known as the submarine affair – prove that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is guilty of doing something illegal? Well, all Likud supporters believe with absolute confidence that it’s a political plot. Netanyahu’s opponents, however, believe – also with absolute confidence – that it’s the largest corruption case to ever occur in the State of Israel.