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
A 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.