Thursday December 12, 2019
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Israel Moves Towards Election Rerun

The 66 to 44 vote set a tentative date of September 17 for a new election

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Israel, New Elections
An Israeli man casts his vote during Israel's general elections in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 9, 2019. VOA

Israel moved closer to new parliamentary elections Tuesday as lawmakers voted in favor of the first of three procedural moves necessary to dissolve the current parliament.

The 66 to 44 vote set a tentative date of September 17 for a new election, if the measure makes it through the final two rounds of voting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a new government since his party won the most seats in an election last month.

He has until Wednesday to reach a coalition deal with other parties or risk having Israel’s president give someone else a chance to form a coalition government. Netanyahu is unlikely to allow that to take place, preferring to take his chances in a new election.

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Israel’s former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during his Yisrael Beitenu party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, May 27, 2019. VOA

His prospective coalition has been thrown into turmoil by former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, sometimes a Netanyahu ally and sometimes a rival.

Lieberman has demanded passage of a new law mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the Israeli military, like most other Jewish men, while Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies have called for the current draft exemptions to remain in place.

In a statement late Monday, Netanyahu called for his potential coalition partners to put “the good of the nation above every other interest” to avoid what he said would be “expensive, wasteful” elections.

​The Israeli leader said he was hopeful that a compromise could be forged before the late Wednesday deadline for him to form a new government.

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But he acknowledged, “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to convince Lieberman to avoid another election. The reality is that we must be responsible and form a government immediately.”

Netanyahu cannot form a government without the five seats of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Israel, Election rerun
Israel moved closer to new parliamentary elections Tuesday. VOA

“The draft law has become a symbol, and we will not capitulate on our symbols,” Lieberman said, vowing to press for new parliamentary elections if his demand is not met.

Ultra-Orthodox parties consider military conscription a violation of their religious beliefs, fearing that military service will lead to secularization. But such exemptions from military service are widely resented by other Jewish Israelis.

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Some Likud adherents say that Lieberman is motivated by his personal spite for Netanyahu, but Lieberman says he will not give in to religious coercion.

“I will not be a partner to a Halachic state,” he said, using the word for Jewish law. (VOA)

Next Story

Netanyahu Personifies The Corrupting Force Of Power

What is sad about all this is that Netanyahu has all along put his self-interest above the party and the nation

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Netanyahu
Having served as the longest prime minister in Israel’s history, insatiable hunger for power of Netanyahu and desperate need to escape the indictment was first and foremost in his mind. Wikimedia Commons

By Alon Ben-Meir

The long-anticipated indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu has finally come to pass. For three years, Netanyahu spared no effort to scuttle three criminal cases against him, but failed. These charges and their implications have now become rather clear. They have occupied Netanyahu’s thinking as to how to save himself and maintain his position as Prime Minister. They have impacted Israel’s policies, in particular toward the Palestinians, and without a doubt the charges have adversely impacted Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government following the last two elections.

In the first case, Case 1000, Netanyahu is charged with receiving gifts from Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan in return for political favors. In the second case, Case 2000, Netanyahu was accused of striking a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to provide Netanyahu with favorable coverage in return for politically targeting a rival newspaper. In Case 4000, the third charge, Netanyahu took steps to benefit his friend Shaul Elovitch, who controlled Bezeq, in return for favorable coverage on Bezeq’s news site Walla. The first two cases charged Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust; the third case added charges of bribery as well.

Netanyahu made a supreme effort all along to have these charges dismissed, claiming in the first case that it is acceptable to receive gifts from friends. In Case 2000, he claimed that he and Mozes were basically fooling each other and had no intention of following through, and argued in Case 4000 that asking for favorable coverage is not bribery.

In April of this year, Netanyahu continued his effort by initially trying to reinstate a 2005 immunity law which gave the Knesset House Committee the power to reject the Attorney General’s request to rescind immunity of any particular MK. In May, Netanyahu planned to push through a new law that would allow the Knesset to protect his immunity. This would have allowed the Knesset to ignore any High Court ruling on administrative matters, including potentially revoking Netanyahu’s immunity.

Netanyahu
For three years, Netanyahu spared no effort to scuttle three criminal cases against him, but failed. These charges and their implications have now become rather clear. Pixabay

And in July, realizing that he couldn’t pass such laws, Netanyahu claimed “No one is changing the law, it doesn’t need to be changed, and I won’t need it at all… it isn’t necessary at all because there has never been anything and there won’t be anything.”

The three indictments were a menacing dark cloud that hovered over Netanyahu’s head, and have had a significant impact on his political decisions. He sought to demonstrate that the charges were largely frivolous and that he is the indispensable leader that will safeguard Israel’s national security.

But the greater impact of these charges on his behavior was more related to the Palestinians. He needed to show toughness and an uncompromising position – not only to cement his right-of-center base, but to demonstrate that he is the only leader who can pursue policies consistent with Israel’s presumed national aspirations to control all of the ‘Land of Israel, including the West Bank. Other than continuing to expand and legalize settlements, he announced more than once that following the formation of a new government, Israel will annex significant chunks of the West Bank, to continue to please his base.

Perhaps the most important impact of the charges was his inability to form a government twice this year, in April and September. Because as a sitting prime minister he would not be indicted, he insisted that under no circumstances would he relinquish that position, knowing that an indictment against him will force him to face trial. This was given an even greater urgency after the second election, when he and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz attempted to form a unity government.

For the same reason, Netanyahu insisted that in a rotating prime ministership which both sides agreed upon, he would serve as prime minister for the first two years. Since Gantz refused, especially given Kahol Lavan’s larger mandate and Netanyahu’s pending indictment, Netanyahu is opting to go for a third election within a year, hoping against hope that he will emerge as the winner with a greater mandate to form a new government.

What is sad about all this is that Netanyahu has all along put his self-interest above the party and the nation. Having served as the longest prime minister in Israel’s history, Netanyahu’s insatiable hunger for power and desperate need to escape the indictment was first and foremost in his mind.

For a man who professes to love his country and has dedicated all his life in the service of the state, he failed to grasp that in the final analysis, Israel’s survival has not and will never depend on a single individual. Had he indeed been concerned with the welfare and the security of Israel, he would have agreed to serve in a rotating unity government with Gantz on Kahol Lavan’s terms, and spared the country the pain of going through a third election. His failure, and the subsequent failure of Gantz himself to form a government, may well push Israel now toward its third election in a single year.

Netanyahu
Perhaps the most important impact of the charges was inability of Netanyahu to form a government twice this year, in April and September. Because as a sitting prime minister he would not be indicted, he insisted that under no circumstances would he relinquish that position, knowing that an indictment against him will force him to face trial. Pixabay

In an open letter to Netanyahu in October, I wrote “It’s time for you to go. There is nothing you can do that others cannot do just as good if not better. Resign your post; turn to the Attorney General to drop the charges against you. The nation will forgive you for your good intentions and some deeds… Unless you want to end up in jail just like your predecessor, spare the nation the humiliation and pain.”

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Sadly, he did not heed such advice, regardless of its source, and now he may very well end up in jail and stigmatize Israel for having been led by corrupt leaders who seem to have always put their personal self-interest above that of the nation.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.