The Israeli Election – Part 1 (the results) – TWTW – 22 March, 2015

Shalom all,
And the winners are … [Israel Hayom, 18 March, 2015]

Israel held its national elections on March 17th. The pollsters predicted that Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu’s right-leaning Likud Party would be replaced by the center-left Zionist Union, which is a partnership made up of the Labor Party, chaired by Isaac (“Boji”) Herzog, and the Hatnua Party, which is considerably smaller and headed up by Tzipi Livni. As is often the case, the pollsters were wrong. When the votes were all in and counted, the Likud and Bibi were the walk-away winners, with the Prime Minister capturing his third, consecutive term and fourth term in office. 


How the voting went for the 10 most-successful parties:
Party
Description
No. of Seats
Likely to Join Coalition
Total Coalition Seats
Likud 
Right
30
x
30
Zionist Union
Center-Left
24
Joint Arab List
13
Yesh Atid
Center
11
Kulanu
Center-Right
10
x
10
Jewish Home
Nationalist-Right
8
x
8
Shas
Orthodox (R or L)
7
x
7
Yisrael Beyteinu
Nationalist-Right
6
x
6
United Torah Judaism
Orthodox (R or L)
6
x
6
Meretz
Very Left
5
67 out of 120
The Israeli system takes a bit getting used to. Unlike elections in most places, in Israel, the one with the most votes does not necessarily end up becoming the Prime Minister. The President of Israel, who is currently Reuven Rivlin, makes the decision whom he will ask to form the new government. Rivlin has also indicated that Israel needs to form a government as quickly as possible, and invited representatives of the parties to meet with him yesterday (Sunday) to move this matter along. In all likelihood, the call will go to Netanyahu and he will have a month and a half to make the deals that will allow the new government to come into existence. If he fails to accomplish this task, the President can ask someone else to give it a try.
Everyone is aware of the two major issues that were the focus of most of the parties during the campaign, namely: security, with special emphasis on the threat from Iran, and economic-related matters, such as the cost-of-living and, particularly, the high cost of housing. The “right” focused more on security, while the “left” directed its attention more on the economy. Each had its advantages and, of course, its disadvantages. The outcome of the elections have far-reaching implications for Israel from the point of view of the Iranian, nuclear threat, the relationship with the present U.S. administration, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the relationship with Egypt, just to name a few.
There was a major push by the leftist parties and most of the mainstream media to remove Netanyahu. The slogan of the left was “anyone-but-Netanyahu”, as it tried to blame the Prime Minister for all of the economic woes facing Israel at this time. It was reminiscent of the accusations of those who oppose Israel and blame it for all of the problems existing in not only the Middle East, but in the world as well. In this regard, an intense effort was also made by the left to draw attention away from the public persona of its leading candidates, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. 
Both Netanyahu and the dynamic duo of Herzog and Livni made last-ditch efforts to appeal to their respective constituents and, possibly even draw voters from the other’s camp. Livni said that she would even be willing to forego the agreed-upon rotation with Herzog, which would have enabled her to serve as Prime Minister, if the Zionist Union would succeed in the election and would be given first option to form a coalition government. For his part, the Prime Minister said that a “Palestinian” state would not be established on his watch, pointing out, in part, that areas under “Palestinian” rule would eventually become a stronghold for Hamas, as happened after the 2005 withdrawal from Gush Katif, north of Gaza. Needless to say, Netanyahu’s comments drew harsh criticism from P.A. chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, and P.A. “Foreign Minister”, Riad al-Maliki, as well as others, not the least of which was President Barack Hussein Obama.
Israelis heard the pollsters, who gave the Zionist Union either a 3 or 4-seat lead over the Likud. This seeming advantage balanced out the night before the election and it was, essentially, a two-party race to the finish line. Early voting results continued to favor Herzog over Netanyahu, but as the polling places closed and the votes were counted, the advantage shifted to the Prime Minister, who pulled away with a 6-seat lead over Herzog. It was a last-minute sprint to the finish line and Netanyahu seemed to pull the rabbit out of the hat to the joy of many and to the dismay of many others.
This election saw a tremendous voter turnout, the likes of which Israel hasn’t experienced since the late 1990’s. This was not simply an election where the Israeli public was being asked to choose between Bibi and Boji. There were some two dozen political parties, all vying for representation in the next Knesset. And there were lots of small issues. But the big issues were clear: security versus economics. Whatever may be said of the average Israeli (if such a person exists), one thing cannot be said of him, namely: that he is gullible. The public, in no small measure thought through the issues, went to the polling stations and cast their votes. They chose security over economics. And the reason is simple and should be understandable, even by those who can’t find anything good to say about the Likud or about Netanyahu (of whom there are many): Life takes precedence over quality of life (a perspective that has consequences in many areas). It will not benefit someone to have a nice residence, a good job and creature comforts, if his life is in constant danger from enemies near and far, who are determined to kill him, or drive him out of the neighborhood and take over his home and possessions. Even certain individuals who will continue to be members of the next Knesset are determined to join ranks with our enemies, knowingly or unwittingly, and to do all that they can to weaken our country and cause it to yield and succumb to international pressure. At this point, Netanyahu is the figurehead who will bear the brunt of the attacks from homegrown, as well as from foreign, politicians and nations. The verbal goal is to bring down Netanyahu, but the ultimate goal is to destroy Israel.
And so, with the votes tallied and the results in, coalition talks began yesterday, as President Rivlin met with representatives from six parties today and is expected to meet with four others today (Monday). He denounced what he referred to as “hateful” remarks that were made during the electioneering and called for a “healing” of Israeli society: “The government which will be formed may have been chosen by a majority of the public, but it needs to accommodate all of the Israeli public; Jews, Arabs, left and right, north and south, center and periphery … [and] now is the time to begin the process of mending and healing Israeli society”, which underwent, in his words, a “tempestuous and passion-filled” election campaign. He urged “everyone, Jews and Arabs alike, to refrain from mutual incitement and provocation”, referring to the “harsh and hurtful” words expressed by both Jewish and Arab candidates during the campaign.
Moshe Kahlon, head of the newly-formed Kulanu (“All of Us”) Party, garnered 10 seats for the new Knesset. He is a former member of the Likud and is considered the swing-man, who can make or break the anticipated rightist coalition government. He served as a former communication’s minister, who succeeded to make Israel’s cellular phone market much more competitive, which was no small accomplishment in this start-up nation, which can re-invent the wheel. At this point, it is widely presumed that Kahlon wants to be appointed as the Minister of Finance. But, more importantly, he wants his party to have control of the Knesset Finance Committee, a move which would enable him to bring about much-needed economic reforms to lower the cost of living, reforms that would affect not only the housing and construction industry, but also the banking industry. He does not intend to make life easy for Netanyahu and has threatened not to join the coalition, unless his various demands are met. In this regard, Kahlon posted a note on his Facebook page just before the weekend, stating: “Kulanu is a party that has a clear path…The election results are clear, but our path was and remains the essence. Our intention is to extract from these coalition talks exactly what we promised the public. We didn’t come here just to talk and to occupy a post…We came to foment change, we came to solve problems, we came to remedy Israeli society…Nobody has a birthright to be in the government. None of us have to be there.”
Interestingly, ynetnew.com (the English-language newspaper that belongs to Yediot Aharonot, which made every effort to topple Benjamin Netanyahu and to prevent him from beging re-elected) published an “open letter to Moshe Kahlon” today (22 March), acknowledging that he can determine what type of coalition government will be formed. As the writer states, at the outset: “The keys are in your hands, Kahlon, and a huge responsibility rests on your shoulders. Opportunities like this don’t come around every day. And one such opportunity has fallen into your lap. A historic one perhaps. In politics, anything can happen. A unity government too. But the chances of that are slim. Very slim. The two sides will court you. And the decision will be yours to make. You are the crowner of kings. And thus, it’s time for some soul searching.” 
Clearly, Kahlon’s political re-entry at this time will affect not only what type of government will be formed, but how that government is expected to function. He is a man to keep an eye on, as well as to pray for. If Kahlon joins with Netanyahu, the coalition government that will be formed will be “rightist” in its make-up. If he chooses to join forces with the Zionist Union (Herzog and Livni), then Netanyahu will have a difficult time forming a coalition government without including smaller parties, each of which will have its own political agenda and who will push for compromises to bring that agenda to fruition.
While it is expected that Netanyahu will be given the “go ahead” to form a new government, it is clear that whoever will head up the government will have to deal with a multitude of issues, some of which include the following: high cost of living; housing prices; social-justice issues and the widening socio-economic gap between the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged; health care and welfare reform; education reform; job creation and, of course, the defense budget, as well as the still unapproved state budget for the next year. This is in addition to the threat of annihilation from Iran, the threat of another war with Hamas, the threat of another war with Hizb’allah and the ongoing war with terrorism. Not to be forgotten (how could we?) is the seemingly never-ending conflict with the “Palestinians”, which, oddly enough, did not play a major role in the recent election. But, they continue to threaten to pursue statehood independently of any negotiations with Israel, through the U.N. and the court of world opinion. If this wasn’t enough, there is the “Palestinian” threat to bring about prosecution of Israelis in the International Criminal Court. Saving the best of the worst for last, the next government will have to work overtime to mend the fences between Israel and the U.S. and restore relationships. More on this in the next post.
I watched as the outcome of this election brought cheers from a few and condemnations from many. With what I see of the way things are going here and what I see of the way things are going across the Big Muddy, I, personally, would much prefer to live with a Netanyahu nation than with an Obama nation.
“***I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes.” (Deuteronomy 1:15)
[The] Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes.” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32)
Have a great week. 
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin
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