Who's in charge?
January 11, 2019
Chaos in both of my countries: Israel’s government collapses, and calls an election for April 9th; U.S. government is wrapped up in a dispute about the wall, pulls out from Syria, and several other claims about the president.
Israel’s election came under dispute about a bill for drafting Haredim, as well as looming charges against the prime minister. Contenders are clamoring, with a major question focused on Benny Gantz. He’s a tall, handsome, and quiet former head of the IDF who is polling in the range of 11-15 Knesset Members, but hasn’t said much. He recalls Dwight Eisenhower, who in the run-up to the 1952 election was courted by both parties, while in the same posture of quiet on matters political. Guesses about Gantz range from running as the head of his own party, or joining something else in the center or left.
• Gideon Sa’ar seems to be planning to run in Likud’s primary. His wife has resigned as a key reader for Channel One’s news.
• Likud led by Bibi leads in the polls, even while the legal adviser to the government ponders announcing an indictment before or after the election, or not at all.
• Ehud Barak is in the game, as vicious as anyone in criticizing Bibi. He seems to be maneuvering in the center and left of Israeli politics, hoping for someplace to run and hopefully to rule.
• Ari Deri’s SHAS is struggling to get the minimum necessary to enter the Knesset.
• Moshe Kahlon Kulanu party will struggle to remain a minor player. • • Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) will strive to become prime minister.
In the U.S., the stock market tumbles and Trump tweets. He’s thinking of replacing the chair of the Federal Reserve, defending himself against charges of a surprising telephone call with Erdogan after which he announced a pull out of troops from Syria. Stock markets elsewhere are tumbling in response. U.S. Government is partly closed in response to a budget crisis, and the chief seems to be losing support among Republicans in Congress.
Trump is arguing with the departing chief of staff as to whether the wall is really a wall.
There’s plenty in the media about criminal charges against Bibi and Sara, as well as the wildness of son Yair. And the various assertions against Trump as president and businessman.
Will this be Bibi’s last election, or will he pull out or be removed before the voting? And will Trump survive persistent rumblings about an impeachment?
I began this note almost a week ago, a day after it became clear that there’d be an election in Israel. There followed expressions from many of the political claimants, including the still silent Benny Gantz.
There’ll be a number of updates until I send this out.
Chaos is considerable as different individuals indicate their intentions of creating parties or running as candidates in existing parties.
Polls indicate that Bibi and Likud remain in the lead, while a majority of Israelis oppose Bibi as prime minister. Hints of dissatisfaction in Likud, along with strong expressions there of support for Bibi, with or without indictment.
We’re hearing of Gantz’s new party, which Ya’alon, and maybe Livni and Lapid will affiliate with in one way or another.
The Arab conglomerate, United List, is also feeling the pressure, with Ahmed Tibi considering a break and running on his own.
And Bibi is off for a week in Brazil, with more than a few Israelis hoping that he’ll stay as a refugee, along with Sara and Yair.
Ayelet Shaked and Naftaly Bennett have declared the creation of a new party, the New Right, said to be truly conservative, with both secular and religious Jews, against the creation of a Palestinian State, and separate from assertively right wing former colleagues Bezalel Smotrich and Uri Arial. But they indicate that they will coalesce with Jewish Home after the election.
Commentators wondered about their wisdom in praising Netanyahu, but seeking to carve out a place on the right, but perhaps not as extreme, but maybe just as extreme. Much of this won’t make any more sense to American readers than it does to Israelis
We’ll see what happens. This will go on until parties stabilize, if they do, prior to the April voting day.
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Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus), Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.