Guest Post: Thoughts on the Israeli Political Scene by The Male Brain

Following on from my post about how liberty dies, our friend The Male Brain took it upon himself to write out a response to a question I asked him when he commented about how Israel has reacted to the situation. He very kindly answered in the form of a guest post, which I am most pleased to present for general consumption here.

Many thanks as always to Dawn Pine for his continued excellent contributions to my blog.

Part I: The Overall Landscape

Israel is a parliamentary democracy. (Writing that without laughing was not an easy task). The parliament, known as Knesset, is elected about every 3-4 years. I took the next part from Wikipedia:

Three Knesset elections were held during the period without a clear victor or alliance. In the Israeli elections of April 2019, the two major parties, Blue and White and Likud, received an equal number of 35 seats. The Likud received a mandate from the president to attempt to form a government, but Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party failed to arrange a majority coalition of 61 seats. The Knesset was dissolved shortly thereafter.

A second election was held in September 2019. This time, Blue and White overcame the Likud by a single seat. Nonetheless, the Likud received the mandate from the president after gaining the support of one Knesset member more than Blue and White. Netanyahu again failed to form a government, but this time he could not dissolve the Knesset. Therefore, the mandate passed to Benny Gantz, who also failed to achieve a majority. The President passed the mandate to the Knesset members for 21 days. After no other candidate was offered, the Knesset was dissolved.

In March 2020, the third election was held. This time, Likud gained more seats than Blue and White, but Gantz achieved more recommendations from potential allies in the Knesset and received the mandate from the president. Gantz nevertheless was unable to unite enough allies into a coalition. His bloc was still agreed to replace the Speaker of the Knesset. Following this, the former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein refused to convene the plenary to vote on his replacement. His refusal created a constitutional crisis. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered Edelstein to convene the Knesset. Following this Edelstein resigned. Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic in Israel worsened, which precipitated negotiations for a national emergency government. On March 26, Gantz was sworn in as the new Knesset Speaker, with the support of the Likud party, causing a split in Blue and White. Finally, on 20 April 2020, the Likud and Blue and White agreed on an equal unity government, which includes a "rotation agreement" between Gantz and Netanyahu on the prime minister's chair.

Part 2: The People Involved

Netanyahu has been the longest reining PM in the history of Israel. His first term in the 1990s was bad. This is usually what happens to every new PM in Israel, unless one has been around politics for a long time. My stand on this is that you cannot become CEO unless you have been a VP first. He was also the treasury minister during the post Dot-Com bubble and did good things. Since 2009 he has been PM.

His main shortcoming is the lack of trustworthiness. The guy lies with a straight face.

If you think Trump is being harassed by the media, you should see how Bibi (as he is called) is being treated here. He is the focus of everything "wrong".

The other candidate, Benni Gantz, was an Army meteor. He moved up in a fast pace till he reached the pyramid top. He was a joint chief of staff (in Israel it is actually the "command and chief"). I was totally not impressed with his performance, but that is my opinion. He went into business and failed as a chairman of a technology company. So he joined politics.

His main shortcoming is the lack of will to get his hands dirty. He joined an already set party as number 1, but didn't seem interested to engage in political warfare.

Predictions and My Thoughts

I want to refer to House M.D. on that. That series was so good, it can actually teach us a few things:
  1. "Everybody lies" – Instead of trying to figure out who is telling the truth, which makes one's life very complicated and anxious – just assume those politicians lie. In our case – both parties lie. Both want power, and to stay in office (Duh!). However, Bibi has a recorded history of breaking promises.
  2. "Everybody makes mistakes and eventually pays for them" – That include leaders only that other people pay for their mistakes. In our case – Gantz lost the game of "chicken", broke down his party (which already was a collection of parties and interest groups). But he will be deputy PM, and others will pay for his mistake.
  3. "Trust the symptoms, not what the patient is telling you" – This is a version of "Actions Speak Louder than Words". Remember how he always sent the doctors to the patient house to scan for clues? In our case – the focus of the negotiations and coalition agreement was not on the pandemic. It was about slicing the cake, rotation and protecting Bibi from the courts.
  4. "You can't always get what you want" – Ok, that one is Mick Jagger. Gantz wants to be PM, Bibi want to survive another term. At least one of them won't get it. Most bet on Bibi to get what he wants. That guy has a track record of getting it.

[Totally agree about House, M.D. I really liked that show - at least, up until about season 6. - Didact]

The current status is that for the first time a coalition agreement is discussed in the Supreme Court. This is exceptionally bad, as the judicious branch takes power over the legislative and operative arms. Deep state? "Benevolent" dictatorship? You got it. As of today if the court does not approve it, or legislation is not completed – we are going for the fourth election in 1.5 years. That's bad, really bad.

The main thing in the agreement is the rotation. In 1.5 years Bibi should step down as PM and Gantz should replace him. In politics this is like eternity. My prediction is that in the unlikely event we reach that time with everything intact, something will happen. If not, the elections will be earlier.

Unlike a lot of people, I think that Jews/Israelis are not that special. This is why this particular case represent universal dynamic in politics. Only time will tell.


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