Earlier today, Likud Knesset Member, David Bitan, who chairs the governing faction in the Knesset, stated on an Israeli talk show that he would try to find a way to strip the citizenship of Hagai El-Ad , executive director of B’Tselem. Bitan described El-Ad’s testimony to a special session of the United Nations Security Council on Israeli settlements as “explicit breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state, and as such he should find himself another citizenship.”
Zehava Gal-On, the Chairwoman of the Meretz party, described Bitan’s comments as “dangerously close to incitement to murder.” That characterization is important considering right wing efforts over the past two years to incite violence against peace and human rights activists in Israel. Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog
Earlier today, it was reported that Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Israel’s right wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has agreed to join the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in the post of Defense
Minister. This is a concerning development for a number of reasons.
The agreement between Lieberman and Netanyahu comes in the wake of Netanyahu’s negotiations to bring the Zionist Union into the government, during which Netanyahu made a point of refusing to offer the Defense portfolio to ZU Chairman Isaac Herzog. While it might seem that Netanyahu turned to Lieberman only because he was unable to come to satisfactory terms with Herzog, Labor Party MK Stav Shaffir is likely correct in observing that “It is now clear that Bibi used (Herzog) in order to bring Lieberman into the government.” That is, Herzog was used as bait. Read more at FMEP’s blog, Facts on the Ground
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won his fourth election last night in surprising fashion. He outdistanced the polls, including the exit polls in the waning hours of voting and won a decisive victory over the Zionist Union and Isaac Herzog. Here are some quick and initial takeaways from the results.
A huge victory for the Right
Even though the right wing/religious bloc in the Knesset didn’t grow, the right gained considerable power relative to
the last Knesset. The last government included two centrist parties, Yesh Atid, and Hatnuah. Yesh Atid actually was the biggest single party in it, with Likud having joined with Avigdor Lieberman’s party to gain a decisive lead in the 2013 elections. Hatnuah, though small, was very important to the coalition, as its head, Tzipi Livni was the fig leaf over the right wing that negotiated with the Palestinians.
This coalition is going to have a very different character. It is quite possible that Netanyahu will get the fully right-wing coalition he wants. It is very possible that the most moderate party in it will be Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu party. Kahlon is at best lukewarm on the two-state solution, although he has been critical of Netanyahu’s refusal to maintain negotiations. He probably described his view best when he said he supported Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. That’s the one Bibi just repudiated in the last days of the campaign. Read more at the FMEP blog.
In the wake of the election, I was part of a panel on France 24 on Wednesday, discussing the elections and their meaning. Along with me were Michael Cohen of the Century Foundation and representatives of both the Labor and Likud parties. Check it out. Part one is here. Part two, here.
New York Magazine’s Q&A with me yesterday:
Tomorrow, Israelis will go to the polls and decide whether they want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies to continue to run the Knesset, or whether they would like Isaac Herzog and the Zionist Union to change things up. The race looks impossibly close, and because this is a parliamentary election and there’s no chance that either of the possible prime ministers can form a government alone, there are a host of smaller parties that hold the government’s future in their grasp. Daily Intel talked to Mitchell Plitnick, program director at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, who explained some of the most important variables to keep an eye on tomorrow — and what potential electoral outcomes could mean for Israel’s relationship with the United States, peace talks with Palestinians, and nuclear talks with Iran. Read More at New York Magazine.
Many people in the United States are keeping a close eye on the Israeli elections, due to take place on March 17. The latest, and last, poll by the Knesset Channel in Israel came out yesterday, and it may open a lot of eyes.
The poll shows the Zionist Camp coalition—Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah— garnering 24 seats, while Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party come in second at 21. The report inHa’aretz analyzes those numbers even further to show that 56 elected Knesset members would likely recommend Herzog to form the next government, while Netanyahu would have the backing of 55. Read more at LobeLog
The media in Israel is abuzz with the news that Tzipi Livni will bring her Ha’Tnuah party into a joint ticket with the much larger Labor party. Now there is a tandem that can outpoll Likud, they are saying. The Israeli center just might be able to assert itself in this election.
Permit me to throw some cold water on this excitement. Livni, who has been the lone voice in the current government who has actively supported talks with the Palestinians, is doing this because if she doesn’t, there is a very strong possibility that her party will not get enough votes to remain in the Knesset. Labor leader Isaac Herzog, who has very little international experience, ran for the party leadership based on his commitment to resolving the long-standing conflict with the Palestinians. As the prospective Number Two, Livni gives Herzog some credibility in this regard. Read more at LobeLog