On Tuesday, Israel held its second national election this year. With most of the ballots counted, neither Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition nor Benny Gantz’s Blue
and White grouping had enough support for their parties and their natural allies to form a new government. The absentee ballots and those of the active military are still due to be counted, so there might yet be some minor changes in the final tally, but it will not be enough to grant either of the largest parties a majority coalition.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has the job of deciding how to proceed. He can tap the leader of any party to try to form a majority or he can try to work out an arrangement for a government of national unity between Likud and Blue and White, among other options. What he will do remains a mystery, as there is no obvious and clear path to the next government.
The reason for the impasse is the same as it was back in April—Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party. His refusal to join Netanyahu’s coalition in April, unless Netanyahu stepped down and allowed for a government of national unity, eventually led to this second round of elections, and his stance is not only unchanged, his party picked up four more Knesset seats, so his position is even stronger now.
So was it all for naught?
Not quite. While the next Israeli government is unlikely to materialize for some time, and when it does, its basic policies are unlikely to be very different than they have been for the past years—even if, as seems likely at the moment, Netanyahu is finally ousted—this election established some important facts that should not be overlooked. Here are a few of them. Read more at LobeLog
A familiar face has introduced something new into the upcoming Israeli elections in September. Former prime minister Ehud Barak has formed a new party ahead of those elections and is working to unite the most left-wing Zionist parties behind him.
Barak characterized his new party as a challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and for the moment, that’s what it is. But it is also an effort to unseat Avigdor Liberman from his position as kingmaker. Liberman has thrown the Israeli electoral system into disarray by essentially demanding that Likud, without Netanyahu, and Benny Gantz’s and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White coalition form a unity government. Read more at LobeLog
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today brought the one right wing party in the opposition, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, into the government. This capped a tumultuous period where Netanyahu appeared to be courting the centrist Zionist Union party, raising a great deal of anger within that party from members, including most of the party leadership, that opposed such a deal.
MK Stav Shaffir, the #3 on the list of Labor Party MKs (Labor is the largest party in Zionist Union) has already been vocal in her opposition to joining the government. Now that the episode appears to have reached its conclusion, she issued a statement, in Hebrew, on her Facebook page calling on Herzog to resign.
MK Stav Shaffir, the #3 on the Labor Party list in Israel, has long made it clear that she opposes her party’s entry into the governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She is far from alone in this. Many notable Knesset Members from the Zionist Union party (which is composed of the Labor Party and the smaller Ha’Tnuah party), including #2 Shelly Yachimovich and Ha’Tnuah head Tzipi Livni among others, have made it clear that they oppose such a decision.
You know who could lead Labor to not only a victory of most Knesset seats, but perhaps even a liberal revival in Israel and a governing coalition without the right? Not Herzog, not Livni, certainly not Yachimovich, and not, as much as I admire her, Zehava Galon. It is Stav Shafir who can do that. I paste below a brief exchange between Shaffir and Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter a short while ago. English translation follows the Hebrew (and it’s my translation, so forgive any flaws, please).
כשאנחנו מדברים על מחירי הדיור, על יוקר המחייה, אני לרגע לא שוכח את החיים עצמם. האתגר הגדול ביותר לחיינו כעת הוא התחמשות איראן בנשק גרעיני
@netanyahu שש שנים ומסר אחד יש לך לבני ובנות הדור שלי: תגידו תודה שאתם בחיים ותשתקו. מצטערת, ביבי, החיים שלנו שווים הרבה יותר מהתירוצים האלה
האתגרים של אזרחי ישראל הם רבים. אי אפשר להפריד בין האתגר הבטחוני לאתגרי היום יום שהולכים ומתרבים. זה היה התפקיד שלך לפתור, ונכשלת
Netanyahu: When we speak about housing prices, on the cost of living, I do not forget for one minute the lives themselves. The greatest challenge to our lives right now is a nuclear Iran.
Shaffir: Six years, and you have only one message to the sons and daughters of my generation: Say “thank you” that you are alive and shut up. Sorry, Bibi, our lives are worth a lot more than these excuses. There are a great many challenges for the citizens of Israel. It is impossible to separate the security challenge and the everyday challenges that are multiplying. This was YOUR problem to solve, and you failed.
Mitchell Plitnick: And that’s why I am so very impressed with Stav Shaffir.