Elections: Endgame

The Israeli government has called for a second general election to take place on September 17, 2019. Accordingly, I’ve decided to continue my series on Israeli politics. It is available as a video below, but if you can’t watch or would prefer not to, a summary has been provided further down. Additionally, feel free to discuss or ask questions in the comments, being mindful of site rules regarding hate speech, threats, or personal attacks.

At the end of an Israeli election, the Knesset comes into session and basically votes to recommend one of their members to be chosen by the President to become the new Prime Minister.

However, that doesn’t automatically make that person Prime Minister: first, he or she has to corral together a coalition government from the disparate parties, and there is a set deadline to do that. For Benjamin Netanyahu, that deadline was midnight on Thursday, May 30.

According to the Basic Laws of Israel, the President must then choose a new candidate for Prime Minister, at which point the process of forming a government will start over again. But because the Knesset is already in session, it was always theoretically possible to dissolve the government and call new elections instead, and now that has actually happened.

The reason for this is, as I predicted, because Avidgor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu was unwilling to compromise with the religious parties over the military conscription of ultra-orthodox Jews, but there were hints of other issues at play. On the night that the Knesset was dissolved, the opposition attempted to filibuster the vote to call new elections, and during that period, Prime Minister Netanyahu reached out to the left-wing Labor Party, which is my party, and made some pretty shocking offers, such as making Shelly Yachimovich Justice Minister, making Amir Peretz President, and dropping Netanyahu’s own proposed bill to immunize himself from criminal prosecution. Never before had the depth of Netanyahu’s desperation become this clear.

At the same time however, Netanyahu succeeded in calling new elections rather than being passed over in favor of Gantz, which at this point is the best outcome he could have hoped for. So it’s weird to hear non-Israeli media react to this the way it has. When Netanyahu barely and only nominally held on in the April election, it was treated in the US and Britain as a stunning triumph, but now that he has succeeded in calling new elections, it is being treated as his downfall. US President Donald Trump is similarly unhappy with the situation and seems to believe that this was the work of the opposition (in reality, only the Communist Hadash-Taal broke rank with the center-left to back the new elections, hoping to poach more Arab support from the fringier Ra’am-Balad).

The most important thing to understand right now is that while this is a new election, this isn’t a new election cycle. Imagine having two American presidential elections five and a half months apart. The issues are the same, the candidates are the same, so almost everything I’ve talked about in my series so far still stands. And the public are deeply unhappy to go through this again, to the point that proper campaigning is still nowhere to be seen.

The good news out of all of this is that this gives me an opportunity to cover some topics in Israeli government that I didn’t get to during the previous election, so look forward to that. For The Avocado, I’m Sam Aronow, and my God have mercy on our souls.