Israel: Netanyahu sends nation back to polls
Here we go again, said Jonathan Lis in Haaretz. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition, the Knesset voted last week to dissolve itself and hold a new election—“just seven weeks after the previous one.” In the April vote, Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with the opposition Blue and White party of former military chief of staff Benny Gantz and got first crack at forming a coalition. But Netanyahu’s bid to rebuild his previous alliance of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties was foiled by his former defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He is the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular, nationalist party dominated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union who resent that the ultra-Orthodox are exempt from military service. Instead of wearing a uniform, young Haredim study the Torah. In return for his support, Lieberman demanded that Netanyahu limit the exemption, something the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox allies will never allow. Lieberman has done us a favor, said David Rosenberg, also in Haaretz. With their high birth rate, the Haredim—who make up 10 percent of the population—“are the fastest-growing segment of society.” Yet they teach their children nothing useful and don’t help defend the nation. The new election, set for September, could become a long-overdue referendum on the Haredim.
It’s not Lieberman’s fault that we have to vote again—it’s Netanyahu’s, said Yossi Beilin in Israel Hayom. Israel was supposed to have an election in November, not April. But after learning that he’d soon be charged with multiple counts of bribery and corruption, Netanyahu pushed it forward “to avoid running for prime minister while under indictment.” After Netanyahu failed to form a coalition by the deadline, Gantz should have been given a chance. But a Gantz government would not pass the immunity bill that Netanyahu is counting on to keep him out of prison, so the prime minister pushed for dissolution of the Knesset and sent us to an unprecedented second election.
It’s going to be an ugly one, said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. Netanyahu is “fighting for political and personal survival,” and he is already smearing the hard-right Lieberman as a “leftist.” Similar mudslinging can be expected from Blue and White, because the bloc is “an amalgamation of different parties from across the political spectrum,” united only in their loathing of Netanyahu. And at the end of all this squabbling, another hung Knesset is likely.
The one thing we know for sure, said Shimrit Meir in Yedioth Ahronoth, is that this second election puts the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan of President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on hold yet again—possibly forever. No Israeli can possibly entertain a dialogue about concessions to Palestinians during election season. And after, who knows what the next government will do? “It seems that Trump’s ambitious ‘Deal of the Century’ will end with a whimper.” ■