What? Elect the 120 Knesset members, who will determine which 61+ Knesset members will select the Prime Minister and run the country (in conjunction with the Deep State, the oligarchs, and the media).
When? April 9, 2019
Why? No reason. The government will already have served just over four years, and Israeli governments never serve the full term (which ends the first November after the four-year mark). Political gamesmanship always leads to early elections. Bibi’s legal troubles may also have played a role in advancing the elections.
Who will win? Bibi Netanyahu, probably with a coalition similar to the current one.
Israelis love Bibi that much? No. He’s kind of a jerk. But he’s been a good (great?) prime minister and political manipulator. It’s extremely unlikely anyone else can form a coalition. Most parties are jockeying for position within the next Bibi government.
Is there a nationalist populist than can upend the establishment as in the US, Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Brazil…? Yeah. Bibi.
And if he goes to prison? He’d have to step down. Because in prison he’d be surrounded by the wrong kind of criminals (the kind that got caught).
What are the issues? None that I can find.
That is, the issues that dominated Israeli politics forever still exist, but they’re a lot less concrete, binary and inflammatory today.
The number one issue, as always, is what coalition do you want if the American president tries to force a “peace” deal on Israel? This may become relevant again in 2021. Or with the Trump peace deal, which is due right after infrastructure week. But it’s a hard question to campaign on in 2019.
Whereas in past elections parties campaigned on “I will make peace” or “I will prevent suicidal ‘peace’ deals” today they’re campaigning on “I will be better at fighting Hamas,” “I will draft more ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students into the army,” “I will build a little more in Judea and Samaria” or “I told you Bibi was corrupt.”
The parties have (or will have) economic platforms (on paper). But their own representatives usually won’t know or care about them. Neither will most voters.
So we have the standard peace/war and secular/traditional/Religious Zionist/Ultra-Orthodox divisions but we’re fighting between the 40-yard lines. Pending unknowable future events, which are hard to campaign on.
So, a boring election? No, it’s fascinating. The left and sectoral parties have been destroyed and new parties are rushing to fill the void.
Polls show about 30 seats going to new parties barely distinguishable from the Likud, and they join existing Likud-clones fighting with the Likud for most of the electorate.
Each of these parties hopes to replace Labor as Israel’s second biggest party, and maybe provide the leader who will succeed Bibi (though probably not in 2019).
So who will succeed Bibi? Probably a Bibi clone. Similar personality, politics, and positions. Probably male (though there’s also Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked), probably Ashkenazi, probably secular but liked by the religious, probably with an impressive military background, probably center-right, and probably from the Likud.
What happened to the sectoral parties? Their voters became Israelis, and their issues and interests became similar enough to everybody else’s.
What happened to the left? They’ve been proven wrong. They lost the argument, the demographics, and their media monopoly.
Withdrawals have been a disaster. Israel has about as much peace as it wants with many of its Arab neighbors. And of other Arab entities, there’s no one to talk to and no serious conversation to be had.
What happened to all the anger and polarization? Netflix.
Twenty years ago most Israeli prime time TV was politicians and pundits yelling at each other. There were only the two Israeli channels, and talk shows were the cheapest to produce. Now Israel has internet, satellite and cable TV. Israelis rarely watch Israeli TV, and when they do, it’s mostly the original versions of shows that Netflix will buy and translate.
And more importantly, the issues are less concrete and divisive than they were not long ago, as described above.
Any chance Bibi loses? No party will be able to form a coalition to the Likud’s left or right. But if the Likud and Likud-clones are fighting for 70% of the seats, it’s possible that a Likud-clone could lead a Likud-like coalition. Unlikely, but possible. Also, prosecutors may succeed where rival politicians failed.
So, no danger? Well … parties running as Likud-clones may later turn left. Israelis have thrown Knesset seats at ridiculous parties with no real platform before. Votes will be lost to parties that don’t clear the electoral threshold. Theoretically, these could combine to form a dangerous governing coalition.
People who laughed at Trump’s candidacy should be humble about their predictions. Approach all elections with humility and fear. But all that said, none of the bad scenarios seem likely.
What can Americans learn from this? That it gets better. Or at least it can. Israeli politics was far more divisive and dysfunctional when Bibi won and lost the Prime Ministership in the ’90s than American politics is today. Sure, there are major differences, including different demographic forces.
But some underlying issues and forces are similar.
Populist pushback against a left-leaning governing class that was wrong on the key issues and that grew too fat, corrupt, insular, self-dealing and hateful of the people it governs. And whose dirty tricks to maintain power may come up short.
Israel’s populist/nationalist right survived the storm and ushered in an era of relative internal and external peace and prosperity. May God bless America with the same.Published in