It has been maddening – nothing less. There has been no solid ground in the political sphere. And so I begin today with a piece by astute commentator Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish (emphasis added):
“’It is important for me to emphasize that the only ones who determine who the prime minister will be are Israeli voters. That is the essence of democracy,’ Prime Minister Netanyahu recently said.
“That is what’s at stake here.
“Fake news and fake cases have been used by the media and by political operatives to mask a real coup.
“How do you win an election when voters won’t vote for you? You lie, cheat, and smear. And when that doesn’t work, it’s time to roll out secret investigations, midnight raids, and politically motivated trials.
“What’s at stake in America and Israel is whether voters or unelected officials run the country…
“The indictment is based on the system’s expectation that it can take down Netanyahu and the Right. Or, as Caroline Glick recently put it, the opposition ‘stands on two planks – destroying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and eternalizing the regime of Israel’s unelected bureaucrats.’
“And Netanyahu is making clear that it’s either him or the bureaucrats.
“The actual case or cases against Prime Minister Netanyahu, as against President Trump, are a joke. They depend on media leaks, intimidation by political operatives within law enforcement and the judiciary, and a lot of hand-wringing about the moral downfall of the nation with very little evidence…
“The coups in America and Israel are a deeper struggle between elected and unelected officials, between open and closed systems, between freedom and tyranny, and between media power and people power…
“As Netanyahu said, this comes down to the question of who determines who will run the country.
“Will it be the voters or the lawyers?”
This, my friends, is why Netanyahu should not resign: even as some commentators who are dedicated Zionists call for him to do so for the good of the country. For him to withdraw is to allow the manipulators to win, and that is not good for the country.
Last week we saw one political figure of integrity emerge from the political morass of recent weeks: Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, who was a refusenik of considerable courage in the 1980s.
Yuli decided that sitting by and doing nothing in the face of a political crisis was not an acceptable option. And for that, I salute him. He stepped forward to try to prevent a third election.
“Everyone knows Israel is in the midst of a governmental emergency…” he declared last Wednesday. “This is a moment of truth for Israeli politics. This is the time to choose between leadership and cowardice. This is the time to say enough is enough.” (Emphasis added)
As a first step, he met separately with Likud and Blue & White negotiators, and succeeded in convincing both parties to meet for marathon negotiations on Sunday evening. The proposal he put forward was one in which Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for some five or six months (until such time as he will go to trial), after which Gantz would become prime minister for two years; subsequently Netanyahu might return to that post or else whoever had won a Likud primary and was at the head of the Likud list.
This was immediately shot down by Blue & White, with Moshe Ya’alon insisting that his party would not sit with Netanyahu until he had been cleared of all charges. Said Gantz, “…we do not rule out Netanyahu the man but the indicted Netanyahu.”
What convoluted garbage. More vociferous still was Yair Lapid, who insisted that Gantz had to stop all negotiations with Netanyahu. According to a Jewish Press report, this had frustrated Gantz, who would like to avoid additional elections.
Blue & White’s vile advancement of this position – that it cannot sit with or negotiate with someone who is indicted – is one more indication of the degree to which a legal process has been politicized. Or, more accurately, was crafted for political purposes.
Once again, we see a refusal to accord Netanyahu the basic right to be considered innocent until such time as it might be determined otherwise in a court of law. Last Monday, Attorney General Mandelblit had ruled that Netanyahu did not have to step down from his position now because of the impending indictment.
Yesterday (Sunday) morning, at the Cabinet meeting, head of Likud negotiations Minister Yariv Levin said:
“It is impossible for anyone to nominate himself as the moral guard and think his morals are better than the morals of two and a half million citizens who want to see Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
“We can’t expect anyone to act with arrogance…as we see from the Blue & White party throughout what was supposed to be the negotiations…
“The responsibility lies entirely with one person and he is Gantz. He must stop working for Yair Lapid and stop fearing Yair Lapid and will eventually come to serious negotiations.”
Gantz’s behavior suggests a failure of leadership (and thus another reason to be frightened of the notion of him as prime minister). It is my opinion that if he really believes that a third election would not be good for the country, it would be his business to advance negotiations – breaking off from Lapid if necessary.
On Sunday night, the report was that Netanyahu pledged to leave his post as prime minister and turn it over to Gantz at the end of six months.
Additionally, there were reports of a proposal that Lapid and his Yesh Atid party sit out the first six months of a unity government, only joining after Gantz became prime minister. Unsurprisingly, this was not well received by Lapid, as this would defeat his goal of bringing Netanyahu down.
As I write now, late in the day on Monday, there is no clear indication that negotiations are at an end. In fact, Edelstein was meeting with Lapid. And thus there is some faint hope of a unity agreement that might still come to pass. But it is very faint. A third election does seem to be staring us in the face.
It made the news today that Gantz’s people have stopped collecting signatures in support of Benny Gantz forming a coalition.
We are now in the 21 day period during which any MK, supported by 61 signatures of MKs, would be given two weeks to establish a coalition. Signature collection for Gantz has been halted because Lieberman has said he would not join a coalition on either side. This is considerably different from what Lieberman had said only recently, but then, he is part of the political whirlwind that keeps us spinning. There is little point in belaboring his thinking further.
What matters is not that Gantz cannot form a coalition without Lieberman (he would have been short even with Lieberman) but rather that Lieberman’s backing off would prevent Netanyahu from doing so.
It is important to note that beyond the range of that political whirlwind, Israel has continued to function in normal fashion. We were not, are not, collapsing. In fact, in some respects we are going very well.
Today Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about the conversation he just had with President Trump regarding plans to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.
“These are things we could only have dreamed about before now, but now we have an opportunity to make them happen,” he declared. “I therefore offered Benny Gantz a proposal – let’s utilize these historic opportunities in a unity government we’ll form now, in accordance with [a plan he offered to serve only four months]. I went very far with this offer, because …right now we need to form this government for the sake of Israel’s security, and the…future of Israel.”
Blue & White has not formally responded, but initial response was not positive. We all know the old story: “You can lead a horse to water, but…”
Last week we confiscated a huge quantity of dual use items – including military and electronic equipment such as skimmers, knives, scuba gear, drones, satellite communications equipment, binoculars and more – that was going to be smuggled into Gaza for terrorist purposes.
On Friday, we were bombarded with a barrage of projectiles – which caused no damage – after a 16 year old Gaza died during riots at the fence. Israel responded with strikes on a Hamas military compound.
With regard to the north, we are responding with vigor.
I cited Ruthie Blum on this in my last posting; she wrote about Netanyahu, who is not slacking off and continues to demonstrate “determination to confront the country’s greatest existential threat…”
Now, according to a news report, Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett has announced his intention to increase operations against Iran in Syria, with the goal of pushing Iran out of Syria entirely.
That’s quite a goal, and I am not certain it is entirely realistic. But it is headed in the right direction.
He has reportedly shared his intentions with “senior officials” in the US and Russia, who were on board with regard to this approach.
And there is more concerning Bennett that is good news:
Last week he announced that he would be instituting a new policy: Terrorists’ bodies will no longer be transferred to their families, irrespective of which terror organization the terrorist belonged to or the type of attack the terrorist carried out or attempted to carry out.
Bennett arrived at this decision after consultation with several defense officials on the matter of deterrence. The policy must still be passed by the Security Cabinet.
Mark my words, there are some bleeding hearts here who are going to object to this out of concern for the suffering of the family. We, or some of us, are daft, you see. If this policy is instituted it may well be challenged in the courts. But bravo!
And then on Sunday, big news from Bennett:
He has ordered the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to notify the Hevron municipality of the planning a new Jewish neighborhood in the historic Jewish marketplace.
The new neighborhood will create a territorial continuum from the Cave of the Patriarchs to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood and double the number of Jewish residents in the city.
The marketplace was owned by Jews prior to the 1929 Hevron massacre in which the Jewish community was destroyed; it has sat abandoned for decades. The old buildings in the market will be demolished as part of the construction and new stores will be built in their place. The rights of Arabs on the ground floor will be preserved.
The decision was made at the end of a series of discussions held by the Defense Minister with the Public Service Administration, the Civil Administration, and the Shin Bet.
Already there are objections being voiced to this decision by the Arabs and other leftists. I will be tracking this, and exploring the history of Hevron – and its ancient and important Jewish connection.
There is good reason to be delighted with the actions that Bennett is taking now, and what occurs to me is that it is a pity he was not appointed to his current post – which he had eagerly sought – sooner. Politics and personal animosities had gotten in the way. As we say, haval, it is to be regretted.
But here we are, and glad for what he is doing, while mindful that his appointment is only interim. One has the sense that he is moving quickly to accomplish as much as he can, in whatever time will be allotted to him (depending on whether a unity government is established or we go to elections).
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.