This is a posting of utmost seriousness, my friends, about a subject that is both weighty and complex. I will do my best to clarify.
We’re not looking at an election that is “simply” a contest between two candidates with somewhat different opinions and styles: We are talking about radical differences.
And we are not looking at a campaign process that has been measured – sort of an extended civil debate on the issues. Quite the contrary! What has been going on has been ugly and distressful.
At the core of the campaign, we have the Likud, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
And the “Zionist Camp,” a merger of Labor and Hatenua, which are headed respectively by Yitzhak “Buji” Herzog and Tzipi Livni. It sometimes refers to itself as the “Zionist Union,” although “Camp” is the direct translation from the Hebrew.
Credit: The Guardian
For the moment, we will put the other parties aside, although I will come back them.
For those alarmed by the prospect of a Herzog-Livni government, the question is how to vote to prevent this disaster from occurring. There is huge concern right now because the current polls put the Zionist camp ahead of Likud. It’s no comfort that traditionally these polls are often wrong: the prospect remains truly terrifying.
Why is the prospect of a Herzog-Livni government a disaster? Because we live in very dangerous times, within an exceedingly dangerous neighborhood, and nothing about the former policies of Herzog and Livni or the goals that they are promoting now remotely suggest that they would have either the wisdom or the strength needed to stand for Israel.
This is a very serious matter. In my book, a matter that trumps the other issues. There is, for example, a housing problem here in Israel. No question. Responsibility for this problem falls on many shoulders going back over time. It must be debated and solutions must be found. But – Heaven forbid – if we are overrun by radical Islamists/terrorists because of a weak government, the housing issue becomes moot. Does it not?
Back when Tzipi Livni was foreign minister, I was present at a talk she gave at a conference. She was explaining why Israel had to relinquish Judea and Samaria: Because this would make the world like us better, and we need international support. Dear Heaven! How I deplore this attitude. I walked out.
Livni was foreign minister in 2006, at the time of the Second Lebanon War, and served as a sort of Israeli diplomatic nursemaid to Security Council Resolution 1701, which provided the structure for Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the formation of UNIFIL – UN forces charged with working with the Lebanese army to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.
Originally 1701 was supposed to have been established under Chapter 7 of the Security Council, which would have meant it had enforceability. But it was scaled back to a Chapter 6, which means there was no enforceability. What Livni said was “so we got [Chapter] 7 minus” – a breathtakingly stupid and meaningless statement. There is, of course, no such thing. And yet she did not protest and said that this resolution was good for Israel: she took enormous credit for this “diplomatic” achievement.
Resolution 1701 had no clause to prevent the transfer of arms into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah. In fact, UNIFIL was not authorized to use armed force. And UNIFIL includes recruits from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, countries that support terrorism and destruction of the Jewish state, and countries that are in an official state of war with Israel.
This is what Livni, without protest, called “good for Israel.”
The theoretical goal of 1701, aside from moving Israel out of Lebanon, was to keep Hezbollah out of the south of the country and to prevent it from re-arming. Today Hezbollah, along with its 100,000 rockets, is in south Lebanon.
For most of the campaign, neither Livni nor Herzog enunciated a clear platform. The campaign consisted mostly of a series of “anyone but Bibi” innuendoes. It has been a depressingly ugly and unserious campaign.
This past Sunday, the Zionist Camp brought its platform to the public. It addresses housing issues, and economic problems, which is quite fine.
But, within the first 100 days after the election, the Zionist Camp would also “make every effort to present our (peace) initiative to the Arab League.” (Emphasis here and following is added.)
What? A “peace initiative”? Now? And involving the Arab League, yet. “We present a vision and a leadership that is able to pay a political price when we believe it’s justified.” This “vision” is couched in very vague language, but what is being said here is that they would relinquish Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.
Beware, I tell you.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said repeatedly in recent days that there will be no territory relinquished under current circumstances: it would be dangerous because in no time at all we’d have jihadist terrorists at our border. He is 100% correct, and the fact that Herzog and Livni do not get it is serious indeed.
I will not belabor all of the planks of the Zionist Camp platform, but want to mention this:
“A government headed by the Zionist Union will act to prevent Iran from developing military nuclear capabilities through a final-status agreement between Tehran and the international community, which includes dismantling the existing nuclear infrastructure, and a strict and effective regime of supervision and inspection.”
I think most of my readers can understand what babble, devoid of reality, this is.
“The strategic allegiance (sic) between the United States and the State of Israel is a basic component of Israel’s national strength, and an asset that must be safeguarded and nurtured. Hurting this allegiance (sic), much like the deterioration in Israel’s international status, leads to unimaginable damage to Israel’s diplomatic and security strength.
“A government led by the Zionist Union will mend the special relationship with the United States, which was seriously damaged during the tenure of the outgoing government.”
Translation: We are going to go kissy-kiss with Obama. Netanyahu made a huge mistake in crossing him, as this damaged Israel’s relationship with the US, but we aim to fix it.
Not so, of course. What was “damaged” was our relationship with a US president who works against us in any event. The enormous esteem in which the US Congress holds Netanyahu was clear for all to see.
Appeasement, bending over to keep Obama happy, can only hurt Israel.
So the case against the Zionist Camp has been made. And now we look at what to do to keep Herzog and Livni out of power. Our electoral system is more than a bit complex:
People vote for parties, not for individuals, and the president of Israel plays a key role in what follows after the votes are cast and counted: It is the president who invites the head of one party to attempt to form a governing coalition. As there are 120 seats in the Knesset, the coalition must represent at least 61 of those seats (referred to as mandates).
After the election is completed, it is determined which party received the most mandates. (It has never happened that any one party had at least 61 mandates. A coalition has always been required.) Very often, the president then invites the head of that faction to try to form a coalition. The scuttlebutt now is that this is what President Ruby Rivlin intends to so. It is not necessarily required of him to do this – but it is what we expect to happen, what usually does happen.
(There is yet another step, before he formally selects the person who will attempt to form the coalition: The head of each party comes to visit the president, and indicates which party head he/she prefers to put together the coalition.)
There are only two choices, in terms of whom Rivlin might select – it is either going to be the head of Likud (Netanyahu) or the head of the Zionist Camp (Herzog).
There are those who make the case that what matters is a strong right wing bloc so that you are helping defeat Herzog by voting for Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) or Eli Yeshai’s Yahad party. This would be the case if Likud were solidly ahead of the Zionist Camp in the polls: then there would be a strong case for voting to the right of Likud, to prevent pull in the opposite direction.
And it is certainly the case once a coalition is being formed. Bayit Yehudi and Yahad are natural allies of Likud, and if they are strong, then the right wing bloc is stronger. (This is good because then fewer other parties have to be brought in to make the coalition. When there are more parties, the coalition tends to be weakened because each party has different demands.)
However, there is a “but” here. If Likud does not bring in more mandates than the Zionist Camp in the election, then Netanyahu might not ever have the chance to form a coalition. This is the reality right now.
I say this not because I am opposed to Bayit Yehudi or Yahad. Not at all. But because the Zionist Camp must be defeated.
It is not necessarily the case, by the way, that the person who is given the first opportunity to form the coalition will be successful. A few years ago, Livni had the first opportunity, and failed.
What must be understood is how complicated the coalition building process is. There are parties that are definitely on the right, such as Bayit Yehudi and Yahad. They are not going with Herzog no matter what. And there are others that are clearly left, such as Meretz (if it even gets enough mandates to get into the Knesset). But there are other “centrist” parties that will swing either way. Such parties as Shas, or Yesh Atid or Kulanu. Calling themselves “centrist,” they will go with the coalition that will do the most for them. It’s a sort of political horse-trading: I’ll support your coalition and vote with you, but I want this ministry, or that law passed.
Thus is it the case that the party who has the first opportunity to attempt to form a coalition, has the best chance of bringing in these swing parties.
And there are two other points I would make here:
Our prime minister did us very proud in Washington – making the case for blocking Iran’s intentions in a manner that may have positive implications for our security. At the same time, he enhanced our reputation. At a time when Israel is routinely delegitimized, he accrued honor for us, holding his head high and demonstrating the need for strength.
Thus does it seem right that his nation should now support him. Is he perfect? Far from it. But he is the best leader we have at present, and merits serious attention from us.
What is more, there is reason to believe that the White House has been behind the scenes in terms of some of the manipulations going on in the campaign – the game playing, engendered by American advisors. The picture of Obama getting the last laugh, knowing he “fixed” his enemy Netanyahu, even if he couldn’t block him from Congress, is a rather intolerable one.
I cannot tell anyone how to vote. What I have done here is lay out a scenario that I believe has significant validity in terms of the current electoral situation. What I do ask, if you are in Israel, is that you take what I have written here seriously, and then make sure you go out and VOTE. What is more, I ask that you share this information with others and encourage them to vote as well.
If you are in the US or elsewhere, and have friends and relatives in Israel, I ask that you share this with them and encourage them to vote, as well.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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