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Israel heads for new elections after Netanhayu fails to form governing coalition

Israel heads for new elections after Netanhayu fails to form governing coalition

Dispute between secular and religious parties over military draft of ultra-orthodox leads to breakdown, new elections September 17

You thought Bibi Netanyahu won the April 9, 2019, elections, right?

Well, he did but didn’t.

As we explained at the time, in Israel’s (dysfunctional) parliamentary system, it’s necessary for the “winning” party to form a coalition with other parties. Usually, but not always, that coalition will be built by the party that wins the most seats in the Knesset.

In April, Netanyahu’s Likud Party won the most seats, 35 out of the total 120 Knesset seats (tied with the main opposition):

Likud ended up with 35 seats, as did Kahol Lavan, the party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid.

United Torah Judaism gained a seat compared to last week’s results, putting its final count at eight. The rest of the parties held on to the same number of seats: Shas with eight, Hadash-Ta’al with six, Labor with six, Yisrael Beiteinu with five, Union of Right-Wing Parties with five, and four each for Meretz, Balad-United Arab List and Kulanu.

It was assumed that given right-wing parties won a majority of seats, that Netanyahu would be able to cobble together a majority of 61 or more. But in Israel, the parties each have their own agendas, and the “right wing” consists of both religious and secular parties.

And it was the religious/secular split that caused the problem, over the issue of drafting ultra-orthodox (“Haredi”) men into military service. That is opposed by the religious parties, and was demanded by the secular party headed by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party only had 5 seats, but those were five seats needed for a majority. And Liberman, who has no love for Netanyahu, wasn’t budging on the draft issue. Neither were the religious parties.

A tweet from Trump urging Israeli parties to form a coalition couldn’t salvage the situation, even through Trump is hugely popular in Israel:

The Times of Israel reported on the vote to dissolve the Knesset and schedule elections for September 17:

Israel’s parliament votes to dissolve itself after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to meet the midnight deadline to form a new government, triggering an unprecedented second national election this year.

After a raucous 12-hour debate, lawmakers approve by a vote of 74 to 45 a Likud-drafted bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset and hold new elections on September 17.

The Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Union of Right-Wing Parties were joined by the two Arab-Israeli parties, Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al in supporting the motion. Only Kulanu MK Royi Folkman was absent from the vote.

Netanyahu attacked Liberman after the vote, The Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday night after the Knesset vote to disperse the government passed with a majority of 74-45, saying that MK Avigdor Liberman has joined the Left.

“Israel made a clear decision,” Netanyahu said. “The Likud will lead the government as a Right-wing government. The different parties that tried to enter the Knesset said, ‘We will support Netanyahu.’ Avigdor Liberman, to my disappointment, had no intention from the beginning to do what he said he would.”

The haredim [ultra-Orthodox] compromised in Liberman’s direction. Step by step, all of the demands, all of the requests, and all of the compromises…” Netanyahu continued.

Netanyahu further criticized Liberman, saying that he “wanted, in the clearest way, to disperse the government. He is dragging an entire country to another half a year of elections because of his wish to get another couple of mandates.”

“Avigdor Liberman is now part of the Left,” he concluded. “You give him votes, to the Right, and he does not give his voice to the Right.”

Calling Liberman “left” is odd, considering Liberman is a hard liner who wanted more aggressive action in Gaza to stop the rockets and border riots. But in Netanyahu’s calculation, anyone who prevents a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu serves the purpose of the relatively miniscule Israeli left (even the main opposition party would be considered “right” in Israeli politics).

Liberman blamed Likud for surrendering to the ultra-orthodox, Arutz Sheva reported:

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman accused the Likud of disbanding the 21st Knesset and deciding to hold new elections.

“Unfortunately, the State of Israel is going to new elections because of the refusal of the Likud and the haredi parties to accept Yisrael Beytenu’s proposal and vote on the second and third readings of the Draft Law in the original version as it passed in the first reading, with the haredi MKs not participating in the vote,” Liberman said.

“Instead, various proposals were proposed with the sole purpose of wasting time and dissolving or emptying the law of its content. It is a surrender to the haredim, and as we clarified, we are natural partners to a right-wing government, but not to a halakhic government.”

Liberman added, “We also had some progress in our other demands, but we did not reach final agreements on any issue, and as far as I know, the Likud was unable to sign a coalition agreement with any other faction. Therefore, the Likud alone is responsible for the fact that the State of Israel is going to new elections.”

Some tweets from Israeli reporters shedding light on what just happened:


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God save us from the fickle coalitions of parliaments. I’ll take our faux bi-cameral, deadlocked duopoly any day.

I will pray for Bibi

    brightlights in reply to gonzotx. | May 29, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Bibi should leave. He’s been there long enough and needs to allow new blood to appear in Likud. Besides, when push comes to shove, for instance, in Gaza he can’t bring himself to do what needs to be down.

      I hope you’re not implying Lieberman is that new blood. Boiling blood, yes. New, no.

      Milhouse in reply to brightlights. | May 30, 2019 at 12:23 am

      Bibi has always been about nothing but Bibi. He has never had any principles. He will do and say whatever he thinks will keep him in office, especially now that staying in office is all that separates him from prosecution. When he does the right thing it’s only because that happens to coincide with his personal interest; the next day he can do the opposite.

      His new deal with Kahlon just proves it. Kahlon is a disaster for the economy, but to preserve his rear end he has guaranteed him a senior spot on the Likud list, and the treasury in the next government.

Bibi does not need to leave

4th armored div | May 30, 2019 at 10:54 am

one of the worst legacies of the Brits is this system of decisive gov’t.


Are you really Rags, or his twin?

buckeyeminuteman | May 30, 2019 at 1:41 pm

I have the utmost respect for Judaism and it’s adherents, so don’t take this the wrong way. By where would the orthodox haredi be, where would they go, if it wasn’t for Israel’s military? You might be a pacifist and be vocal against fighting, but the only thing keeping Israel’s Jews alive is the IDF. Without the military, every Arab nation and Iran would take over and slaughter them all. The Jews of Roman times and the European Jews of the 1930s and 1940s could only dream of having a defensive fighting force like the IDF. For your own self-preservation and the preservation of your orthodox practices, the IDF is a necessary inconvenience.

    Milhouse in reply to buckeyeminuteman. | May 31, 2019 at 12:24 am

    The haredim don’t object to the military, they object to the conscription of those whose full time occupation is studying Torah, which they regard not only as an absolutely vital activity, more important than military service, but also as doing more for the country’s defense than military service.

    If you think about it, Israel’s survival is not explicable by the laws of nature. With the odds against which it has fought for over 70 years, the success it’s had is impossible. No army can be naturally that good. The answer is that Israel’s Guard doesn’t nod off or sleep, and if God doesn’t guard a city the guard’s diligence is wasted. It’s the students who spend upward of 10 hours a day studying Torah, plus another 1.5-2 hours praying, and the rest of their time keeping themselves fit to do it again the next day, who are Israel’s real strength, and conscripting them will make the country more endangered, not safer. They appreciate and admire the soldiers who pay their role, but their own role is different, just as a fireman should not be conscripted to become a policeman or vice versa.

    In addition to this, they have practical problems with military service, due to the military’s insistence on integrating women, for purely ideological reasons, which makes it extremely difficult for a religious young man to stay chaste. The IDF is notorious for moral laxity. On top of that, again for purely ideological reasons, the IDF forces soldiers to attend concerts with female singers, which the Jewish religion forbids for men who are not those singers’ husbands or immediate family, and now they’re threatening to integrate tank crews. This has got even the National Religious, who regard military service as a Divine commandment, upset and threatening to instruct their young men to stop enlisting. But all of that is solvable, if the IDF would only have some good will and stop trying to indoctrinate its recruits with liberal values. The first and main issue would remain, but only applies to those who are genuinely studying full time, and not just wasting their time pretending.

    Meanwhile the IDF has no manpower shortage and doesn’t need or want the haredim. The pressure is purely from the politicians. Also in the meantime, at least a quarter of secular young people get out of serving by one means or another, or arrange to be assigned somewhere with no risk and nothing to do. But they resent the haredim who have a more straightforward way of getting out of serving.

    Zehut is the only party that has the real solution: repeal conscription, make military service voluntary, raise the pay enough to make it a career someone would actually choose, eliminate all the unnecessary positions that exist only because there are people to fill them, and give important privileges only to veterans. That way the secular who don’t want to serve won’t have to, won’t lower the morale of those who do want to serve, and won’t an excuse to resent the haredim. And the haredim can make a choice whether they want to study full time, get a job in a workplace that is suitable to their lifestyle, or enlist.