The magician pulls another rabbit out of his hat.

The last we checked, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell just short in his effort to build a ruling coalition after the third election in a year ended in stalemate again. Rival Benny Gantz’ Blue and White coalition was given the nod to try to form a government, but as we reported, that was unlikely, Bye-Bye Bibi, hello Prime Minister Benny Gantz? (maybe, maybe not):

Last time we checked, the dysfunctional Israeli political system had just completed its third attempt in a year to elect a Prime Minister.

Based on the exit polls, it appeared that Bibi Netanyahu would be the next Prime Minster, with his Likud Party and other religious and right-wing parties obtaining a majority.

But, when the actual votes were counted, Bibi and his coalition fell 3 seats short of the needed 61 seat majority in the Knesset.

The Blue-and-White Party leader, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, has cobbled together a potential majority coalition recommending him for Prime Minister, after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, leader of a secular party and someone who hates Netanyahu and his religious party supporters, threw his support to Gantz. Based on that, Gantz gets the first shot at forming a government….

This would be a minority government, because not all parties would be part of the government even if they recommended Gantz for Prime Minister.

But there’s a big “but” here. Even with Liberman, Gantz gets to 61 only with the support of the Joint List of Israeli Arab parties, at least some of whom call for the destruction of Israel and include Knesset members who glorify terrorists. And that means Gantz may lose some of those 61 seats for his coalition, as Yoram Hazony tweeted:

President asked Gantz to form a government—something it seems he cannot do.

He’s got 61 (including the anti-Zionist Joint List, without Orly Levi). But Hauser and Hendel (Blue-White) say they won’t go in with the anti-Zionist Joint List.

So Gantz has 59.

Which is nothing.

And so it came to be. Deadlock again.

And amid deadlock, a fight with the Israeli Supreme Court, with Netanyahu’s ally refusing to call the Knesset into session, and then relinguishing his position as Speaker of the Knesset rather than comply with the Court order. In his place, Gantz was elected Speaker, and then dropped a bombshell, his party was breaking up the Blue and White coalition and joining with Nethanyahu’s Likud in a unity government with Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

In a dramatic turn of events, the Blue and White Party that served as the alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2 election, broke up on Thursday after party head Benny Gantz decided to enter Netanyahu’s government.

The three parties that made up Blue and White – Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem – all went in different directions. Israel Resilience is joining the government, Lapid will head the opposition and Telem will split up, with Ya’alon on the outside and divided….

There will be a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz. Netanyahu’s allies will start off as finance minister and Knesset speaker, with outgoing speaker Yuli Edelstein expected to return to the role. Gantz will reportedly serve as defense minister, MK Gabi Ashkenzi foreign minister and many other MKs from Israel Resilience will be ministers. The sensitive Justice portfolio will go to the party despite prior denials. Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett is also a candidate to remain defense minister or to possibly serve as finance minister. Israel Katz is another candidate for the finance portfolio.

The split happened after Gantz decided that he would be the candidate for interim speaker of the Knesset to facilitate progress in coalition talks with Likud. Appointing Gantz as speaker gave time for the talks to proceed.

The Times of Israel adds:

The coalition is likely to constitute 78-79 MKs — Likud, Gantz’s Israel Resilience, Labor, Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism — according to Channel 12 (although other reports indicated Labor’s inclusion was not certain.) That would leave Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Ya’alon’s Telem, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Meretz and the mainly Arab Joint List in the opposition. However, various other fluctuations are deemed possible, with Telem’s Hendel and Hauser, for instance, possibly joining the coalition if this is permissible under Knesset laws…

Anshel Pfeffer at the far-left Haaretz says Gantz surrendered:

Benny Gantz is tired. This isn’t what he signed up for when he first launched his campaign and political career fourteen months and three elections ago. This was time spent in unending electioneering, but, more than anything, what sapped his energy was the relentless smear campaign orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu….

How can Gantz give up now? People ask. How can he give in to the man who smeared him so viciously? The truth is that Gantz, while remaining a fierce critic of Netanyahu’s conduct, does not share what many of his now former partners in Kahol Lavan have, a burning hatred of the man. He led the campaign to replace Netanyahu over the past fourteen months, but it was never personal for him. As IDF chief of staff, Gantz had a relatively harmonious relationship with Netanyahu. Unlike two other member’s of Kahol Lavan’s “cockpit” – Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon – he wasn’t summarily tossed out of a job by Netanyahu.

Lahav Harkov, a Jerusalem Post reporter, summed it all up — Bibi always wins:

English soccer player Gary Lineker once famously said “football is a simple game – 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” More than one political commentator tweeted on Thursday afternoon that Israeli politics is a simple game and, you play for 90 minutes and Bibi always wins.

The political “wizard,” as Netanyahu is often nicknamed, has done it again, and this time he has the coronavirus to thank for putting is political career on a respirator that could keep it alive for years to come, even when the crisis passes.

So will Netanyahu actually step aside in September 2021?

If you said Yes, you must be new around here.

 

 
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