The last time we checked in on the dysfunctional Israel elections, it looked like Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud Party had won a sweeping election — the third in a year — which would allow it to put together a right-wing coalition government.

BUT WAIT, then the exit polls were off and the actual results still had Likud in the lead, but without the ability to put together a ruling coalition. A majority of Knesset members said they would back Blue-and-White challenger for Prime Minister Benny Gantz, leading Israel’s President to give Gantz the ‘mandate’ to form a government….

BUT WAIT, that majority backing for Gantz wasn’t what it seemed, because it included an Arab party that opposed the existence of Israel, with whom other parties would not join a coalition, so Gantz had majority support for him to try to form a government, but couldn’t actually form a government ….

BUT WAIT, when it became clear that Gantz couldn’t form a government, he and Netanyahu reached a deal to form a unity government, which was like 10 million years ago ….

BUT WAIT, then the time for Gantz for form a government passed, and Israel faced the possibility of a Fourth election in just over a year ….

BUT WAIT, STOP THE PRESSES, Gantz and Netanyahu have signed a deal for a unity government, with Netanyahu starting out as Prime Minister, then handing the torch in a year and a half to Gantz (like that ever actually will happen).

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Israel will soon have a new coalition government after an agreement was signed on Monday evening between Likud and Blue and White, putting an end to a 17-month political stalemate that resulted in three elections.

As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served as caretaker prime minister since December 2018, will remain prime minister for another 18 months and then will be replaced in October 2021 by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will serve as vice prime minister in the meantime. Netanyahu will be vice prime minister under Gantz after that, but if Netanyahu leaves the Prime Minister’s Office sooner, Gantz would already take over….

The Likud and its satellite parties will receive the Finance, Health, Internal Security, Construction, Transportation and Education portfolios. Blue and White will receive the Defense, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Economy, Communications and Culture portfolios. The Knesset speaker will be from Likud.

The government is expected to have 36 ministers and 16 deputies, split equally between the Center-Right and Center-Left. Besides Likud and Blue and White will include Shas, United Torah Judaism and Labor and the Gesher Party of MK Orly Levy-Abecassis.

https://twitter.com/netanyahu/status/1252279455948705793

The deal includes a full embrace of the Trump peace plan, The Times of Israel reports:

For its first six months, the coalition will focus on tackling the pandemic, and will not pass major legislation that does not relate to the crisis. It will also not make major appointments to key positions that require government approval, such as the attorney general and police commissioner. In the course of those six months, the sides will negotiate the platform for the coalition for the rest of its lifespan.

From July 1, 2020, however, Netanyahu will be allowed to have both the government and the Knesset vote on annexing parts of the West Bank, on the basis of the Trump administration’s peace plan. Such a vote would be held “as quickly as possible,” the agreement states, with no delays at the committee stages. Although coalition members will be able to vote as they see fit, the pro-annexation camp in the Knesset is likely to enjoy a majority.

There also is a mechanism to prevent Bibi from pulling a fast one to stay beyond 18 months as Prime Minister, and a poison-pill to prevent the Israeli Supreme Court from ruling that Bibi can’t be Prime Minister, the Times further reports:

The coalition agreement features several complex clauses designed to insure that the prime ministership is indeed handed over as agreed — with provisions intended to prevent Netanyahu maneuvering to avoid transferring the job of prime minister to Gantz — some of which will require new or amended legislation. It is not clear, however, that these clauses are legally enforceable.

Similarly, the agreement features clauses designed to insure that if the High Court of Justice rules that Netanyahu cannot serve as prime minister because of the indictments against him, the Knesset would dissolve, and new elections would be held, with Gantz serving as prime minister during the interim period. Here, too, it is not clear that these clauses are legally enforceable.

Journalist Anshel Pfeffer of left-wing Haaretz expressed the frustration of the anti-Netanyahu press:

Bottom line. Netanyahu failed to win 3 consecutive elections but beat his opponent Gantz by wearing him down. He won through sheer persistence and political guile. This is his personal victory. No one else’s.

Gantz’s “gains” are a tenuous promise to become prime minister in 18 months which even if fulfilled, will at most make him PM of a coalition in which three-quarters of the MKs have no allegiance to him and control of the Justice Ministry (while Netanyahu can veto appointments)

Netanyahu will have to go on trial eventually but he achieved what he set out to do, to still be PM in court. It won’t change the eventual judgment, but it will change the public’s perception of the process and help him to rally his base against the verdict if it goes against him

I’ll quote again Lahav Harkov, a Jerusalem Post reporter, who summed it all up in late March 2020 when the original deal was announced — 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.

BUT WAIT … this seems too certain, something surely will go wrong. We just don’t know what it is yet.

 

 
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