Israeli Political Morass Deepens As Both Sides Face Obstacles To Forming Government

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Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz arrives to deliver a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Last Tuesday night it appeared as if the political deadlock in Israel had finally been broken after a year of elections and transitional governments. Exit polls predicted that Prime Minister Netanyahu had 60 seats in his right-wing bloc and would easily find a candidate to join his bloc and form a government. Orly Levy, a member of the Avoda-Gesher-Meretz alliance, is a one-member faction who can legitimately join whoever she wants.

However with the final tally of the right-wing standing at 58 seats, the prospect of a right-wing government dimmed. Yet this did not automatically mean that a left-wing government could form. This would require the mercurial leader of Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Liberman, to side with Blue-And-White leader Benny Gantz and to enable him to establish a minority government supported by the Arab party, if of course it agreed to support Gantz.

The first task was successfully accomplished. Liberman so detests Netanyahu that he will do anything to prevent him forming a government with the help of the Chareidi parties. Thus he agreed (possibly even prior to the election) to collaborate with Gantz and was even willing to consider being part of a government supported by the anti-Zionist Joint Arab List despite his bitter opposition to Israeli Arabs and his demand that they declare allegiance to the state of Israel.

At present, the Joint Arab List which numbers an unprecedented 15 Knesset members, is being wooed by both sides. Likud is trying vainly to prevent the party from supporting Gantz’s minority government (which would number just 47 MKs without the Arabs) while Blue-And-White tries to enlist their support as well. It is quite possible that 12 of the members of the party would lend their support to Gantz, who would then have one more MK than Netanyahu and could form a somewhat shaky minority government. Three other extremist Arab MKs would likely abstain, leaving Gantz with 59 seats to 58 on the right.

However even this scenario has yet to materialize. In the see-saw situation of Israeli politics, there are two members of Blue-And-White who technically maintain hawkish views within the party. MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvika Hauser, former advisers to Netanyahu, are opposed to Netanyahu continuing as prime minister but still cannot stomach the idea of an Arab-supported government, which would not be capable of advancing Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and maintaining development in the region. Blue-And-White is strongly pressuring them to resign their seats but if they defect to the right instead of resigning, they could effectively ruin the chances of a Blue-And-White coalition and precipitate yet another election, unless Netanyahu can find another defector who will support him. Ironically in the September election it was the same two MKs who prevented Gantz from forming a government supported by Arabs, so nothing has changed essentially in the past half a year.

Will there be another twist in the story? Time will tell whether the saga of Israeli politics is nearing its tortuous end or whether Israel will continue to remain rudderless as its leader prepares for his trial to open next week.

 

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