Now that we can finally put this long contentious election period behind us, it is time to get ready for another election.
And that next election will be taking place just a bit more than two months from now. We are certainly electorally weary but that does not matter. That election will be in Israel on March 23, and I know you are tired of hearing this, but there is a lot at stake.
Bibi Netanyahu does not want to continue in his agreement with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in part because that deal includes giving up his position as prime minister a year or so from now. Whether you like him or not, Netanyahu is an iconic leader of Israel who has had as much impact on the evolution of the Jewish state as its founding premier, David Ben Gurion. Regardless of who will assume leadership in the future, Bibi is Israel and Israel is Bibi, and you cannot fault him for not wanting to give that up or have someone new ruin whatever he has accomplished.
And now with Joe Biden coming into office in Washington, Israel will need someone with Bibi’s vast experience and diplomatic acumen in order to be able to deflect pressures on Israel that will potentially be brought to bear.
But it can be debated as to whether Israel’s greatest challenge emanates from the halls of power in D.C. or whether the greatest obstacles originate in the very corridors of the Knesset.
Over these last four years, the gift to the world was the fact that Israel and the U.S. were on the same page regarding so many issues. In a way, Trump is like Bibi and Bibi is like Trump. One of their common features is the way in which they are joyfully vilified by the mainstream press in both countries. The difference so far, which history will record, is that Bibi knows how to handle the press but Donald Trump just could not do so effectively or successfully. In all fairness to the president, the press and the machers of social media, along with a number of anti-Trump RIONS (Republicans In Name Only), have coordinated their movements so as to block a Trump second term at every turn.
One of the things we can come to appreciate is the significant dichotomy between the political systems here in the U.S. and in Israel. In Israel, they will be holding their fourth national election in two years. Here in the U.S., when you discover that your leaders do not reflect the will of the people but have turned into quasi-tyrants, you have no choice but to wait for Election Day to arrive to vote those borderline dictators out of office.
Here in New York we have to wait until November to rid ourselves of Mayor Bill de Blasio and until November 2022 until we can finally bid adieu to Andrew Cuomo. On the national level, we now have two years of watching Congress try to radically redefine America until we have the opportunity to reverse course and vote in a Republican majority to the House of Representatives, our lawmaking body.
In Israel, it looks like the system allows for taking the political temperature of the people on a regular basis. I think we are now beginning to appreciate the somewhat chaotic nature of that political way of life, but it seems that it is a more effective expression of the people’s will.
Of course, it might be preferable that those elected actually govern and do their jobs instead of always running for office, as seems to be the case in Israel. From the outside it does indeed look like things are politically out of control in the Jewish state. If you are not playing close attention, you can easily conclude that every time Bibi’s mood changes he goes to elections, but that is not really the case.
The matter to consider is what the opponents of Netanyahu in Israel want for the country that differs from the ideas of the prime minister. And here in the U.S. it is increasingly clear on an almost daily basis how the Democratic philosophy differs from so much, though not all, of the Republican Party’s philosophy.
The short answer to that question in both countries is this: Power and control of large amounts of money. Certainly there are other important issues to be addressed but they mostly lead in the same direction — and that is following the money trail.
Secondarily, in both countries there are fundamental different policies that the various parties would like to pursue so that they can redefine the country the way they see it.
In Israel, Bibi prefers a right-wing government, and today it looks as though he is anxious to go to elections because he foresees the largest right-wing government in Israel’s history. Amongst the things that a government like that can accomplish is continuing to reduce Iran’s influence in the region, not through war but by entering into trade agreements with Muslim countries that were previously sworn enemies of Israel.
And that is one of the issues that can potentially be a point of disagreement in the near future between Israel and the U.S. In the Obama tradition, Biden and his foreign policy team will look to placate and cater to Iran’s nuclear designs. The Trump administration was on the same page with Israel as it impacts on Iran.
And it just might be that Netanyahu sees, as a possible matter of his legacy, that with a right-wing government in Israel he may finally be able to extend sovereignty to Judea and Samaria under certain conditions with the consent of countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Biden and his foreign policy people will want to dredge up the nearly completely dead issues of creating a Palestinian state, Israeli withdrawals from territory already in their hands for more than a half-century, and so on.
On the other hand, Netanyahu may feel that the Biden administration will be so weak and inept that he might have an easier time than anyone can imagine getting his way on Iran and sovereignty. But he needs a stable right-wing government for that. Early polls show he might be able to patch together as many as 74 Knesset members in his coalition. That’s why it’s time to have an election again. Just cannot wait.
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