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Better Times for Israel After the March 2 Elections?

We are having elections in Israel on March 2, i.e., in less than two weeks – the third time within a year. According to current opinion polls, there may be a fourth time very soon, because the next result isn’t going to be appreciably different from the two earlier ones.

Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, likely to get most mandates this time, maybe asked to form a government, but he won’t be able to do so without the Arab Joint List. However, neither his party nor other potential coalition partners want to have the Joint List in the government. They argue that it’s opposed to Israel as a Jewish state. The chances of Gantz being successful are thus very slim.

Binyamin Netanyahu and his coalition of right-wing parties will be unable to form a government without Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. And Liberman says not only that he doesn’t want to share power with the extreme Orthodox parties (though he has done so in the past), but, more importantly, he wants a unity government without Netanyahu at the helm.

That would, indeed, be the best solution. Likud and Blue and White could form a government without any other party (even without Liberman!). As far as the Israeli public can discern, the two major parties seem to have almost identical policies and thus could run the country with a measure of consistency and stability not seen recently.

The problem is, of course, that Netanyahu continues to present himself as the sole savior of Israel. In recent months, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the leaders of Sudan and of several Gulf States have been used, as “evidence” that Netanyahu, the international statesman, is irreplaceable as the prime minister of Israel. The members of his parliamentary caucus seem to share this view; the only attempt to challenge his leadership (by Gideon Sa’ar) failed.

Even the announcement that Netanyahu’s trial on three very serious charges that could land him in prison is due to begin a fortnight after the election doesn’t seem to deter him. It has already been announced that he won’t be in court during the trial because of his duties as prime minister.

Yet the only way of restoring stability to the Government of Israel is to part company with Netanyahu. Perhaps if he’s assured immunity by the next Knesset and/or promised pardon by President Rivlin, if convicted, he may leave office now, after eleven consecutive years (in addition to an earlier stint), thus helping to bring order to the land as it’s facing many new security and economic challenges, despite recent progress in these and other areas.

The role of elder statesman, pardoned for alleged criminal offences, with many opportunities to make a lot of money on the American lecture circuit, should be enough to persuade Netanyahu to make room for someone else as prime minister. But will it?

This question is my best effort to finish today’s reflections on a positive note.

Jerusalem 19.2.20                                                                                                            Dow Marmur

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