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Bibi or Tibi?

Will Israel’s next government be led by Bibi Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Israel, or will it be dominated by Ahmad Tibi, the leader of one of the factions in the Joint Arab List in the Knesset, a man whom many Israelis love to hate? Though the Corona pandemic dominates the news also in Israel, the media here have also much to say about politicians, including allegations that some of them try to compromise health professionals dealing with Corona in order to further their own agendas.

As things look now, Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, is likely to form a government with Avigdor Liberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, as a disproportionately strong partner. They will be supported by the Joint Arab List, like all other Arabs seemingly despised by Liberman. The Joint List won’t join the government but will vote with it on issues of mutual interest.

Bibi’s Likud, together with the right-wing and Orthodox parties, can only muster 58 of the 120 mandates. Because Bibi’s opponents will have to rely on the Joint Arab List, it has given Netanyahu unjust cause to accuse Gantz of hijacking the government. Netanyahu, a sore loser, is now also using his obnoxious son Yair as a spokesman. Father and son accuse anybody in sight as being responsible for the failure of the political right. The fact that this is democracy at work and the only way for Israel to get a functional government is being unjustly challenged by means of spiteful and malicious fake news.

It’s difficult to predict how long a Gantz government can last and how effective it will be, but if it will give the country’s Arab minority its due, which past governments are said to have often denied. Though the politics of Gantz may not be very different from those of Netanyahu, the fact that he is not Bibi will be enough for many Israelis to support him and cautiously embrace Tibi.

The prospect of several leaders of the small right-wing parties, now supporting Netanyahu and holding cabinet posts for which they don’t seem to be qualified, no longer being there is also very good news.

For better or worse, it’s likely to be Tibi, not Bibi.

Jerusalem 9.3.20                                                                                     Dow Marmur

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