March 30, 2020
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
THE LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS
You think American politics is crazy? Israeli elections and results are off the scale. After three elections in a row, Israel remained divided with Prime Minister Netanyahu scurrying around like a scared mouse, trying to put a government together as well as avoiding going to jail. If you’ve followed this scenario for several months, you’d swear the Keystone Cops had made a come back.
Today we are possibly on the verge of a breakthrough.
Benny Gantz appears to be willing to give up on his political career to ally with Netanyahu in hopes of helping his beleaguered nation. Benny Gantz’s change of position on Thursday was met with bitter excoriation from his former allies. “Benny Gantz decided today to break apart Blue and White and crawl into Netanyahu’s government,” declared Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. “What’s being formed today isn’t a unity government and not an emergency government. It’s another Netanyahu government. Benny Gantz surrendered without a fight and crawled into Netanyahu’s government, joined the haredi-extremist bloc,” he said.
In a sense, he’s right. Gantz appears to be the most obvious loser from his decision to join Netanyahu. He surrendered his most valuable cards just as the fight was reaching its climax, with Blue and White finally in control of the Knesset and a new speaker set to be voted in, and just as Netanyahu, fearful of a Knesset set against him, was for the first time begging for serious unity talks.
Among the issues yet to be resolved are the distribution of a number of ministry portfolios and other senior posts, and promises the two parties are looking to extract from each other regarding what kind of legislation they will advance, particularly regarding Netanyahu’s legal fate. On Thursday, Gantz was sworn in as Knesset speaker with the support of Likud, signaling an apparent unity deal between the two that would put a year-long political deadlock to rest. Gantz, who had promised not to sit under Netanyahu as prime minister because of indictments in three criminal cases against him, said he was putting aside his vow given the health crisis plaguing the world.
Is the Israeli government crisis really over? Who can tell? Maybe yes; maybe no. As of this day, the log jam seems to have broken more because of the coronavirus crisis turning the country upside down rather than the will of the people. As in every good soap opera, you have to keep listening tomorrow to see what comes next.
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