March 29, 2021
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.
PRIME MINISTER ELECTION IN ISRAEL
While the early polls indicated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading other candidates, Netanyahu couldn’t close the deal. The final results from Israel’s fourth election in two years show a nation deeply divided over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should remain in office, with neither side having secured a governing majority.
Israelis vote for party lists rather than candidates, and seats in the 120-member Knesset are assigned based on the percentage of the vote. No single Israeli party has ever won a 61-seat majority, so an aspiring prime minister must assemble a ruling coalition.
The problem for the Prime Minister’s re-election was his facing a court trial for bribery and the handling of the pandemic. Netanyahu’s approach to vaccinations seemed to propel him forward but the virus prevailed and infections remained high. When the Knesset failed to pass a budget in December, it signaled a new election was coming.
That often means courting fringe parties or even those on the other side of the political spectrum, offering ministries, official positions, budgets or other favors in return for their support. The negotiations usually take several weeks. If no one is able to assemble a 61-seat majority the country will go into an unprecedented fifth election later this year.
Former defense minister Naftali Bennett, a Netanyahu rival who hasn’t ruled out bringing his Yamina party back into the prime minister’s bloc, heads one of the few swing factions. But his seven seats would still leave Netanyahu two seats short.
Another potential power-broker is Mansour Abbas, the head of a small Arab-Israeli party who has said he would be open to partner with either side. It would be unprecedented for an Arab party to join Jewish parties in a governing coalition. But at least some members of Netanyahu’s party have said they would consider it. Others have fiercely opposed the idea, and Netanyahu was silent on the issue Thursday.
The election produced a split between those who support Netanyahu and those who want to end his tenure, which has now reached 14 years. Lawmakers failed after each of those elections to cobble together workable coalitions, and political analysts said this cycle will be no easier.
Israelis are watching the political haggling knowing that the most likely outcome will be yet another election. “This round of elections was among the most challenging that the state of Israel has known. Beyond the fact that this is the fourth election in the past two and a half years, we experienced an enormous challenge in light of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Orly Adas, head of the Central Elections Committee.
My latest books:
I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II
Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!
by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)
You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.
82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!
You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.
by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)
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