Once More Unto the Breach

6 April 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Netanyahu Given Chance to Form Israeli Government


The Israeli Knesset that was just elected is composed of 13 different political parties, and none has a clear shot at a forming a majority coalition with some of the others. President Reuven Rivlin said, "The results of the consultations, which were open to all, lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of Parliament." Still, he is required to give someone the job of trying to find such a constellation of parties. He has given the job to current PM Benjamin Netanyahu. This journal expects him to fail.

The Knesset has 120 seats, so a simple majority is 61. Mr. Netanyahu and his allies have secured 52 seats. His opponents (an amalgam of centrists, leftists, anti-Netanyahu rightists and Arabs) command 57 seats. The 11 seats that are key to forming a government are held by Raam (an Islamist Arab party that has four seats) and Yamina (a right-wing party with seven seats). The arithmetic suggests that the anti-Netanyahu bloc led by Yair Laipid has the better chance, but the inter-party squabbles led the president to give Mr. Netanyahu first crack at forming a government.

There is a further political issue here. The PM is on trial for corruption. If he remains in office, there is a chance Mr. Netanyahu could pass legislation giving himself immunity from prosecution. So, should he be allowed first chance at forming a government?

"The question of giving the role to a candidate facing criminal charges was one of intense political and public disagreement over the recent election campaigns," President Rivlin said. "It is the role of the Parliament to decide on the substantive and ethical question of the fitness of a candidate facing criminal charges to serve as prime minister." 

One suspects that the consultations showed that Mr. Netanyahu is going to have trouble getting 61 seats together, and Mr. Rivlin knows it. Therefore, he gave Mr. Netanyahu the first chance at forming a government so that he is seen to be fair and that the courts can continue in their jobs once Mr. Netanyahu has had to admit failure. He has 28 days to deliver, and he needs both Yamina (which is possible) and Raam (which is highly unlikely, and which would push some right-wing religious parties out of the coalition).

His failure will give Mr. Laipid a chance to form a government, and all he needs is Yamina or Raam. Yet, there is a good chance neither will work with him. Analysts in Israel are already talking about holding a fifth election in the last couple of years.

At the core of the Israeli political deadlock are two factors that work against one another. The first is that there appears to be a majority of Israeli voters on the right. Even Mr. Laipid's bloc contains right-wing parties. So, in theory, Israel will have a right-wing government. Mr. Netanyahu is the logical leader of such a government. However, his legal troubles and the fact that he has been in office 12 years weigh on his political fortunes. Quite simply, some on the right are concerned about having a crook in office, and others are simply tired of him. The latter believe it is time for new blood.

If no one can cobble together 61 seats, there will be another election before the year is out. At the same time, the trial of Mr. Netanyahu will continue. It is not inconceivable that he will be convicted before polling day. If so, that new blood will be inevitable. If not, the fifth election in two years could be just as inconclusive as the latest one was.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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