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Notes on the upcoming Israeli elections
by Joseph Gatt
2019-01-10 10:06:55
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Notes, in no particular order, on the upcoming Israeli elections.

-First of all, politics is no longer an attractive trade in Israel. In Israel as in many other countries, people want big careers in the private sector, want to launch the next big start-up, or want to serve on the board of directors of some fortune company, make their millions and leave. Many see serving the nation as an unnecessary burden, and the attention that goes with it as unnecessary attention, that brings problems more than anything else.

isr001_400-The click bait press of the last 10-15 years has contributed to ideological anemia within Israeli politics. Many articles are written with provocative titles and much ado about nothing and the focus in the press is on news briefs, and very few articles deal with the big questions surrounding the past, present, future of the state of Israel. This leads to many political parties either being completely disconnected from the realities on the ground, or focusing on click bait issues such as Orthodox Jews serving in the army or Jewish terrorism.

-To understand who's running for the elections, you basically have the left-wing or labor parties who believe making huge concessions to the Palestinians will bring peace, the centrist parties who don't believe in concessions but believe in restraint when it comes to security issues, the right wing parties who believe Israel should flex its muscles and show strength without using too much strength, and the ultra-nationalist parties who believe Israel needs a good fight with the Palestinians. In Israeli politics you need to form a coalition unless a party reaches 50%, which is unheard of in a system where the entire nation is a single constituency. The right wing has the advantage of having agreed to form a coalition, the center and left-wing parties don't have such a tacit agreement.

-The right wing has the advantage of having clear platforms both when it comes to security and when it comes to the economy, its economic and security platforms have been tested and proved. The center and left-wing lack a clear platform on security and the economy, and has not had the opportunity to test and prove its policies since the left wing sent the country into near economic collapse in 2001.

-The rest of the notes will be dedicated to Bibi Netanyahu, the likely winner of the elections. Bibi faces the task of convincing his own party, the Likud, that he's the man who should be in charge for the next few years. Netanyahu lost his party's primaries in 1999, and a few minor issues are leading his party to question whether he should still be in charge.

-The main difficulty for Bibi is that he has three cases pending against him (he is presumed innocent) and that his wife Sara has cases pending against her (she is presumed innocent as well). Bibi's son Yair also made headlines, first for dating a non-Jewish girl, then for lewd behavior, then for a Facebook post. Some argue that Bibi called for early elections because of the cases pending against him, as a maneuver so he could avoid being indicted before an election were to be held.

-Some members of the Likud, Bibi's party, believe the cases against Bibi and his family is too much of a burden and could cost the Likud the election. Some in the Likud are moving to designate another front runner who will be in charge of forming a government if the party wins.

-The problem with the Likud, and other political parties, is no one has Bibi's charisma. Bibi has four things that in my opinion make him indispensible. First, the Arab and Persian leaders fear him. Any newcomer who becomes the prime minister of Israel would see Arab and Persian leaders trying to outmaneuver and destabilize the Israeli leader. Second, Bibi knows how to keep his cool. Leaders like Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have shown that when you lose your cool disasters happen. Third, Bibi knows how to get the economy to work. Many leaders have made a mess out of playing with the economy. Bibi is a born salesman, a charismatic one at that. Fourth, Bibi is appreciated among the little guys and the big guys. Countries big and small are lining up to shake hands with Bibi.

-I'll conclude with my personal opinion. I think Bibi needs his fifth term. A new leader would have too much under his plate. Arab states (namely, the Palestinians, Hezbollah) and Iran will try hard to destabilize any new leader. Bibi is the kind of guy who is hard to shock or destabilize. Second, a new leader could be emotionally destabilized by torments in the region. Third, any new leader could try to play games with the economy and send it to ruins. The Israeli economy is complex, strong, robust but complex at the same time and can break if the wrong policy decisions are taken. Finally, when foreign leaders talk to Bibi, they know they have a good chat. You don't want foreign leaders shaking their head after a chat with the new Israeli leader.

-Regarding Bibi's cases, first he is presumed innocent. Second, there seem to be problems with the way the investigation was held. Third, given the nature of the cases (these are no accusations of rape or kickbacks, but complicated, almost surreal influence peddling cases) meaning that any trial could last several months or years. There could be a show trial, of which nothing would come out.

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