Here be elections: 7 things to know for November 21
Israel media review

Here be elections: 7 things to know for November 21

Israel is grumpily sailing into uncharted waters, and everyone is pretty sure we’ll soon be wrecked on electoral terra all-too-cognita, unless a mutiny on the Bibi forms

Illustrative picture of an old map and compass. (12963734/iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative picture of an old map and compass. (12963734/iStock by Getty Images)

1. Worst political process ever: Israel is making history, and for once it doesn’t involve a high death toll or really any type of violence, and yet nobody seems very happy.

  • The celebration of democracy that is Israel’s deadlocked political system has reached uncharted territory, with the baton being handed to the Knesset to nominate a potential prime minister for the first time ever, after two party leaders failed to muster a coalition.
  • “Sick of this! Let us know when you’ve decided,” grumbles Israel Hayom in massive letters on its front page.
  • “The public is bored, which is a huge achievement for some of the players. They are waging a war of attrition, not necessarily against each other, but against us, the public,” Eitan Orkabi complains in an accompanying column.
  • Yedioth terms the goings-on “Nightmare elections,” and declares that the country “has entered a period of harm that it does not know the way out of.”
  • The front page of the Haaretz broadsheet has no such doom and gloom, but its lead picture, showing Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman sipping from a mug, harks (not necessarily intentionally) to the “this is fine” meme, a popular cartoon showing a dog sipping from a mug in a burning house while willfully ignoring what is happening around him.

2. Knesset blackjack: The 21-day grace period has never been experienced before in the country’s history, meaning there are a lot of questions, and a lot of explainers about how it will work.

  • On Wednesday, the Knesset legal adviser sent out a briefing sheet to explain to the media and everyone else the rules of the game to try and clear up some confusion.
  • In short, “any MK who wins majority support during the 21-day period, which begins Thursday and ends at midnight on December 11, would then be appointed prime minister-designate by the president, the law states. That MK then has a further 14-day window to form a government and get it approved by the Knesset,” ToI’s Jacob Magid writes.
  • One surprise in the directives is the fact that MKs can recommend more than one candidate, meaning more than one MK can get the votes necessary. Only the first to submit, though, will get the golden baton.
  • Channel 13 calls the process “the last way to avoid elections.”
  • Haaretz’s Jonathan Lis says the three most likely scenarios are still: “A unity government between Likud and Kahol Lavan; an inflated center-left government with some defections from Likud; and a narrow government supported by Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.”
  • In Walla, Tal Shalev writes that “most senior politicians say there is no escape, the penny has dropped, third elections are on the way, but some leave a little room for doubt, according to the adage that in politics, as in war, there’s no such thing as no such thing. Over the next three weeks either nothing will happen, or everything will.”

3. No campaign, no gain: Like those politicians, most of the sad pundit class is already sure third elections are on their way.

  • ToI’s Raoul Wootliff notes that Blue and White’s Benny Gantz sounded like he was kicking off his campaign rather than ending a coalition bid, in his speech Wednesday night announcing his failure.
  • “With a fiery, fast-paced speech in Tel Aviv at odds with his much-noted normal calm demeanor, the Blue and White head laid into Netanyahu with perhaps the most ferocity we have ever seen from the stoic former army chief,” he writes.
  • Yossi Verter writes in Haaretz, “Only the brave could beat back the gag reflex as they watched Israel’s top politicians launch their campaigns for the 2020 election. Hypocrisy, cynicism and sanctimony flooded the screens. Everyone portrayed himself as righteous and good-natured while shoveling dirt on his rival.”
  • Looking on the bright side, Shimon Shiffer in Yedioth says that a third vote “may give us a clearer view of the [politicians’] stances.”
  • “Don’t buy the popular assumption that this round will end like the other two,” he advises, noting that the new round may be held with Netanyahu already under indictment.

4. Charge of the slow brigade: According to Channel 13 news, that indictment could come as early as Thursday — today — with the station claiming that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has made up his mind on what to charge Netanyahu with in the three cases pending against him, if anything.

  • But not so fast. Expert Suzie Navot of the Israel Democracy Institute tells ToI’s Raphael Ahren that unlike Joseph Schmoes like us, MKs have something called procedural immunity, which must be lifted in order to formally file charges. All Mandelblit can do is tell the Knesset speaker that he intends to file charges and then sit on his hands, for another few months at least.
  • “[Netanyahu] just has to say that he wants the immunity and then only when a new government is formed and the Knesset committee starts working they’ll deal with it… months from now,” she says.
  • To Walla’s Amir Oren the prime ministership is Netanyahu’s Namibia, referencing Israeli businessman Kobi Alexander, who fled to the southern African country after being convicted: “He can run there to avoid jail. He doesn’t want to stay there for itself; it could be nice, but he’s past that. He needs it in the absence of any other defense against the prosecutor, the judge, the cop and the jailer.”

5. Don’t gig ’em AG: Netanyahu’s allies are not waiting for Mandelblit to make an announcement, launching what appears to be a coordinated campaign to dismiss the indictment.

  • Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who once wanted to be justice minister, tells Army Radio that “unfortunately, I can’t rely on Mandelblit’s decision, As a private individual, I do not think the prosecution can be trusted.”
  • Speaking to the same station, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who was also in the running for justice minister, describes the case against Netanyahu as “one big absurdity.”

6. Mutiny on the Bibi: Channel 13 news reports that Netanyahu likely does not need to worry about a Likud mutiny once he is under almost-indictment.

  • “Careful examination of what is going on in the party does not indicate that the banner of the rebellion is soon to go up.”
  • No sooner does the station report, it though, than Likud MK Yoav Kisch tells Army Radio that he thinks it’s high time for Likud to have a new leadership primary.
  • Speaking at the Jpost conference, MK Gideon Sa’ar, who already said he would challenge Netanyahu in a leadership race, backs the idea and claims that he can do what Netanyahu couldn’t: build a coalition.

7. Little red Yvette: Netanyahu isn’t the only one being shoved toward a political coffin. Liberman as well comes in for some harsh criticism, both for his refusal to back a side and allow a government to be formed, and for his diatribe in which he railed against Arabs and ultra-Orthodox.

  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that Liberman’s singular focus is on ousting Netanyahu, since he’s squeezed him for everything he can already and wants new blood (in not so many words.)
  • “So far, he has succeeded in preventing a new Netanyahu government but failed to remove him from office,” he writes. “So he is prepared to consign Israel to an unprecedented third election in the space of 12 months in the hope that Netanyahu’s declining support in the past two elections will continue — especially after the corruption indictments that are expected to be filed against him in the coming days.”
  • “Yvette’s time is up,” writes Amnon Lord in Israel Hayom, using Liberman’s nickname.
  • Noting the fact that Liberman claimed Israel was facing two serious challenges in security and the economy, but nonetheless pushed the country into more uncertainty, Lord pokes fun, writing that “the crisis is so urgent that a solution could be pushed off until next election. Liberman isn’t afraid of [Hamas leaders Ismail] Haniyeh and [Yahya] Sinwar, but of Moshe Gafni. He isn’t scared of the Iranians but of the [visiting] Satmar Rebbe.”
  • In Ynet, Nadav Eyal writes that Liberman may be headed for a rude awakening, chiding him for trying to “be the UN secretary general” and refusing to see Gantz and Netanyahu as anything but equally to blame for the impasse. “The blame is not equal and Liberman is not the responsible adult … Liberman’s attempt to dance at two weddings at once will soon come to an end, it seems in elections, and it’s not at all clear that the public will give him the same power it did before.”
read more: