Netanyahu throws up a Hail Moshe: 8 things to know for November 18
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Netanyahu throws up a Hail Moshe: 8 things to know for November 18

The prime minister’s hopes of avoiding his government’s collapse are pinned on a meeting with Kulanu chief Kahlon, with few giving it much chance of succeeding

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

1. Not over till it’s over (but it’s over): After weeks of ramping speculation that early elections could be called at any minute, Sunday is being seen as actual D-day for the foundering coalition.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with Moshe Kahlon Sunday evening, after Kahlon already said he wants a snap poll, joining other senior coalition partner Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party.
  • Kahlon told Hadashot News “Meet the Press” program that he would meet with Netanyahu “to hear what he has to say” but appeared convinced early elections were in the offing. “Maybe Netanyahu will surprise [me] and pull a rabbit out of his hat,” he said.
  • “Most in the coalition think his chances of avoiding early elections are low,” Channel 10 reporter Sefi Ovadia writes on Twitter
  • Several news sites call the upcoming meeting “fateful,” and despite Kahlon’s dismissive attitude, press reports leave open the possibility it can work.
  • “Can Netanyahu save his coalition,” reads a headline on the Walla news site.
  • “Nothing is over until it’s over,” Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth Ahronoth. “We already know Netanyahu is capable of turning everything on its head, if that’s what he wants, and everything is allowed.”

2. Chief concerns: Why does Netanyahu want to put off elections? Haaretz cites a source saying he just wants another month or so to push through his choices of police chief and army head.

  • “While the appointment of a new IDF chief of staff is expected to be approved without problems, the appointment of retired Maj. Gen. Moshe Edri as police commissioner has encountered opposition in light of a misconduct complaint. The government committee that vets candidates for public service is set to meet on Sunday to consider the complaint. The current police commissioner chief’s tenure ends on December 3, and Netanyahu wants time to find another candidate if Edri’s appointment fails,” the paper reports.
  • Israel Hayom, often seen as a mouthpiece for the prime minister, plays up Netanyahu’s efforts to “put the brakes on,” and “stop the runaway train.”
  • It’s not politics Netanyahu is worried about, columnist Amnon Lord writes in the tabloid, but the ayatollahs: “The planned elections just after Avigdor Liberman’s resignation could anger the country, at a time when the prime minister has to be able to focus on regional strategy, especially Iran.”

3. Survey says: A big chunk of the country actually wants to go to elections, if a survey published by Hadashot news Saturday night can be believed.

  • According to the survey, widely cited by other Israeli media outlets (including yes, ToI), 53 percent of those polled think new elections are warranted, 32% don’t think so, and 15% don’t know.
  • Unfortunately, Hadashot news didn’t bother to mention how many people were surveyed, when the survey was held, or provide a margin of error. One might guess that the margin is fairly high, though, given that the survey was conducted with iPanel, which conducts online surveys — the bastard stepchild of polling.

4. The blame game: Being seen as the one who brought down the government and forced new elections upon the populace is never good politics, though, hence why several news outlets note the blame game already kicking off while the coalition is still on life support.

  • Yedioth accuses Netanyahu of “already seeking someone to blame in the case of early elections.”
  • “Elections or no, Netanyahu was quick to point an accusatory finger at Kahlon. One minute after the end of Shabbat, Netanyahu tweeted that a right-wing government should not be brought down and signaled the one who would be responsible if it fell.”
  • Israel Hayom’s front page points at a “battle of accusations,” and columnist Haim Shine blames everybody (but Netanyahu) of political opportunism, predicting they will pay for it at the ballot box: “Jewish Home’s political base won’t forgive Naftali Bennett if he helps Liberman in his bald-faced political maneuvering.”

5. No room to move in Gaza: Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that early elections will also make it harder for Netanyahu to maneuver regarding Gaza, where he has suddenly turned into peacemaker No. 1.

  • “The borderline restraint he could afford to show will be much more difficult to muster during an election campaign in which his rivals pounding him with criticism, on the left and the right. His opponents would present any full deal with Hamas as a surrender to terrorism,” Harel writes. “A continuation of the existing situation will mean rocket attacks based on various rationales, once every few weeks, with the pictures of panic and anger in the southern region haunting him for the duration of the campaign. But Netanyahu wants to avert a war with Hamas for fear it could drag on and cost many lives without achieving its declared goals.”

6. Hamas playing with fire: In the meantime, things seem headed toward a general calming along the restive border, at least for now, but the threats are still a’comin.

  • Yedioth calls a speech by Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar, in which he pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot at Tel Aviv, a “show.”
  • “Hamas is still playing with fire,” Yedioth columnist Alex Fishman writes, noting the 13,000 Gazans who protested along the border Friday. “Hamas would do well to keep things quiet for at least the next half-year, during which Qatar has promised to send them money.”
  • ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes that Sinwar’s behavior was reminiscent of his personality before he became Hamas chief and mellowed out somewhat, and expresses hopes his relative success has not gone to his head.
  • “For the sake of the people of Gaza, it should be hoped that, Hamas’s claimed ‘achievements’ notwithstanding, Palestinians understand that little has actually changed on the ground. It should also be hoped that Sinwar knows when to stop, and where Israel’s red lines lie,” he writes.

7. Up in the air: Reports over the weekend of violence against a flight crew by ultra-Orthodox El Al passengers sparked a wave of condemnation, followed by a wave of denial.

  • A Facebook post by one passenger, picked up and given prominent play in Israeli media, claimed that passengers attacked a flight attendant after they realized they would not land before the start of Shabbat, with the plane deciding to divert to Athens and forcing passengers to spend the weekend there.
  • “It seems keeping Shabbat is more important than loving thy neighbor,” she wrote.
  • But other passengers said there was no physical violence, just anger, especially because El Al lied to some passengers and told them they could deplane in New York, and then took off with them aboard instead.
  • “The captain blatantly lied to us,” writes Times of Israel blogger Betsalel Steinhart, who was on the plane.
  • Yehuda Shlezinger, a writer for Israel Hayom, also calls the claims of violence “fake news,” claiming that the only violence was a flight attendant who tried to take away his camera.
  • “Unfortunately for El Al and several media people, there was a journalist aboard, and hey, it’s me. And when a journalist sees drama, he opens his camera and thus I saw and documented almost everything,” he says, sharing short clips of religious men singing and arguing (mostly) respectfully.

8. Crocodile done-deal? Australia is continuing to get flack for its decision to consider moving its embassy to Jerusalem, with Indonesia threatening to delay a free-trade deal as long as the embassy move is on the table.

  • Bloomberg writes that trade Minister Simon Birmingham indicated to ABC news that Canberra won’t be cowed and PM Scott Morrison said there’s no rush on the deal anyway.
  • “Morrison said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Nov. 12 that there’s ‘no hurry’ to sign the deal despite negotiations being concluded and earlier indications the pact would be officially announced this year,” the outlet notes.
  • The Guardian notes that the whole issue has put Morrison in a bit of an impossible position: “If he drops the idea entirely, government conservatives will claim Jakarta is dictating Australia’s foreign policy, and it will be seen as a snub to Israel, which has welcomed Morrison’s signal on the embassy. If Morrison proceeds, Indonesia will respond negatively, which hurts Australia’s interests on a range of fronts.”
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