1. Poll positions: News of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking to have a snap poll scrapped in favor of a unity government has the political spin machine going at ludicrous speed.
- To add to the political rhubarb, the Kan public broadcaster reports Wednesday morning that Netanyahu offered Blue and White’s Benny Gantz a rotation government, citing Likud sources.
- Likud MK Miki Zohar appears to confirm it, telling the station, “We have currently not ruled anything out to prevent this election,” but both sides vociferously deny any such talks on the matter.
- Support for canceling the elections, meanwhile, seems to be fall along party lines with those on the left accusing Netanyahu of playing games, and those on the right generally supporting the maneuver.
- One outlier is Yisrael Beytenu, which indicates it is fine with calling off elections and forming a unity government, but also lashes out at Netanyahu for looking into it.
- Others note that those who support canceling the election are the exact ones who voted to call new elections in May.
2. Rotate this: Blue and White also plays both sides, officially saying it is against the idea. However, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid tweets out his support for a unity government led by his party, so long as Netanyahu does not lead Likud, shortly after Zman Yisrael, ToI’s sister site in Hebrew, publishes a story saying the party supports that too.
- According to Zman, the statement means Blue and White supports canceling the vote.
- According to Israel Hayom however, it’s Lapid who needs to go in order to form a unity government, running a front page headline reading, ”The plan, a government with Gantz — and without Lapid.”
- “Netanyahu did not suggest a rotation for the head of the government and will not agree to drop the ultra-Orthodox or right-wing parties, but he is willing to commit to not pass [immunity bills] if he can form a government,” the paper reports.
3. Survey says, Don’t run! Yedioth Ahronoth reports the decision was made on the basis of polls that showed Likud faring poorly in upcoming elections.
- “The polls show Likud falling below 30 seats and the right-wing Haredi bloc without Avigdor Liberman falling below 60 seats … to 55 seats.”
- Zman’s Shalom Yerushalmi writes that “in private conversation, senior Likud officials reacted with angst toward the 35 number, and even more unhappiness when they remember that now Likud also includes Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu. As they see it, Kahlon doesn’t add a thing to Likud and even takes away seats from them.”
4. But is calling off elections even legal? According to Channel 12, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said it can’t be done.
- Channel 13 reports that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon concurs.
- But just because something is not legal doesn’t mean it needs to be an impediment, especially if you are the ones making the laws. Channel 12 reports that all that needs to be done is for the Knesset to reconvene and make a law that says it can undo calls for new elections. Democracy!
- Asked about it, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who is leading the drive for calling off the elections, asks Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon that who says Mandelblit says it’s illegal, and what does he have to do with anything anyway? “It’s a Knesset thing, and all the surveys show a solid majority of the public wants a unity government instead of going to elections.” Polls!
5. Let my people vote: But wait, one might say, wasn’t the Knesset voting to call new elections also an expression of the people’s will, as per the wonders of representative democracy?
- Yedioth calls the sudden Likud lust for calling off elections because that’s what the people want a “U-turn.”
- In Haaretz, commentator Yossi Verter writes that “Israeli democracy is like slime in the crime-tinged hands of the senior suspect Netanyahu.” Slime, not putty.
- Even Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord is not on board.
- “For the sake of the country, now that the decision was made to hold another election for the purpose of hammering out the political kinks, it must be honored. A Blue and White-Likud unity government would come with certain benefits, but there are priorities on the national agenda right now and a right-wing government is needed to pass a number of necessary judicial reforms,” he writes.
6. Manama minyan: Somewhat buried below the election (or lack thereof) talk in the media agenda is the Bahrain Peace to Prosperity workshop, though mostly for the signs of normalization happening on its edges.
- That includes literal fringes like those worn by congregants at a rare synagogue service at one of the Gulf’s only synagogues, organized by ToI’s Raphael Ahren.
Bahrain’s tiny synagogue has its first minyan in decades thanks to officials, execs, reporters here for White House economic conference on the Palestinians. “Am Yisrael Chai” (The Jewish nation lives). @jdgreenblatt45 @DavidMakovsky @RabbiMSchneier @rmhier @arik3000 @lightstonea pic.twitter.com/JtXwZqKrX8
— David Halbfinger (@halbfinger) June 26, 2019
- “The exceedingly warm way in which Israelis are being received here is a remarkable testament to how times have changed. A small group of citizens of what was once denounced as the ‘Zionist enemy’ has been welcomed with open arms in Bahrain,” Ahren writes.
- In Haaretz, Noa Landau soberly observes, “The festive event opened with a reception and an alcohol-free ‘cocktail party,’ because the hotel follows Islamic law that bans alcohol. But even without alcohol, dozens of businesspeople from Arab countries were at ease chatting with Israeli counterparts – openly and in the presence of journalists.”
- Doing vox pop at a market in Manama, Israel Hayom’s Ariel Kahana comes up with some very pop vox.
- “We all believe in the same Allah,” one person tells him. Another demands $100 for a picture.
- Kan’s Gili Cohen, in Manama, interviews a man in Bahrain who speaks to her in, gasp, Hebrew.
- “How are we speaking Hebrew in Bahrain?” she asks Luay al-Sharif, who displays an impressive command of the language. “I can’t believe it,” he answers.
7. But don’t expect peace: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that the conference is important not because it could bring peace (it won’t), but because “for the first time, official representatives of a significant number of Sunni Arab states will be openly attending an international conference on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They will be doing so against the express wishes of the Palestinians, and not one of the cardinal Palestinian demands — statehood, Jerusalem, borders, refugees — will be on the conference’s official agenda.”
- Former congressman Mel Levine and pollster James Zogby write in the LA Times that they too were once tasked with finding economic solutions for the Palestinians without waiting for a peace accord.
- “Given this background, one might conclude that we would be in favor of the US-sponsored Peace to Prosperity Conference set for Tuesday and Wednesday in Bahrain. We are not. Our experiences during the three years we co-chaired Builders for Peace and what we have seen develop in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the intervening years have led us to conclude that the conference is an ill-conceived sideshow that will lead only to a dead end with neither prosperity nor peace as the outcomes,” they write, noting the unfortunate dependency of Palestinians on jobs in Israeli settlements.
8. What the Qadusa case says: One Palestinian who had a job in an Israeli settlement was Mahmoud Qadusa, who was released Tuesday after being accused of raping a small girl.
- In the New York Times, David Halbfinger writes about the case and how it and a wedding highlight ties and strains between the settlement of Modiin Illit and the neighboring village of Deir Qadis.
- “Today, dozens of Arab car-repair garages are kept humming by customers from Modiin Illit, who ignore the signs warning Jews not to enter because the prices are unbeatable. And scores of Deir Qaddis residents assemble at the gateway to Modiin Illit each morning to work in its schools, shops, synagogues and construction sites,” he writes. “Over time, the lives of these Arabs and Jews have become intricately interwoven.”
- Haaretz’s lead editorial, meanwhile, writes that the case illustrates moral rot in Israeli society.
- “This is a result of leaders infected with a racist and nationalist bug who through a long and steady process have infected more and more citizens,” the editorial reads. “To lead the changes needed to prevent the repeat of such cases, we must end the rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the trunk of the tree from which all these rotting branches are growing.”