Israel media review

Silent minority no more: 7 things to know for September 23

The Joint List makes a ‘historic’ decision to back Benny Gantz and make its voice heard, but parties seem too concerned with playing biggest loser to pay much heed

(L to R) Joint List candidates Ofer Cassif, Heba Yazbak, Mtanes Shehadeh, Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, Aida Touma-Suleiman and Iman Khatib Yassin appear before supporters at the alliance's election campaign headquarters in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on September 17, 2019, as the first exit polls are announced on television. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
(L to R) Joint List candidates Ofer Cassif, Heba Yazbak, Mtanes Shehadeh, Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, Aida Touma-Suleiman and Iman Khatib Yassin appear before supporters at the alliance's election campaign headquarters in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on September 17, 2019, as the first exit polls are announced on television. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

1. Minority retort: The decision by the Joint List alliance of Arab-led parties to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is seen as nothing less than a historic gambit.

  • “History at the President’s Residence,” writes Yedioth Ahronoth in its lede.
  • Announcing the move in a New York Times op-ed published just as the party relayed its decision to President Reuven Rivlin, party leader Ayman Odeh describes it as a rejection of “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade.”
  • It’s been almost three decades since an Arab party backed a government, which it last did in order to give Yitzhak Rabin political cover to pursue the Oslo Accords. As then, expectations and risks are both high.
  • “The Joint List has succeeded to convey to the general Israeli public that they want to influence who will be Israel’s next prime minister,” writes Haaretz’s Jack Khoury. “The question is whether Gantz, Kahol Lavan and the State of Israel are prepared to view Arab citizens and their representatives as legitimate partners who can help set the national agenda, or will they push them out, sending a message to the entire Arab public.”

2. Spoiler alert: Historic sure, but is it a game changer?

  • Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi notes that even before the consultations began, the end result was known.
  • “Rivlin laid out the outline of the next government: It will be a unity government of the two largest parties; it will be an equality government — meaning the same number of ministers from each party, with a rotating premiership; and there is also nothing keeping [Likud head] Benjamin Netanyahu from staying head of the government.”
  • Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea also writes that the final chapter is already known, though in his calculations Netanyahu dies at the end (figuratively).
  • “It’s clear to everyone involved, except maybe one person, that there will be no third round. It’s possible the creation of a coalition will take time, and it’s certain that it won’t make everyone happy and have stumbling and crises along the way, but there will be a government in the end.”

3. Look at that mandate run: Despite the apparent lack of drama (and by Monday morning it’s well known whom everyone will recommend) many news outlets still cover the proceedings like a horse race or sporting contest, tallying the number of seats in support like a score for each candidate.

  • The horse raciness was helped along by the fact that one of the four Joint List factions — Palestinian nationalist Balad — pulled its support Monday morning.
  • And politicians are nothing if not notorious flip-floppers.
  • Case in point: a pair of tweets from Channel 12 within seven minutes of each other (and flagged by @nitzanglusman). In the first, Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked tells Rivlin her party won’t have anything to do with talks with Gantz if he is given the nod. In the second, she’s quoted saying that she is against boycotting anybody on coalition talks.

4. First is the worst: What drama remains (as of this writing) is whom Rivlin will give the first nod to.

  • The accepted wisdom at this point is that both Gantz and Netanyahu want to go second, so that the first person will fail and they will have a better chance of success when the heat is on over the specter of yet more elections.
  • “We have the beyond curious situation of the party that worked for the single key purpose of ousting Netanyahu, and is adamant that Netanyahu lost these elections, now apparently seeking to depict its chances of forming a government as being slightly less good than his, in the hope that he will fail, and they will succeed a few weeks down the road,” writes ToI editor David Horovitz.
  • Channel 13 news and others went as far as reporting that Likud was considering not recommending anybody, as if Rivlin is a calculator who only goes by pure numbers and not a thinking human who knows when he’s being played (in the end it did recommend Netanyahu).
  • Israel Hayom’s Mati Tuchfeld calls the situation “bizarre” and claims Rivlin will go whichever way puts Netanyahu in a bigger vise.
  • “It stands to reason that Rivlin, who is motivated by a healthy appetite for revenge toward the prime minister, will consider the option most likely to hurt Netanyahu, whether that means tasking him first or second, and will choose accordingly,” he writes.

5. Nice guys finish last: Just because it is the accepted wisdom does not mean it’s so.

  • “Yes, being second after the first failed would appear to give more leverage but letting the other take control of the process is a mighty big risk,” tweets my colleague Raoul Wootliff.
  • Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev calls the reasoning “convoluted” and meant to cover for the fact that the Gantz is worried the support of Arabs will hurt his chances with right wingers. And he surmises it’s a fatal mistake.
  • “Machiavellian machinations that would lead to Netanyahu being picked first to form a new coalition, however, would crush the center-left. The sight of Netanyahu remaining in the driver’s seat rather than being relegated to the sidelines – for the first time in a decade – in the wake of his clear-cut defeat in the election would be, for most Gantz voters, way too much to bear,” he writes.

6. Not burning for Amazon: Elections schmelections. The biggest news in Israel, as noted by some, is that Amazon has begun operating in Israel.

  • Or is it? The news is missing from front pages, and it’s not only because of elections. Rather it may be because Israelis aren’t exactly getting the total Jeff Bezos experience.
  • According to the Globes business daily, it’s not even available in Hebrew yet.
  • “Amazon had hoped to launch in Israel with its Hebrew site. But pressure from international headquarters to begin services before the Jewish holidays has meant that the service in Israel is for the time being only available in English. This will have an adverse effect on sales because many Israeli consumers prefer to use sites where they can have a shopping experience in Hebrew including a Hebrew search engine,” the paper notes.
  • Israel Hayom also throws some cold water on the excitement, with a headline noting that Israelis “will get more of Amazon’s service, less of Amazon’s prices.”
  • “The initial impact won’t be dramatic; there won’t be a booming impact,” Ilanit Sherf, head of research at Psagot Brokerage, a unit of Israel’s largest investment house, tells ToI. “But it will grow with time, also offering Israeli manufacturers a way to reach global audiences.”

7. Field of dreams: What does reach (some) front pages is Israel’s baseball team making the 2020 Olympic games.

  • The feat is an amazing one for a country that doesn’t even know it has a name for the sport — kadur basis, literally “base ball” — and just uses a transliteration of “bayzbawl.”
  • Channel 12 news celebrates history made by the team, but also notes that it’s more Joey Jewenstein from Brookline than Shmulik Koufax from Binyamina. “The team has four Israel-born players, three Americans who moved to Israel and the rest are Americans who took on citizenship to play on the team.”
  • Haaretz credits Israel Baseball head Peter Kurz with having the vision to put together the team, which now has a 50 percent chance of medaling, and Kurz tells the paper that he’s hoping to turn the country into someplace where people actually care about baseball.
  • “We can use this stage to grow the sport in Israel. We are building two fields soon. We have 11 months until the Olympics to show this off and show everybody what Israeli baseball is,” he’s quoted saying.
  • Could American football be next? On Thursday, Israel’s little known national football team beat Turkey 27-22 in Group B qualifiers for the European Championship, and will play Belgium in a few weeks.
  • While American football is not an Olympic sport, the world governing federation has already applied to the IOC to consider making it one. The IOC has already ruled out 2024, but 2028 is still on the table.
  • Perhaps new Dolphins starting quarterback Josh Rosen could join, since anything is a step up from Miami.

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