The march of time (and time and time again): 7 things to know for December 9
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Israel media review

The march of time (and time and time again): 7 things to know for December 9

Behold! The day of our redemption is set, and it is March 2, 2020, though the faithful pray a miracle may still cancel the evil decree and breathe life again into the dead Knesset

The Knesset plenum ahead of the opening of parliament, on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Knesset plenum ahead of the opening of parliament, on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Call it, doc: Israeli media is awash, as of this writing, in reports that Likud and Blue and White have finally agreed… on a date for new elections: March 2.

  • The reports seemingly marks the slightly untimely but all-too-expected death of coalition talks and of the 21st Knesset, which has spent the last several weeks on life support.
  • According to Channel 12, moving the election date more than a week away from March 10 will require a super rare four-reading vote in the Knesset.
  • The Kan broadcaster reports that lawmakers will get to work right away Monday on drafting and pushing through the legislation to set the vote for the earlier date.
  • But Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein later sends out a statement saying that nobody is working on any legislation until Wednesday, holding out hope for a miracle.

2. Grave concerns: Most elections in Israel are on a Tuesday, but it seems March is just too chock full of important dates on Tuesdays.

  • March 10 was automatically out the window because it is the Jewish holiday of Purim, marked by feasting, drunkenness, masquerades and all sorts of other shenanigans, which one would think is actually the most fitting for the bizzaro display of democracy that is a third election in a row.
  • Ynet reports that moving it to the Tuesday of the week after March 10 is no good for United Torah Judaism, because March 17 coincides with the anniversary of the 1786 death of Elimelech of Lizhensk, who is apparently controlling Israeli elections from the beyond. “Some of the party’s voters will be off marking the date at his tomb in Poland,” the site notes.
  • What about moving it up to March 3? Channel 13 news reports that the Yad Lebanim organization for families of soldiers killed during their service asked not to hold the vote then, since it is the official date determined by the state to mark the death of soldiers whose burial place is not known.
  • “It’s not right that people should go out shopping and voting while bereaved families are uniting in memory of those killed. The sky will not fall if the election is moved to another day,” Yad Lebanim head Eli Ben Shem tells Channel 13.
  • March 2 isn’t exactly clear either. According to a website called Daysoftheyear.com March 2 is Fun Facts About Names Day, Banana Cream Pie Day, Old Stuff Day and Dr. Suess Day.
  • March 16 could be an option, but according to reports, Blue and White wants it earlier rather than later. Plus it’s No Selfies Day.

3. The nail is not in the coffin yet, though: The March 2 date is just in case no coalition deal can be reached by Wednesday night and parties say they are still holding out hope.

  • “We cannot let down our guard since we can get a call at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday that there is a unity government,” Ynet quotes Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon saying.
  • Kan reports that Likud is still working on getting Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman to come over to their side. According to the station, New Right’s Ayelet Shaked is speaking to Liberman about what kind of flexibility the sides can show.

4. Don’t fear the reaper: Others, though, are ready to pull the plug and move on.

  • In Israel Hayom, columnist Eitan Orkabi says people shouldn’t be afraid of new elections, and seems to look forward to more deadlock, which has allowed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue to push his agenda even without having the confidence of the electorate.
  • “Look what’s happened thanks to the stalemate: Slowly we’ve seen a build-up of unprecedented opportunities, and the real issues emerge: Jordan Valley Annexation, renewing the state-religion relationship and more than anything, separating powers and a sharp reform of the justice system,” he writes, listing three pet projects of the right-wing and Liberman (depending on what he means by renewing the state-religion relationship)
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial accuses Netanyahu of “bombarding Israelis with ridiculous proposals, accusations in every direction and fables about security emergencies and one-time diplomatic opportunities,” rather than doing everyone a favor and resigning.
  • Right-wing columnist Shlomo Pyoterofsky is also excited: “2019 brought us a record of two elections in a single year. The question is whether 2020 will break the record with three Knesset elections in one year? (In theory, it may be hard but it is possible),” he tweets.

5. Sa’ardonic reception: Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Netanyahu for the leadership of the Likud, tells Army Radio that there was something not kosher about the group of hecklers who booed and jeered him at a Likud summit Sunday night.

  • “My aides were left outside, because they were told that only central committee members could enter — but that didn’t happen. There needs to be a probe to see who let in this organized group that disturbed the summit,” he says.
  • In Zman Yisrael, Shlomo Yerushalmi notes that Netanyahu was also heckled by supporters of Sa’ar, calling the display a taste of what’s to come in an expected leadership battle.
  • “If there are primaries, Netanyahu will almost certainly win. But such a blatant show inside his home, in the heart of the Likud central committee, he has not seen,” he writes. “People yelled with all their might, and Netanyahu had a hard time starting his speech. He waved his hands, asked them to be quiet, but it took several minutes to calm down,” he writes.
  • Sa’ar is not the only potential challenger, with former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat also seen as a likely candidate, though for now Barkat is saving his attacks for Sa’ar. Barkat tells Israel Hayom that Sa’ar “stabbed Netanyahu in the back” and accuses him of coordinating with Liberman and Blue and White.
  • That may not be provable, but a poll published by Kan shows a whopping 17 percent of Blue and White voters prefer Sa’ar as prime minister to Blue and White head Benny Gantz.

6. A song of Donald: One would have no idea that elections are on the horizon or Israel is even an independent country from looking at most of the front page of Israel Hayom on Monday. The paper goes whole hog for US President Donald Trump after he spoke to the Israeli American Council (which happens to be funded by the paper’s owners, the Adelsons).

  • The paper gushes over the “historic speech,” and “unforgettable night,” as “thousands of Israelis and Jews could not stop clapping for the president, who proved that he is a real friend.”
  • “I’m your best friend,” reads the paper’s top headline, above pictures of the Adelsons with Trump,  and of the president hugging a member of the Shalva band, which performed for him.
  • Almost as large is a picture of the paper’s editor Boaz Bismuth, who pens a column about the “miracles” Trump is creating for “us.”
  • “Aside from converting to Judaism, he gave us everything we wanted in one evening, and it’s okay to pinch ourselves and ask, ‘were we like dreamers?” he writes, borrowing some language from a biblical Psalm of Godly salvation and a return to Zion (or south Florida).
  • And that’s all just on the front page.

7. Our mouths were full of money, our tongue a sufficient amount of loyalty: In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev agrees that in the annals of relations between Israel and the United States, there’s probably been nothing like Trump’s speech. But he differs on whether that’s a good thing.

  • “For right-wing Israelis and American Jews who believe Adelson’s adulating depiction of Trump as ‘the greatest president,’ it was a joyous celebration of his unyielding, one-sided support for Israel, which he reiterated from the podium. For everyone else, including the vast majority of U.S. Jews, Trump’s speech must have been excruciating – and his rousing reception by the Israeli-American audience more than slightly nauseating.”
  • Halie Soifer, head of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, tells Salon that Trump “has repeatedly made references to what has been a very negative stereotype of Jews and money and power.”
  • “Clearly he’s speaking from his heart. It’s clear that there’s quite a bit of hatred in it,” she says.
  • But while some Democrats called out Trump for his uses of anti-Semitic tropes in trying to lavish praise on the Jews, the outcry among others was mostly muted, and nonexistent among Republicans, as compared to other instances, writes Dean Obeidallah in CNN.
  • “The words of American Presidents can inspire the good, the bad and the ugly,” he writes. “That’s why in the case of Trump, his inflammatory and irresponsible words about Jews — as well as Muslims and other minorities — must be challenged every time, making clear that we as a society will not allow them to become the new normal.”
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