The only thing Israelis can agree on: 6 things to know for September 27
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The only thing Israelis can agree on: 6 things to know for September 27

A poll confirms the near-universal distaste for new elections, even as everyone sees them looming, while Israel’s foreign minister speaks Persian in New York

A street in Jerusalem filled with election fliers on October 21, 2013. ( Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
A street in Jerusalem filled with election fliers on October 21, 2013. ( Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

1. Talking unity, thinking elections: Israel is acting like a person who is so petrified of something they begin to see it everywhere they turn. The specter of a third round of elections is supposedly barely visible on the horizon, but to ask the press, Israel is already deep in campaign season, with signs of the dreaded three-peat everywhere.

  • We’re in the spin cycle, Army Radio announces Friday morning, rattling off all the various ways people were campaigning without really campaigning.
  • “From his speech at the president’s residence to the request to have his pre-indictment filmed, Netanyahu is already campaigning,” reads a headline to a political commentary by Yossi Verter in Haaretz. “Like a skilled pastry chef, he poured into the saucepan all the ingredients he will use in the campaign.
  • According to many, the politicking by Netanyahu continued Thursday night, with a speech to his Likud faithful in which he called on rival Benny Gantz to man up and go for a unity government.
  • Walla correspondent Tal Shalev writes that the overtures for unity, uniformly rejected by Blue and White, are meant to create the space to blame Gantz for new elections.
  • “On the outside, he broadcasts generosity, statesmanship, and responsibility with his call to Gantz,” she writes. “But at the same time he is putting up a wall with his right-religious bloc, and refusing to hold talks that are not in his partners’ names.”
  • Yedioth Ahronoth cites unnamed Likud sources as basically confirming those suspicions.
  • “Likud officials claim that Netanyahu is laying the groundwork for a new campaign: That includes sharpening his messaging about cooperation between Gantz and the Arab parties, and the claim that the unity bid failed because of Gantz.”

2. Three’s a crowd: Why is it so important to blame someone else for early elections? Because it’s hard to think of an option less popular right now.

  • A poll published by Israel Hayom Friday shows fully 60 percent of people do not support a third round of elections if both Netanyahu and Gantz fail to form a government. (Another 14% don’t know, and 26% are happy to have another day off to head to the polls.)
  • The poll, which has a fairly small sample size of only 502 respondents, also shows 54% of people favoring either a narrow unity government or a wide one.
  • “The Sept. 17 election left the Israeli public both fractured and confused,” the paper’s Mati Tuchfeld writes.
  • A separate poll published by the Kan broadcaster finds that only 50.6% are in favor of a unity government, though its contours are not laid out.
  • The poll, which has only a slightly larger sample size of some 550 respondents, also finds that 34.5% would blame Netanyahu for new elections, compared to 6.4% for Gantz. Another 31.6% would point a finger at Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, who was blamed the last time around.
  • Crunching other types of numbers, Channel 12 news reports on the damage that a continued deadlock and new elections would wreak on the economy and society. The actual vote would cost at least NIS 2 billion, while various promised reforms to the IDF, the education system and a new hospital are being stalled by the lack of decision-making, not to mention the damage done by the fact that there is no budget for 2020.

3. What Shaked said: Netanyahu’s right-religious allies may be getting nervous about the return to elections.

  • On Thursday, Yamina head Ayelet Shaked briefly sparked a political storm when an interview with her published by the Kipa website included her saying that her party could join up with Blue and White without Likud.
  • Shaked quickly denied making the comments and the nationalist-religious Kipa website took them down.
  • “In the spirit of the [High Holy Days] we are not embarrassed to apologize,” the website tweets in explanation. “After another listen to her words it is clear: The option of a unity government without Likud was not brought up by Shaked. She is committed to the right-wing bloc and we are committed to the truth.”
  • Haaretz notes that the whole thing is kind of a moot point anyway: “It’s not possible to create a unity government without Likud, especially given the opposition of Liberman to sitting with the ultra-Orthodox parties.”

4. Video killed the hearing: As mentioned above, Netanyahu’s request to have his pre-indictment hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was seen as yet another campaign ploy.

  • Unsurprisingly, the bid is rejected out of hand, in a letter from a Mandelblit aide widely described as “harsh.”
  • “The PM’s request is ridiculous, the moment there are cameras it becomes a media circus,” former deputy attorney general Yehoshua Reznik tells Army Radio.
  • Yedioth quotes legal sources who call the request a “maneuver by Netanyahu meant to disrupt the proceedings.”
  • While the paper plays up Mandelblit’s rejection, it buries the news that its publisher Arnon Mozes is expected to be indicted soon as part of the affair.
  • Israel Hayom, also caught up in the affair and seen as the house paper for Netanyahu, headlines its story on the request and rejection with Netanyahu’s claim that the hearing is a “drumhead court martial.”

5. Duda looks like a bigot: A report by Jewish Insider that Polish president Andrzej Duda blamed Israel for rising anti-Semitism in his country in a meeting this week with American Jewish leaders is getting wide play in the Hebrew-language press, shunting even the latest Likud-Blue and White talks off the top of websites.

  • According to Jewish Insider, citing several sources who attended Wednesday’s New York meeting with top community officials, Duda claimed offensive comments by then acting Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in February had caused an increase in anti-Semitism in Poland. Later Friday, Poland officially denies the report as “plainly not true.”
  • While the report came out Thursday night, Israelis seemed to only have noticed Friday morning, possibly helped along by Blue and White’s Yair Lapid tweeting “No Mr. Duda, Israel is not responsible for anti-Semitic incidents in Poland. The ones responsible are anti-Semitic Poles — like those who aided in the murder of Jews in the Holocaust.”

6. Very Important Persian-speaker: There is no response from Katz, who is likely (as of this writing) snug as a bug in a rug in his bed in New York, where he gave a speech to the UN Thursday night.

  • The address was the first time since 2010 that Netanyahu had another minister address the world body. As ToI’s Raphael Ahren explains, that time Netanyahu was forced to quickly distance himself from the speech by Avigdor Liberman, who called for population transfers and discounted the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in less than 30 years.
  • Netanyahu is known for his smooth English delivery, and while the heavily-accented Katz didn’t have that, he did shift into Persian at one point to address Iranians directly.
  • Katz also accused Iran of being behind an attack on Saudi oil facilities, echoing a mostly overlooked comment from Netanyahu days earlier.
  • In Haaretz, Amos Harel and Amir Tibon write that the sophistication of the attack surprised Israel and has put Jerusalem on notice.
  • “The operational capabilities evidenced by Iran exceed all the assessments and analyses of the Israeli defense establishment, and place in something of a ridiculous light the failed attacks organized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards against Israel from Syria in the past two years,” they write. “A strike capability of this precision and effectiveness puts Israel’s strategic infrastructure sites in future danger.”
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