1. That’s all folks: Third elections look surer than ever, at least according to Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who tells Yedioth Ahronoth that they are unavoidable.
- Liberman tells the paper that he did “everything” to avoid third elections, but he’s not going to join a narrow government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White chief Benny Gantz and a unity coalition is about as likely as Porky Pig dropping his stutter.
- Don’t blame the supposed kingmaker, though. “To my regret, both of them [Gantz and Netanyahu] took a strategic decision to not go to unity, and therefore the two parties are responsible for another round of elections,” he tells the paper, in a preview of a full interview to be published Friday.
- Liberman’s words reverberate widely through the Hebrew media echodome, with most reports focusing on him ruling out joining Netanyahu’s government.
- Walla’s Yaki Adamker writes that Liberman’s words “represent a huge step toward third elections.”
- Nonetheless, Liberman himself gets on the horn to Army Radio and tells them that “the next elections will be quite hard and stormy. Nobody knows what heights of polarization we will reach.”
- National Union head Bezalel Smotrich tells Army Radio that Liberman isn’t really relevant: “I didn’t expect anything from Liberman. He’s a cynic who has made no mark. I did expect things from Gantz. But it seems he’s a weakling who is getting dragged by [Yair] Lapid.”
2. Third time’s a charm? “Getting ready for elections,” shouts Israel Hayom’s top headline, reflecting what many in Likud have been declaring for days.
- (It’s worth noting that all sides are playing the game of using the threat of elections and giving up on a unity government to push the other sides to compromise.)
- The paper’s Amnon Lord writes that with just about a week to go before the deadline, “there’s some sort of agreement to just pass the time, and the talks aren’t for anything other than to bolster the position of each side ahead of the next elections, which are seemingly unavoidable.”
- If the elections vibe weren’t clear enough, Channel 12 compiles a list of what it calls “very unlikely ways to avoid an election,” though it allows that they are not all totally out of left field.
- Among the options are Liberman actually choosing a side, Netanyahu or Gantz giving in, right-wingers or religious parties joining Blue and White, or Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz striking a deal with Netanyahu.
- “That being said, Peretz has vowed again and again that the option is not on the table, and even shaved his iconic mustache to emphasis his seriousness,” Daphna Liel writes.
- Peretz in fact tells Channel 13 that they “offered me the world and more to enter a coalition with Netanyahu. They offered us every ministry, every role and every budget that we wanted.”
3. Still time on the clock: Not everyone has given up the ghost. The Kan public broadcaster reports that there are Likud members who still believe they can reel in Liberman.
- The station reports that 60 Likud mayors from around the country will hold a convention early next week under the banner “Liberman come home.”
- “Liberman himself was invited and confirmed he would go, and he is the only politician expected to be there,” Kan reports.
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter reports that despite the overwhelming feeling that the country is headed back to elections, Blue and White is still pressing on, but seems to confirm the idea that Lapid is the one holding back any compromise.
- “In private conversation, [Gantz] confirms the development of two camps among the leaders of Kahol Lavan: He and Gabi Ashkenazi are leaning more toward compromise (although Gantz still insists on being first in the rotation). Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, former cabinet ministers in Netanyahu governments — one resigned, the other was forced to resign — warn him of a trap,” Verter writes.
4. Huh? Elections? Already? The idea of third elections apparently caught the Central Elections Committee off guard.
- Channel 12 reports in a tweet that the director of the CEC has warned that they are not ready, with no equipment or workers.
- Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi writes that one person not caught off guard was Netanyahu, who has been planning for elections since September 18, the day after the last vote.
- “Already then, Netanyahu was gunning for another round at the polls. As always, he was several steps ahead of all of his rivals. What he saw back then, others have not quite understood even today,” writes Yerushalmi, noting that the prime minister’s trip to Portugal is meant to pump up his diplomatic bona fides.
4. Ready to rumble: But Netanyahu will have to face an internal challenge before being able to take on Gantz again.
- On Wednesday, Likud said it was starting to plan a leadership primary. A note from a party spokesman says a vote on when to hold the primary will only take place after December 11, but Channel 12 reports that the primary itself will take place as early as December 22.
- Both sides are taking the challenge seriously. According to Kan, Netanyahu spent much of Tuesday huddled with political supporters and advisers at Likud headquarters on King George Street in Tel Aviv.
- Meanwhile, Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar spent Thursday morning throwing a live grenade into the race, coming out and accusing Netanyahu of incitement and more in an interview with Ynet.
- “With much delay, Sa’ar said about Netanyahu what his friends in the faction have been afraid to: inciter, divider, focused only on himself, the national interest doesn’t interest him, willing to burn everything down,” tweets Ynet editor Attila Somfalvi.
- Channel 13’s Barak Ravid is less impressed: “He’s not alone or special. He went through the same stations of the cross and incitement as did everyone who brought the slightest criticism or opposition to Netanyahu and his policies. It’s a shame it didn’t bother him when it was happening to Tzipi, Bougie, Bogey, Ashkenazi, B’Tselem, left-wing voters, the police, the prosecution, Arab MKs, the Arab public etc. Now it got to him.”
- Even less surprising is Arab MK Ahmad Tibi accusing Netanyahu of being the inciter in chief in an interview with Army Radio. Asked about plans pushed by Netanyahu to help Arabs socioeconomically, Tibi retorts: “Even a serial killer sometimes helps an old lady cross the street.”
5. Jeremy was an anti-Semite: With elections in Britain on the horizon as well, anti-anti-Semitism is suddenly all the rage.
- ToI’s Robert Philpot writes that a new report from the Campaign Against Antisemitism says 67 percent of British adults who say they strongly support Labour head Jeremy Corbyn hold at least one anti-Semitic view and 33% hold four or more anti-Semitic views.
- “Jeremy Corbyn is now the politician of choice for anti-Semites,” CAA top dog Gideon Falter is quoted saying.
- The Telegraph reports that a leaked dossier from the Jewish Labour Movement found Corbyn was personally responsible for 11 acts of anti-Semitism.
- It accuses the Labour Party of a “hostile response to anti-Semitism,” “defending perpetrators” and a “cover-up,” the British paper reports.
- The Guardian reports that 70 JLM staffers have given testimony against Corbyn.
- France, meanwhile, earns plaudits from Yedioth’s Ben-Dror Yemini for passing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which includes some anti-Israel criticism. “The truth doesn’t always win out. This time in France it did.”
- In Germany, Duetsche Welle angrily responds to the idea that it could possible be accused of anti-Semitism after a translation error made it seem like an author was accusing Israel of housing 600,000 settlers in Gaza.
- “It is absurd that this mistake led to accusations that Deutsche Welle, as Germany’s international broadcaster, adheres to an anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic agenda. It is even more absurd to accuse the author Rainer Hermann from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of such a stance,” it writes. “He is not at fault in any way. His original German text was faultless and beyond any reproach. We are the most annoyed by our own mistake.”
6. Got your back: And now to Portugal, where Netanyahu has made Iran a centerpiece of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But also on the agenda is a mutual defense treaty, which Netanyahu seems to be in a rush to get signed.
- Swimming against the tide of many defense experts. Chuck Freilich writes in Haaretz that it’s actually a grand idea.
- Given the evolving threats Israel is facing, the benefits of a defense treaty actually far outweighs any possible drawbacks, he argues. And anyway, Israel is already kind of beholden to Washington without any of the material benefits.
- “When was the last time Israel conducted a major military or diplomatic initiative without first consulting with the U.S.? In reality, that hasn’t happened in decades, even in the face of existential threats such as Iran. A defense treaty would not materially affect Israel’s freedom of action,” he writes.
- In Israel Hayom, Pnina Shoker also cites US backing as a key reason Israel should take the fight to Iranians now, without waiting around.
- “We need to take advantage of the fact that the Trump administration is an ideal partner for offensive policies against Iran,” she writes. “It’s likely that after 2020 it will be harder to get US backing to act, and that’s one thing, among others, that the Iranians are counting on.”