Steve Kramer Blog 3/26/20 – Politics or the Public Welfare

Politics or the Public Welfare    by Steve Kramer

As I write this in the throes of the pandemic, the interim Israeli government is trying to cobble together a majority of the 120-member Knesset (MKs) to avoid a fourth election in just over a year. So far, politics has ruled and the public welfare suffered.
While the US seems to be split nearly equally between left and right, that’s not the case in Israel where the left won less than 6% of the vote. The Israeli Arab parties, overwhelmingly anti-Zionist, won less than 13%. Their combined total MKs is only 18% of the Knesset.
All the remaining parties are from the center and right, with the exception of the Blue and White party, headed by Benny Gantz, which finished second to acting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party. Blue and White is ostensibly center, but it acts more like center-left. 
Israel’s parliamentary system has almost always had majority governments composed of several parties totaling at least 61 MKs. But in the last year, three elections have not produced a majority, or alternatively, a unity government in which the two largest (and competing) parties could join to confront extraordinary circumstances. Such a government was in place at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War.
Because one of the right wing parties, Avigdor Liberman’s Israel, Our Home, refuses to sit in a government with Bibi, the right has not been able to form a majority coalition. Blue and White shares Liberman’s animus towards Bibi, guaranteeing that a right wing Likud, with Bibi as its head, could not continue in power. Nor were any other combinations able to accomplish that feat.
Benny Gantz’s current tactic (antithetical to what he campaigned on) is to cooperate with the anti-Zionist Arab parties to form a minority government; those Israeli Arab parties would remain outside of Blue and White’s coalition but would back it up. Is this a big deal, and if so, why? Because the anti-Zionist Arab parties will demand serious payback for backing the Blue and White coalition.  
The list of demands by the Joint List (the combined list of the anti-Zionist parties) is long and includes measures that will endanger the Jewish character of Israel as well as the country’s security. These parties demand a peace process with the Palestinian Arabs that is based on the so-called Two-State-Solution with borders that would be indefensible. In other words, a return to the 1948 armistice lines which have been termed, “Auschwitz borders.”
Israel National News: The Joint List will demand a change in the status of the Arab population in Israel, and annulment of so-called discriminatory laws. This includes annulment of the Nation-State law that designates Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Another law that the Joint List wants to be annulled is the so-called Kaminitz Law…meant to end rampant illegal building in the Israeli Arab sector…
Israel must also abandon its plan to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Jewish communities in Judea.
Demand for the end to the “occupation of all Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories captured in 1967.”
The uprooting of all the settlements and the “racist partition fence.” 
Israel must also free all “political prisoners” (terrorists) and allow an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Not least, there is the long-standing PA demand that Israel allows the implementation of the right of return to Israel for Palestinian Arab “refugees.”
It should be noted that Benny Gantz stated his approval of the Trump peace plan in person to the president, making it a prominent plank in the party platform, as well as promising that his party would not join with the anti-Zionist Arab parties. The Trump plan includes none of the Joint List demands.
That being said, the Blue and White bloc, which includes the left wing parties, is actively trying to gain control of the Knesset, albeit democratically, and pass legislation to forbid Bibi from forming a new government. This is based on the fact that he will shortly stand trial for alleged criminal violations.
I find it hard to understand Gantz’s tactics. His party’s raison d’être is to kick out Bibi. But by failing to join together with Likud in a unity party and sharing the premiership sequentially, Gantz ensures that Bibi stays on as head of the interim party. Twice Gantz made that paradoxical decision. 
In the current case, he may succeed in passing the legislation against Bibi, but then Bibi could dismiss the Knesset and call for a fourth election. If that happens, my prediction is that the Blue and White vote count will fall drastically and the right will sweep into power, as it did in the first two decades of this century. 
Unfortunately, politics rules and the public welfare suffers. Political agendas have displaced the public welfare, even under the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The public deserves better.