Just before the deadline for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new Israeli government, his Likud Party called for a vote to have new elections in September. This move puts the future of Israel and our relationship with our best ally in the Middle East in a state of turmoil.
The parliamentary system used to form the Knesset is unfamiliar to many Americans. The people vote for parties, not individuals. The parties have lists of candidates to represent their party as Members of the Knesset (MKs). The 120 seats of the Knesset are divided up based on the percentage of votes with a minimum threshold of 3.25% to get a seat.
From there, the President nominates a Prime Minister based on who he believes is most capable of forming a coalition government. This Prime Minister then makes deals with the parties potentially joining in the coalition by offering powerful cabinet positions to their leaders as well as promotion of certain policy proposals. Once the coalition has 61 seats, the government is formed and the cabinet is confirmed by the Knesset. This is supposed to form a government for four years, but that almost never happens as coalitions break down.
This time, the coalition broke down before it was even formed.
Likud called for new elections before President Reuven Rivlin could pick Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to try to form a coalition. It’s unlikely he would have been successful, but it could have given the progressive parties time to pitch their case to the people ahead of the next election.
According to JPost:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed the Likud faction ahead of the vote that he did not succeed in reaching a compromise with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman on the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill and also tried unsuccessfully to woo MKs from the opposition to join his government.
“It’s over,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the head of the Likud’s negotiating team, told reporters as he arrived to the Likud meeting after his last negotiations failed.
The conscription bill was allegedly what made Liberman hold back his party’s five seats, leaving Netanyahu with 60 seats. The government is formed with a 61-seat majority.
Now, Israel is in an unprecedented immediate second election before forming a government. It will be held in September, so from now until then the parties will be trying to shift votes and change the makeup of Knesset.
This leaves the White House in a pickle. Jared Kushner will be unveiling part of the administration’s Middle East peace plan, the “deal of the century,” next month. It was assumed there would be a valid government in place in Israel that could represent whether or not the deal made sense for them. That is no longer the case.
But it may not behoove the White House to slow down. In fact, it may play in favor of not only the United States but also Netanyahu if the White House can bring the Palestinians to the table. Netanyahu’s strongest support comes from those who believe in his stalwart stance against the Palestinians. If, on the other hand, the Palestinians continue to reject the deal before even seeing it, chances are it will be dismissed as a non-issue.
Netanyahu and President Trump have enjoyed a strong relationship. The President is very popular in Israel, but it would be difficult and inappropriate for him to weigh in at this point. His administration may be rooting for Bibi, but they won’t be able to do much about it, at least out in the open.
The future of Israel is cloudier than at any time in recent years. Anyone who claims to know what’s going to happen aren’t really paying attention. Likud could win again, or they could get wiped. We’ll learn which in the coming weeks.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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