The differences between President Trump and any of the Democratic candidates couldn’t be more numerous or consequential. Even the “moderate” Democrats are diametrically opposed across the board to President Trump’s policies. It’s literally every issue; there hasn’t been much in the way of bipartisan agreement about major issues since the Iraq War.
The Israeli elections are often framed as having similar dispositions between the right-wing bloc of Likud with their conservative allies and the Blue and White center-left group. But that’s simply not the case. There are clear differences between the two groups when it comes to several domestic policies, but Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz are extremely similar in how they view the United States, Israel’s role in the Middle East, and the enemies that surround the Jewish state.
That’s not to say there are no consequences for America if Netanyahu loses. We’ll cover those shortly. But the way the two men will interact with the United States are very similar. We saw this last month when Vice President Mike Pence invited Netanyahu to the White House for the unveiling of the Trump administration’s Middle East Peace plan. Appropriately, Netanyahu asked Pence to invite Gantz as well. It was necessary; the last thing Netanyahu needed was for the peace plan to be viewed as a political show back home. He wasn’t just being polite by asking for his opponent to join him. He was thinking in Israel’s best interests. As a result, both leaders expressed support for the peace plan, to President Trump’s delight.
Both candidates are military leaders with a severe distrust of Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah. Both want to annex parts of the West Bank, though Netanyahu will likely be a bit more bold about it. Both view a peace-through-strength stance as the only way to properly defend Israel. In a vacuum, it would seem like either leader would be good for U.S.-Israeli relations and keeping Israel safe.
But there’s a caveat. Unless today’s elections go wildly to the left, the most likely path through which Gantz could form a coalition government is by bringing the Arab List onto his team. That would be disastrous for relations as it would give an exaggerated degree of power to pro-Palestinian MKs. They would negotiate cabinet positions, some of which could work to turn the the United States against Israel. It wouldn’t be catastrophic; Gantz would still sit in the PM’s chair. But it wouldn’t be ideal. If the wrong moves are made in forming a left-leaning coalition, the enemies of Israel and the United States would be bolstered as a result.
This is the third election in less than a year. It seems unfathomable that this one won’t result in the formation of a new government. That’s good news if Likud gets the upper hand. It could be horrible news if a desperate Blue and White embraces the Arab List out of necessity.