With full term possible, Netanyahu may outlast Ben-Gurion (and Obama)

If a miracle happens and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completes his entire next term in office, the next election would be held on November 5, 2019.

March 24, 2015 03:59
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the stones of the Western Wall

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the stones of the Western Wall. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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If a miracle happens and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completes his entire next term in office, the next election would be held on November 5, 2019.

Netanyahu’s term would be longer than four years, because of a quirk in Israel’s laws that sets the next election for four calendar years after the previous one on the civil calendar and fixes the date based on the Jewish calendar.

The law says the election must be held on the third Tuesday of the Jewish month of Heshvan, which falls in October or November.

If the previous Jewish year was a leap year, as would be the case then, the race is advanced to Heshvan’s first Tuesday, which falls on November 5.

Chances are you will never hear that date again, because Israeli elections have almost never been held on time. Check with your average Israeli on the street, and no one will know that date, unlike in America, where many people can tell you that the next presidential election will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

In fact, there are plenty of websites that are counting down the amount of days until a new president is elected, which fell to less than 600 last week.

No one would admit it if Netanyahu regularly visits any of the Obama countdown websites. But no one would be surprised if he did.

There is another leader for him to outlast, though he is long gone. Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion served 4,575 days in office, some 12-and-a-half years.

According to a study by the Israel Democracy Institute, Netanyahu would pass up Ben-Gurion to become Israel’s longest-serving leader September 23, 2018.

It is extremely unlikely that the government Netanyahu will be formally tasked with forming Wednesday night will make it to the 2019 end of his term. But the 2016 date and possibly the date in 2018 could be achieved if Netanyahu plays his cards right.

The keys to achieving stable governments in Israel are to overpay coalition partners and keep the government as homogeneous as possible. The more the MKs in the coalition have in common, the less they will fight and flex their muscles.

If Netanyahu keeps his promise to form a government with the right-wing and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties that recommended him to President Reuven Rivlin, there will be no fighting among them on the Palestinian issue and not much on socioeconomic issues.

They will fight on matters of religion and state. On those issues, compromises will have to be reached in advance. They will have to determine the fate of criminal sanctions on haredi draft evaders and how much money will be added to yeshiva students and child welfare allotments.

But the controversial “Torah is My Trade” document that yeshiva students had to sign to defer their draft indefinitely will not come back. That was what prevented tens of thousands of haredi men from working and kept them poor.

Some have asked why Netanyahu did not seek a coalition with Yesh Atid instead of Shas and United Torah Judaism. The first answer is that the haredi MKs do not interfere on the matters of war and peace that the prime minister cares about the way Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid did.

They also are far less demanding in coalition talks than Yesh Atid.

Between Shas and UTJ there is expected to be only one minister, Shas leader Arye Deri. Yesh Atid would have asked for at least three ministers.

The final reason brings us back to stability. Shas and UTJ would not try to topple Netanyahu’s government from within.

They tasted the drought of the opposition, and they did not like it. Netanyahu has them successfully deterred.

So does this mean four years in office? Again, no. But the new government could last longer than you think. Obama and possibly Ben-Gurion could be outlasted.

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