A political guide to ‘after the holidays’: Here's what to expect

Complications lie ahead, from drafting yeshiva students to drafting Trump’s peace plan.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump speaking at UN Security Council, Spetember 26, 2018 (photo credit: GPO PHOTO DEPARTMENT)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump speaking at UN Security Council, Spetember 26, 2018
(photo credit: GPO PHOTO DEPARTMENT)
Israel’s politicians will still be relaxing this Shabbat and dancing with Torah scrolls on the Simhat Torah holiday, which starts Sunday evening and ends Monday. But once three stars emerge, ending that last fall holiday, the dreaded period of time will begin that is known in Israel as aharei hahagim – “after the holidays.”
It is very typical in Israeli politics to delay key decisions and important steps until after the holidays. That procrastinating often starts in July, because who wants to work hard in August, when the beaches are especially tempting?
Those delays were even more prevalent this year, when the Knesset began its extended summer and holiday vacation in the early hours of July 19, shortly after passing the controversial Nation-State Law.
Since then, the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition and the date of the next election have been up in the air. An approaching deadline to pass a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription law has only added to the uncertainty.
And US President Donald Trump has been acting like an Israeli by continually pushing off the unveiling of his “ultimate deal” Middle East peace plan.
So with many key decisions about to be made, the following are 10 dates to put on your calendars, when big news is expected and it will be especially important to read The Jerusalem Post:
October 1, December 2:  Conscription conundrum
Immediately after Simhat Torah ends Monday night, the Agudat Yisrael Council of Torah Sages will meet to consider changes in the conscription law. This meeting could decide the fate of Netanyahu’s government, especially if the prime minister wants to use the issue as an excuse to advance the next election.
But the more likely scenario is that it will be just one key step in a developing crisis. The real deadline to pass a conscription law set by the Supreme Court is December 2, and Israeli politicians tend to not take action until right before a deadline. We will know when the Knesset returns.
October 15: Knesset returns
Nothing ensures political stability more than keeping the MKs away from the Knesset. This recess, the Knesset was emptier than ever. While in past recesses, many special meetings were called, this time only two were called, and they were not well attended.
The first item on the Knesset’s agenda is expected to be passing a Basic Law on the Druze sector. Then again, the Knesset could vote to disband itself and initiate an election immediately, if that’s what Netanyahu decides he wants. If so, chances are he will wait until after the municipal elections take place.
October 30: Municipal mayhem
Unlike the Knesset race, we know when the elections will be held for mayors and city councils across the country. Will there be a trend of young people elected across the country? How will Netanyahu’s Likud fare? The focus will be on whether Netanyahu succeeds in getting Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin elected mayor of the capital. The election could be a bellwether for Netanyahu’s future, much like midterm races in the United States.
November 6:  American upheaval?
American midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections have never been that big a deal for Israelis. But it can be argued that an Israeli prime minister has never before tied his fate to the man in the White House as much as Netanyahu has with Trump.
If the Republicans lose control of both houses of Congress, Trump will be much weaker, and so will Netanyahu, even though Israel is not an issue in these races, with very few exceptions. If the Republicans keep control of both houses and win key governor races such as Florida’s, that would boost Netanyahu.
How strong Trump will be will impact when and how he will unveil his Middle East peace plan and the plan’s chances of making headway.
November/December: Peace plan presented?
Trump said at his press conference with Netanyahu Wednesday that he intends to present his Middle East peace plan by the end of the year. Since it has been confirmed that he would not dare take such a controversial step ahead of the midterms, that means somewhere between November 7 and December 31.
Then again, Trump also endorsed the two-state solution in the press conference and retracted it before the ink was dry on the banner headlines of Israeli newspapers. If an election is declared in Israel, that could postpone the plan yet again, as could developments in Syria.
October to December: Syrian surprise?
The September 17 downing of a Russian plane by Syria, the blame Russian officials laid on Israel, and the promised delivery of the Russian S-300 anti-missile defense system have all made the relationship between Israel and its Russian neighbor in Syria more intense.
Will Israel continue attacking Iranian facilities and weapons shipments in Syria, when it is now so much more complicated? Yes. How to do that will be discussed in the next meeting between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which – a diplomatic source close to the prime minister told reporters traveling with Netanyahu – will take place soon.
Violence is, of course, also possible in the West Bank and Gaza.
October to December: Abbas era ends in violence?
A source at the United Nations General Assembly said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “looked awful” and needed three people to help him up the stairs when he arrived.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reportedly briefed the security cabinet last week that, due to Abbas’s weakness, “there is a 60% to 80% chance of an outbreak of a wave of violence in Judea and Samaria.”
Cabinet ministers downplayed that assessment. But they will have to closely monitor both Abbas’s health and his political power inside the PA, because a deterioration in either could spiral quickly into chaos.
Palestinian violence could have a huge impact on the next Israeli election.
February, March or November 2019: Election arrives
It is said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. An Israeli election in 2019 can be added to that list. The election is currently set for its official date of November 5, but the prime minister has reportedly been seeking to hire an international political strategist who could start immediately. The prime minister could just be preparing for any eventuality. The earliest date the race could be held, if initiated after the second round of municipal elections on November 13, coincides with the last time the election could be set ahead of the deadline to pass the conscription law: Tuesday, February 26. As soon as the election is initiated, the only candidate who, pollsters have found, could beat Netanyahu will enter the fray: former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.
November 2018: Gantz goes for broke
Gantz has wisely remained on the sidelines so far, knowing that the moment a former general enters politics, his support begins to erode. But he can’t stay out of the fray forever.
Channel 2 reported two weeks ago that Gantz will form his own party, not join the Zionist Union or Yesh Atid. But he could run at the helm of multiple parties that will run together.
The Likud is getting ready to attack Gantz and portray him as leftist, elitist and antireligious. He has been hesitant to express opinions until now, so he will have to refute those allegations after he enters politics, when he will be under constant fire.
One advantage Gantz has is that he is seen as Mr. Clean, unlike Netanyahu, whose political fate rests in the hands of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
June 2019: Mandelblit makes up his mind
Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri told a legal conference three weeks ago that Mandelblit will make a decision about whether to indict Netanyahu in his three criminal investigations in the first half of 2019, which led to headlines about a decision being made by June. That could be after Netanyahu wins an election, forms a new government and passes the “French Law,” which would prevent an investigation of a sitting prime minister. Or the election could be initiated after Mandelblit decides. Either way, whatever he rules could be the biggest story of the year ahead.