How it really is! Fool or prophet – the September election

Fool or prophet, I think this may be Netanyahu’s swan song, and immunity from prosecution will probably become a fading dream.

Orly Levy-Abecassis (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Orly Levy-Abecassis
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
SOON YOU will know whether this writer is a fool or a prophet. At the end of this column I will – against my better judgment – give you my prediction for the results of the coming election. While you wait with baited breath (and no skipping to the end), let me give you a different view on the present election campaign.
The basic theme trying to be sold by almost all the parties is delegitimization. The right-wing ranges from the neutered Otzma Yehudit Kahanists through the brand new secularist-led Orthodox parties “united” in Yamina (which means Rightward) up to and including the Likud. These gentlemen and ladies of the Right have become more and more strident in attacking “the media and the Left.”
Meanwhile, the real Left today has shrunk to two small groups. These, the Meretz-left combined with the retreaded Ehud Barak, and Labor-Gesher reconfigured with Orly Levy-Abecassis, seem to have learned nothing about the Abbas-led “Hate Israel” campaign of the Palestinian Authority. Sadly, I leave them to that dream of a two-state solution, which I abandoned slowly, and with regret, over the past few years.
Their social policies are of course appealing, and Labor-Gesher has an excellent campaign slogan: “People Above All.” Levy-Abecassis, the daughter of David Levy, adds an element of honesty, a woman truly devoted to the weaker elements in our society; but tying up with the opportunistic Peretz has not added many voters, if the polls are anywhere near correct. Labor is a sad shadow of what was once one of Israel’s political pillars.
Nevertheless, these two lists as well as the Arab Joint List will not recommend Netanyahu to form a new coalition. They will be part of the “blocking majority.”
Please hold that thought, to which I will return later. But in the midst of all that seriousness I’d like to share with readers some of my unofficial polling experiences. (The French, in this case, is better than the English. The word for “polling,” which rings so scientific, is sondage, which I would translate as a “sounding.”)
Here is what I “sondered:”
A conversation with a dyed-in-the-wool Likudnik:
I: What about corruption in the Likud?
Likudnik: They’re all corrupt! Mapai wasn’t corrupt?
I: All of them? BG and Begin? Shamir and Rabin?
Likudnik: Who paid for Rabin’s cigars?
I: What cigars? He smoked cigarettes.
Likudnik: How do you know?
I: I was with him often. He smoked cigarettes.
Likudnik: So who paid for his cigarettes?
I: Come on…. Really!
Likudnik: And what about Gantz? What about Ashkenazi? Who gave Gantz 50 million shekels? And how did Ashkenazi get 50 million shekels from Shemen?
I: Did they? I didn’t know about that. How do you know?
Likudnik: What do you mean? Everybody knows….
For the sake of balance, I could not find a dyed-in-the-wool follower of Gantz, because the Blue and White bloc or party has only existed for just over six months. I turned to loyal voters of Ayelet Shaked-Naftali Bennett’s new Yamina, now in a “technical bloc” with the Jewish Home headed by Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich’s National Union.
I: Tell me how you can vote for Smotrich? He is ignorant and a Kahanist in his anti-
Arab views.
He: Nobody likes him. It’s just a technical bloc. After the election, they’ll drop him. Even Perez can’t stand him. (Meaning obviously Shaked and Bennett can’t stand him even more.)
I: You really believe that?
He: Yes. Then they will support Gantz.
I: Bennett says he will support Netanyahu.
He: They all hate Netanyahu. What is said before the election and after the election… They will at first propose Netanyahu. The other parties will have a blocking majority. After Netanyahu fails, they will switch and try to join Gantz.
An overheard conversation with a less dyed in-the-wool Likudnik:
She: I have to vote Netanyahu! I am afraid that we are losing national cohesion.
He: But he is the one who is creating all the internal tension!
She: Really? Is that true?
Another conversation with a more sophisticated Likudnik:
She: But Gantz has no political experience.
He: When you reach chief of staff, you’ve had lots of personal politics in the army, jostling for positions. And the military General Staff deals also with national strategy including diplomacy. The CoS sits with the security cabinet and sometimes with the full cabinet. Any CoS comes with years of experience in the politics of top-level national decision-making.
She: How’s his English?
He: Look, in that position he must speak English well. He has contact with the US and other armies as well as the NATO forces. He was military attaché in Washington for four years. His English is fine. Anyway, B-G spoke in a high-pitched voice with a Polish-Russian-Brooklyn accent, and somehow he did great things.
She: (Looked unconvinced.) Yes. No doubt being too long in office leads to corruption, but…
What do we learn from all these sondages? Disinformation is swarming around voters’ heads like bees smoked out of their hive.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be in a state of panic. He has bought off one right-wing vote-bleeder, Moshe Feiglin, with the promise of a seat in the cabinet. He tried desperately to have Otzma Yehudit, the Kahanist racist (near-fascist) party join Yamina. He failed. Now he is trying to get them to withdraw because they may take away tens of thousands of votes and still be unable to reach the minimum required to enter the Knesset. This act of desperation alone shows his true colors. To paraphrase: Netanyahu above everything else.
Every few days, he rushes off to another country to meet with its leaders and thus show that he is indispensable and unequaled on the international scene. It probably is true that he is unequaled, but that does not mean he is indispensable. Of course, all these photo ops are an election ploy, and all of it is heavily financed from public funds. That is not to say that it harms the state, but that the toxic admixture of political gain with possible diplomatic gain adds to the cynicism of those who will abstain in this election.
Now for my long-delayed prediction. But first, just to remind you: in order to get the president to commission someone to attempt to form a coalition government, parties representing 61 or more of the 120-member Knesset must propose that person.
In order to simplify matters, I will use estimates for groups of parties as they stand on a pro- and anti-Netanyahu recommendation to the president.
The dyed-in-the-wool loyalists of all parties will turn out to vote. Thus the Likud, and the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties can count on a near-full turnout at the polling stations. Looking at the combined results predicted as I write this, it should total about 55 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset.
The dwindled Meretz-Barak and Labor-Gesher can depend as well on a small number of loyal devotees. The Joint Arab List probably can muster sufficient voters to maintain or slightly enhance their position as compared with to the previous election. If indeed the Gantz-led Blue and White garners 30-31 seats and the other three to its left reach a combined 25, it would seem today as I write that the anti-Netanyahu parties also hang at about 55 seats.
In other words, there is a hung jury – none has over 60. The man who will determine Netanyahu’s fate is Avigdor Liberman. His secularist stance has brought his party, Israel Beytenu (Israel Our Home) with plus-minus 10 seats to call the shots. He says he will not support Netanyahu, but demands a unity government probably headed by Gantz with a combined core coalition of Blue and White, Likud minus Netanyahu, Liberman’s party – and then anyone else who wants to join. If this Avigdorian model can be realized, Liberman will be in a position to choose a major portfolio for himself.
The great unknown is how many people will stay at home. That is the fear in all camps, but greatest in the Blue and White Gantz-led party. This then is the wild card in the election coming on September 17.
To sum up: fool or prophet, I think this may be Netanyahu’s swan song, and immunity from prosecution will probably become a fading dream.
To be fair to myself, this is written 12 days before the election. We live in the Middle East. Much can happen until Election Day. I pray that it will not. Then you can write me, and address me as you will.
Avraham Avi-hai has a record of many decades of governmental and public service. He has been wrong about election results more than once. Comments and reactions: [email protected]