While the US election process goes on and on through a single election cycle, over in Israel they have been having multiple elections in rapid succession as no party has been able to form a working majority. As Yossi Gurvitz writes, the latest election that was held on Monday resulted in a some bizarre maneuverings as early exit polls were misleading.
To understand what is going on, bear in mind that the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to go on trial in less than two weeks on corruption charges and so he is desperate to not lose his premiership since he is hoping to pass laws that grant him immunity as long as he remains in office.
At the news of the exit polls of Israel’s (first?) 2020 elections, when voting ended at 10 PM Monday, rightwing pundits did not hide their smiles: The polls showed the would-be Netanyahu coalition with 60 seats (out 0f 120). This was considered, and accepted, as a major victory: Last time, the rightwing coalition had only 55 seats.
Netanyahu immediately announced a “huge victory“, and his supporters immediately explained how he would get out of his trial for corruption, set for March 17th: He would create a coalition which would pass a “French Law”, excepting acting Prime Ministers from indictments. Netanyahu could be only prosecuted after he left office, which means never.
When it turned out following the vote count that they might get only 58 seats in the Knesset, Netanyahu’s party thought they could persuade (bribe?) some people to switch sides, especially since the opposition parties that had 62 seats are very fractured and the chances of them forming a stable government were remote.
But they decided that they could unite on a highly limited platform.
But what if the goal is not a stable government? What if the goal is limited – fixing the election law, so that a defendant in criminal court could not become prime minister, then riding out the Coronavirus, and afterwards going for a new elections? That is, what if the anti-Netanyahu bloc would use its majority to take Netanyahu out of the game?
In less than 12 hours, you had the anti-Netanyahu bloc cohering around this plan.
As Gurvitz describes, Netanyahu and his allies went nuts and played the ultimate racist card. They declared that the combination of four Palestinian parties known as The Joint List that has 15 seats could not be part of a government because they are not Jews.
So the Bibi-ists drew the ultimate weapon: A government including the Palestinian parties, they said, was illegitimate. This is a Jewish state. And we will not allow the Palestinians to cast out Netanyahu. We’d rather have a civil war. This sentiments were echoed by a senior writer in Israel Hayom, Netanyahu’s mouthpiece newspaper.
On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu repeated, in his own voice, the same argument. The Palestinian votes are illegitimate, he said. His bloc, he claimed, contained 58 seats; the opposition had only 47 votes, as Palestinian votes don’t count:
“The left bloc has only 47 seats. The Arabs are not a part of this equation. This is the people’s will. Gantz is pal-ing up with the Joint List’s terror supporters in order to cancel the people’s decision… Me, and millions of citizens who voted for us will not let this happen.”
In five minutes, Netanyahu went full Kahane. The so-called master of hasbara was perfectly willing to torpedo one of hasbara‘s main points– that Palestinian citizens of Israel have full civil rights– in order to save his ass in court.
The idea that Palestinians in Israel have full civil rights was always a fiction, transparent to any reasonable observer, designed to give cover to those in the US who are the enablers of Israel’s apartheid policies and like to proclaim that Israel must be unconditionally supported whatever it does because it is the only true democracy in the Middle East. That lie has been increasingly exposed and this latest example just makes it more manifest.
Netanyahu’s desperate attempts to retain power at any cost could be a harbinger of what we can expect Donald Trump to try and do if he should lose the election in 2020.