Sarasota attorney: Is Netanyahu’s time coming to a close

Sarasota attorney: Is Netanyahu’s time coming to a close

A Sarasota attorney who made a recent trip to Israel for dialogues with various leaders questions whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Ne

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A Sarasota attorney who made a recent trip to Israel for dialogues with various leaders questions whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain in that position after the elections.

Israel’s next Knesset, its parliament, will be elected on Sept. 17, 2019.

A word about the process. There are 120 members in the Knesset. Each political party, or parties if they decide to run jointly, selects a slate of candidates. The voters vote for their preferred slate and not for any individual candidate.

Each party or slate receives the number of seats equal to its percentage of votes (proportional representation). That comes so long as the party or slate receives at least 3.5% of the vote. The party leader of the slate with the greatest vote (thus the most elected members) is generally requested by the president of Israel to form a government.

No party or slate has ever received a majority of votes. So the leader designated by the president must negotiate with leaders of another party or parties to obtain at least 61 votes to elect him as prime minister to form the new government. This is a rigorous process of give and take.

The last elections were on April 9, 2019. For the first time in Israel’s history, no one was able to negotiate a coalition agreement to form a government. Benjamin Netanyahu tried but failed. Avigdor Liberman the leader of Yisrael Baytenu (basically the Russian party) withheld his needed party’s votes from Netanyahu. Ganz, the leader of the Blue and White party, winner of the second most seats, made no effort to form a government. He knew he couldn’t muster the necessary 61 votes.

This led to the upcoming election. In the April election, the issue of the opposition was whether Netanyahu, under the cloud of criminal investigation, was fit to stay in office. Netanyahu campaigned on keeping the State of Israel safe. None of the other critical domestic issues received attention.

Since the party slates have just recently been filed, it is too early to know whether this campaign will discuss serious issues; namely; economic disparity; social equality; the military draft of Heredi, or orthodox Jews, from which they are now exempt; and other matters of religion and state, including civil marriage for many who can’t marry under religious law

Early polls, not terribly reliable, show that the right bloc led by Likud, Netanyahu’s party, will obtain 54 seats while the center left bloc, led by Blue and White, the party of Benny Gantz, with votes from the Joint List, or Arab parties, will have 55 seats.

This puts Avigdor Liberman in the cat bird’s seat. His party is projected to win 11 seats. He and Natanyahu are said to share animus for each other. Liberman has publicly declared he would not vote for a government led by Netanyahu. He would vote only for a unity government of the major parties. This leaves unclear whether Liberman would vote for Likud if Netanyahu should step down as its leader.

Netanyahu’s problems are further complicated by recent statement of Ayelet Shaked, leader of the United Right, part of the right bloc. She criticized Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials and indicated she would vote for him as prime minister “at the moment.” So she puts into play the question of whether Netanyahu, with whom she has a strained relationship, will remain the Likud leader after the election.

Libermana and Shaked by their public statements are giving a shove to Netanyahu and maneuvering to maximize leverage for their parties and their personal ambitions for higher office.

My vocabulary includes a few words of Hebrew. Of those few, my favorite may be “balagan,” or mess. At this stage, this may be the best description of the current predictability of the election outcome. Stay tuned as I will write updates. Maybe clarity will be realized but more likely continued uncertainty.

Right now, no matter the confusion, we are seeing democracy at work.

Retired Sarasota attorney Harold Halpern is a board member of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

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