VIEWERS of the latest webinar from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) last week were treated to leading Israeli political commentator Ehud Yaari’s views on the imminent Israeli election.
He was not confident that there would be a definitive result, remarking that “Trying to offer a prognosis for the elections is a prescription for a long-term depression,” because it is hard to see a way to a stable coalition.
However, he said that his “reading today is that Bibi’s closer to forming a government than any other constellation. The momentum, as we speak, is on his side.”
Netanyahu now has momentum because of the success of Israel’s COVID vaccination program, for which he is largely given the credit, along with his success in concluding the Abraham Accords with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, while he also claims responsibility for the Trump Administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran.
This election, as was the case with the previous recent polls, is “all about Bibi”, and while many Israelis see him as a demon leading Israel to a far-right populist regime in collaboration with the religious far right, others regard him as the only person who is up to the job of PM. In fact, polls show that most don’t believe Netanyahu’s main rivals,Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett or Gideon Sa’ar, are capable of answering Israel’s many challenges.
Yaari noted that Lapid, seen as the main alternative, is concerned that some of the smaller parties aligned with him may not receive enough votes to meet the threshold to gain Knesset seats, which would result in their votes being wasted. He said this is the first time he has ever seen a party leader trying to minimise his votes.
Yaari listed three important questions that may decide the result: how many Israelis vote; how many voters change their mind; and how well the four lists in danger of missing the threshold go. The end result may be a further interim transitional government with Netanyahu still at the helm.
Yaari also had some interesting things to say about Israel’s Arab politicians, noting that a poll that week showed 87% of Israeli Arabs want their representatives to participate in a coalition rather than “occupy the backbench and scream about the Palestinian cause.” There is, therefore, a chance that, for the first time, an independent Arab party will be a part of a governing coalition.
In answer to questions, Yaari said that a major issue in the forthcoming Palestinian elections is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is allowing Hamas to participate, meaning it could be prominent in the next government, and re-establish its terror infrastructure in the West Bank. Abbas’ Fatah party is fragmenting, and he is facing challengers to his re-election as President, which helps Hamas.
In Iran’s election, also this year, the now dominant Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will choose the next president, and Iran through its proxies will continue military attacks through the region.
Joe Biden’s team is being very careful not to impact the Israeli elections, but has stated it will only re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, which it also hopes to strengthen, when Iran returns to compliance. He says it’s very important that the US will leave its soldiers in Syria, and hopes it will also keep the Abraham Accords expanding, as it promised, as there are two to four more countries ready to join.
Asked about Israelis’ morale, he said it’s generally good, as the economy is looking like recovering strongly, the technology sector is thriving, and Israelis are proud of the success of the vaccination program.