Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Highlights, etc., of today's election in Israel -- culled from news sources, primarily Jerusalem Post -- and final analysis by Rabbi Dov Fisher

The V-15 group, which was set up by that front of the U.S. State Department to bring down Netanyahu, and was funded through the Obama/Kerry government, was running buses all day today, bringing Arab voters from Arab towns and villages to the polls.  Nevertheless, the Arab Parties seem to have garnered the exact-same 13 seats I predicted yesterday that they would get.

Likud MK Ze'ev Elkin's grandfather, Arkadi Verchovsky, died at age 90 — at his polling place in Neve Ya'akov — immediately after he voted.
Verchovsky was a veteran of World War II who fought in the Red Army. He moved to Israel from the US in 2004. Elkin told Ma'ariv that his grandfather was active until his last day, and even went out to convince his neighbors to vote for Likud last week.

More than fifty criminal cases have been brought against people for impersonating others at voting booths, stealing voting ballots, or for threatening  staffers at the polls.

Police arrested a 23-year-old Sderot resident Tuesday on suspicion of threatening former defense minister and MK Amir Peretz at a voting station in the southern city. Peretz, a former head of the Labor Party and a lifelong union organizer, was the incompetent Defense Secretary under Ehud Olmert, who calamitously mis-handled the war with Hezbollah a few years ago, resulting in terrible damage in the Israeli north and in Peretz’s political demise.  Olmert did not have time for a political demise because he first was indicted and convicted for financial crimes.

Voter turnout at Israel’s prisons was robust, with 81.74% of inmates voting, well above the 65% average among those in the rest of Israel.  Israel’s prisoners are very patriotic and public-spirited.  The only question is to which flag they are patriotic.

The breakdown is showing:
Likud bloc at 54.  (I had predicted 55.)  That is composed of 27 or 28 for Likud; 8 or 9 for Bennett/Jewish Home (Modern Orthodox Religious Nationalists); 6 for Agudath Israel(“UTJ”) (Ashkenazic “Black Hat”), 7 for Shas (Sephardic “Black Hat”); and 5 for Liberman/Israel Is Our Home (Russian anti-Leftists).  It appears that Rabbi Yishai’s Party just missed the 3.25% minimum, so all his Sephardic Orthodox Pro-Netanyahu votes are flushed down the toilet, costing the Likud Bloc approximately 2 seats.  (That is, with those four seats flushed down, the math works out that each bloc gets two seats, so the Likud bloc effectively loses two seats.)

Labor bloc at 43.  (I had predicted 41.  They got the extra two seats because Rabbi Yishai’s Sephardic Orthodox nationalist votes were flushed down the toilet, resulting in each bloc getting approximately two of the lost four seats.)  That is comprised of 27 for Labor (“Zionist Union”); 11 for Yesh Atid/Lapid; and 5 for Meretz.

Kulanu/Kahlon is getting 10 seats.  Thus, precisely as I wrote last night, Kahlon will decide who the next Prime Minister is.  If he goes with Likud, that bloc will have 64 or so seats in the 120-seat Knesset.  By contrast, if he refuses to go with Likud, his ten votes will be added to the 43 of Labor, and the Left will have a 53-seat coalition.  And then Herzog would have to figure out how to reach 61, all as I wrote last night.  Either he would need to bring in the Arab 13 seats, which would give him a majority, but would taint Labor forevermore as the party that governed Israel in alliance with parties devoted to destroying Israel.  Or he would have to buy off Liberman’s 5 seats, but Liberman will never sit with the Leftist Meretz Party which has 5 seats.  (Liberman recently said, “I would not sit in a coalition with Meretz even if they would make me President of the United States.”  So that point is made.)  They could try bringing in the Shas Party, which often is for sale, but Shas won’t sit with Yesh Atid unless they get such a big payoff that it would drive Yesh Atid out of the Left coalition.


They still have to actually-count every vote.  All these numbers above come from exit polls, and the several exit polls all are very similar.  But because of the cockamamie system, as every last vote comes in, some seats can switch.  Of greatest curiosity to me is the Army Vote.  Historically, the young people in the Army, who vote from their outposts all over the place, get counted a day or two later because it takes time to get their votes to the counting sites from their various army bases.  Historically, the army votes tend to be strongly to the nationalist/right side, with a bit of oomph for the Sephardic vote, too.  Thus, it just may happen — probably not, but outside-chance-maybe — that the army votes will give Rabbi Yishai’s Party just that extra-bit more to get all those votes that were flushed down the toilet recaptured and recounted into the equation.  If that happens, then the Likud bloc will be two seats stronger and the Left two seats weaker.

Then the focus shifts to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Rivlin (a lifelong Likud guy), is supposed to determine, based on the election outcome, which party leader has the best odds of cobbling together a parliamentary majority coalition of 61-plus seats.  Usually that person is the head of the party that gets the most seats. 

When the President makes his determination, he them gives that party leader three weeks to pull together a coalition.  If the designated leader cannot pull it together in 21 days, he may request three additional weeks.  The President can give him the extra three weeks or can turn him down and may thereupon invite another party leader to form a coalition.  That second person then gets three weeks to pull it off and may request three extra weeks if he cannot do so in the first three weeks.

In this case, in the abstract, it would seem that Netanyahu should get the first nod.  First, because Netanyahu may actually have outpolled Herzog.  Second, because even if they are tied, the Likud bloc has the better chance — assuming they can get Kahlon to buy in.  All they will have to offer Kahlon is everything he asks for, that’s all.  So Kahlon gets to be Finance Minister, and Netanyahu finally commits to focus on the economy, bringing down skyrocketing housing costs and food costs, busting up some monopolies that should be busted up anyway, etc.  Also, Bibi will have to let Michael Oren, his former ambassador to Washington who later joined Kulanu, play a role in “making nice” to Obama.  But that should be OK because Oren is not a bad guy; he is pretty good.  Recall:  He was the guy who got shouted down at UCI by the Jew-haters who later were prosecuted.  

However, in any equation, it also must be remembered: (i) Rivlin personally hates Netanyahu — internal Likud politics going back decades — and (ii) Rivlin might not want to seem biased in favor of Likud and against Labor, because the President of Israel is supposed to be above politics, impartial.  So President Rivlin may determine that, if Herzog gets more seats than Netanyahu, then Rivlin needs to give Herzog the first shot to form a coalition to govern, even though Netanyahu may have a better shot at cobbling together the 61 seats.  But if Likud remains ahead of Labor (aka “Zionist Union”), by 28-27, then it does seem that Rivlin will give Netanyahu the first shot.

My guess is that Kahlon will get whatever he wants and that Bibi is in a mindset to give him whatever he wants because, in return, Bibi would remain positioned at best to protect Israel from Iran and Obama/Kerry for the final 22 months of the Obama/Kerry government, and at the very least he would be positioned to prevent Herzog and Livni from making things worse.  This all will mean that the Orthodox Parties will have to accept less funding of some of their favorite priorities, but that is how politics works.