Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2019 Will Be a Fun and Normal Year for Israeli Politics

As 2018 drew to a close, Bibi Netanyahu dissolved his government and called for snap elections, which will occur in April. What's happened since then? Oh, many normal things:

  • Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked broke away from the Jewish Home party and announced the formation of a new right-wing party, which they've dubbed (creatively enough) "New Right". I am not the first to immediately think "Alt-Right" would have been more appropriate. Among their first pick-ups was far-right journalist Caroline Glick, who until now has mostly existed as living proof that I'm unfair to Liel Leibovitz when I call him the worst columnist writing in Jewish media today.
  • Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz launched his own party. What does it stand for? Well, in his words, Gantz's positions are "politically flexible", and pretty much every story on him has noted how careful he's been to not stand for anything in particular in the election run-up. This development (relatively well-liked political cipher launches vaguely centrist political party) is, in fact, very normal and expected, and seems to happen at least once per election cycle.
  • Despite (or because) all of this, and despite the fact that pretty much nobody in Israeli likes him, Bibi is overwhelmingly favored to secure another term as Prime Minister. His opposition is hopeless fractured and the Joint List (representing Israeli Arabs) historically has refused (and, to be fair, has not been welcome) to join any government. Without them, there's virtually no math getting a viable left-of-center coalition into the majority (the only hope would be a truly uncouth Frankenstein's monster which stitches together some ultra-Orthodox parties into the coalition. But while that's worked before in the past, those parties has drifted more explicitly to the right over the years at the same time that the margin for error has shrunk).

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