The Wild Card in Israel’s Elections

March 9 2015

Israel’s constitution requires that the premiership go to the head of the party receiving not a plurality but a majority—that is, 61, of the 120 Knesset seats. Since, given the country’s fractious political system, neither Likud nor its primary rival, Zionist Union, can emerge victorious alone or even with one or two medium-sized parties, each would have to form a coalition with various smaller parties, some of which could swing right or left. But, writes Haviv Rettig Gur, there’s also another variable in the equation:

With no candidate winning the 61 recommendations for an outright appointment, the president may decide to force a national-unity government. Can the president do that? Yes, with surprising ease.

It is completely within President [Reuven] Rivlin’s constitutional rights to offer both [Isaac] Herzog and [Benjamin] Netanyahu an ultimatum: agree to a national-unity government, dividing the premiership by rotation, or see your opponent get the first chance at premier. The simple fact that so much of the next Knesset won’t be beholden to either left or right makes this a possibility, since Herzog would likely be able to gather together a coalition with nearly as much ease as Netanyahu.

But would Rivlin force his will onto grudging coalition partners? Netanyahu think so. This was the fear that drove him to oppose Rivlin’s candidacy for president last year.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Labor, Likud, Reuven Rivlin

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas