Just Because the Knesset Closed for a Few Days, Israeli Democracy Was Not about to Collapse https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2020/03/just-because-the-knesset-closed-for-a-few-days-israeli-democracy-was-not-about-to-collapse/

March 24, 2020 | Haviv Rettig Gur
About the author: Haviv Rettig Gur is the senior analyst for the Times of Israel.

With Israel facing a political impasse due to the uncertain results of the most recent election, the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, canceled the opening of the legislative session last week, first citing fears of coronavirus spreading among the members, then citing a desire not to interfere with coalition negotiations. Soon articles began appearing in the Israeli press warning of imminent danger to democracy, which were then echoed by an American press eager to believe the worst. But the Knesset resumed its business yesterday, with members voting in shifts, and no more than ten members allowed in the room at any given time. Haviv Rettig Gur explains that there was never a threat to democracy but a problem of a very different sort:

Israeli democracy is not in grave danger, but Israeli politics faces its most severe crisis in recent memory. The current political stalemate is rooted not in Edelstein’s obstinacy or in any specific and irrefutable assault on Israeli democracy, but in Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s political weakness. Gantz claims to have “won” the March 2 election, and, having been recommended as prime minister by 61 of the 120 members of Knesset now holds the appointment from the president to form the next government. But that doesn’t change the fact that he leads a 61-seat “coalition” that is anything but a coalition.

If he sets up a minority government dependent on the mainly Arab Joint List, he is very likely to lose a number of MKs from his own faction. . . . In other words, if he acts on his tenuous majority, he loses it. Conversely, if he seeks a unity government with Likud, he is very likely to lose the Yesh Atid faction of his Blue and White alliance, reducing his political position to a junior partner to the de-facto victorious Likud.

He is in a pickle, and his only path to anything resembling a victory appears to be a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu in which he, Gantz, goes first in rotation as prime minister. That would enable him—he hopes—to “sell” his new government to Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid, a co-founder of Blue and White, as an election victory.

Read more on Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/democracy-resumes-as-the-knesset-reopens-but-the-political-crisis-is-deepening/

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