Netanyahu’s Future Uncertain After Israeli Election. Here’s What You Need to Know
- Israel held its second election in five months, which came after its parliament dissolved itself and triggered new elections in May when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government.
- With 95% of the votes counted, Netanyahu has won 32 seats, while his main opponent, Benny Gantz has won 33 seats. Neither have gained enough votes to meet the 61-seat majority required to be prime minister.
- Once all of the votes are in, Israel’s president will decide who has the best chance to form a government.
- Many have viewed the election as a referendum on Netanyahu, who is facing indictment over corruption and bribery charges on Oct. 2.
Results are still coming in from Israel’s second election in five months, which many have viewed as a referendum on long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and his Likud Party won the first election in April by a fraction of a percent, beating out Benny Gantz, the leader of the new White and Blue party.
The election, held Tuesday, comes after Netanyahu failed to form a government in the allotted time period back in May. As a result, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve itself and hold new elections.
With 95% of the vote counted, right now it looks like Gantz’s Blue and White party has just a one-seat lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party. Gantz currently holds 33 seats and Netanyahu holds 32.
Now, there are two main options for what happens next.
Option 1: Unity Government
The first option is for the Likud and the Blue and White parties to form what’s called a national unity government. Under that system, the two parties would come up with a power-sharing agreement and pool their seats to form a majority.
But there’s a big catch here: Gantz has said he would not form a unity government with Netanyahu as the leader of the Likud as long as Netanyahu faces indictment.
Netanyahu is currently facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust that stem from three different corruption cases against him. He has denied the charges and is set to have a pre-trial hearing starting in just two weeks on Oct. 2.
As a result, Netanyahu is unlikely to agree to a unity government where he is not the leader. Especially because many believe he would try to get parliament to pass a last-minute immunity deal for him, something many experts say could be his only shot at avoiding possible indictment.
Option 2: Coalition Government
The second option is for Netanyahu and Gantz to try to piece together coalitions with the smaller parties to form a majority.
For that to happen, we have to look to the blocs– the alliances that parties form based on their political and ideological opinions.
There are two main blocs in Israel’s parliament: the center-left bloc, which includes the Blue and White Party, and the right-wing bloc, which includes Likud.
According to the current unofficial election results, both Gantz’s center-left bloc and Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc are expected to get 56 seats each.
Again, not enough seats for either to have a majority.
That leaves the other eight seats, all of which are expected to go to one party– Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular ultranationalist party led by Avigdor Lieberman.
Yisrael Beiteinu’s political leanings would normally place them with the right-wing bloc. In fact, Lieberman even served in Netanyahu’s cabinet in the past. However, Lieberman has been at odds with Netanyahu and is unlikely to throw his weight behind him.
Lieberman refused to join forces with Netanyahu after he won the election back in April unless Netanyahu supported a bill that would require ultra-Orthodox men to participate in Israel’s mandatory military conscription.
But if Netanyahu had supported the bill, he would lose the support of the ultra-Orthodox, which held 16 seats he needed. All of that, of course, ultimately resulted in Netanyahu dissolving the government and holding new elections.
Again, so much power to decide the next prime minister is in Lieberman ’s hands, which is why the Israeli media often refers to him as the “kingmaker.”
Lieberman, for his part, has said he wants a unity government between his party, the Blue and White Party, and the Likud.
Netanyahu’s Hold on Power
Netanyahu remains adamantly opposed to a unity government.
Speaking in an announcement after meeting with members of his right-wing bloc, Netanyahu said the bloc “decided unanimously that we’re going forward together to negotiations that will establish a government led by me.”
“Now there are only two possibilities — a government led by me, or a dangerous government that depends on the Arabs,” he continued. “Now more than ever, with the vast security challenges that lie ahead for the country, a government must not be established that depends on anti-Zionist Arab parties. That’s our commitment to the country and to our voters.”
It should not come as a surprise that Netanyahu will try almost anything to cling to power, especially because the stakes have arguably never been higher for him. That has only been reflected in his efforts and rhetoric leading up to the election.
Last week, Netanyahu announced that he would annex part of the West Bank if re-elected. After that statement, Israel’s Central Election Committee fined the Likud $8,500 for illegal propaganda.
On Thursday, Netanyahu’s Facebook page’s chatbot was shut down for violating hate speech rules, after sending a message that said Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all.”
The Facebook bot was later brought back, only to be suspended again on Tuesday after it violated regulations that prohibit the publishing of voter surveys on Election Day.
The day before the election, Netanyahu gave two radio interviews, breaking a law that bars candidates from promoting themselves from 7 p.m. and on starting the night before the election.
The Likud party also allegedly persuaded an Israeli television station to report that surveillance cameras were being installed at “dozens” of polling places in Arab areas, which experts have said was part of an effort to suppress Arab turnout.
However, if that was the intent, it did not work. The turnout from Israel’s Arab population, which composes about 20% of the whole country, was much higher than the last election.
Once the final votes are in, Israel’s president will choose the candidate he thinks will have the best chance of forming a majority government. Usually, that goes to whoever has the most seats, but not always.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Times of Israel) (Haaretz)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she said to reporters
Sturgeon Steps Down
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on Wednesday.
Sturgeon has been Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and she is also the first woman to ever hold the position. She has been in politics since 1999, leading the charge for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon also guided the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturgeon made sure to mention that her decision was not in response to the latest round of political pressure she is facing after her recent controversies regarding gender reform. Rather, her reasons are rooted in her own personal struggle with whether she can continue to do the job well.
“To be clear, I am not expecting violins here. But I am a human being as well as a politician,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “My point is this – giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But, in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long.
“For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long,” Sturgeon continued. “A First Minister is never off-duty. Particularly in this day and age, there is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted like going for a coffee with friends or going for a walk on your own becomes very difficult.”
Sturgeon’s Political Future
Sturgeon’s approval ratings are reportedly the lowest they’ve been since she’s been in office. Regardless, many political figures in Scotland, as well as the U.K., have applauded her and her historic service as First Minister.
There are still several unknowns moving forward. There is still no confirmation on who will take over the position. However, Sturgeon did say that she will serve until someone else is elected.
The push for Scotland’s independence is hanging in limbo as well, and no one knows what it’ll look like without Sturgeon’s leadership. She did mention, however, that she does not intend to leave politics fully and will still fight for the cause as a lawmaker in Parliament.
Sturgeon said the support for Scottish independence needs to be solidified and grow.
“To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics,” she said. “And my judgment now is that this needs a new leader.”