“Fourth Israeli election will be different”: Israeli political analyst Haviv Rettig Gur

December 10, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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With the Israeli Knesset expected to dissolve itself later this month and initiate its fourth election in two years, political analyst Haviv Rettig Gur told an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) webinar on December 7 that it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will find enough support to lead the next government.

Rettig Gur

At the same time, Rettig Gur added, Netanyahu’s political opponents are taking a fresh look at ways they could form governments of their own.

Netanyahu, Rettig Gur noted, has seen an erosion of support to Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett, who has been effective in attacking Netanyahu’s COVID-19 pandemic response from the opposition.

Rettig Gur was very critical of Netanyahu for playing politics and preventing the government from surviving long enough to allow Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to assume power by refusing to pass a budget – a situation which by law will automatically trigger new elections on December 23.

“The fact that [Netanyahu] has refused to pass a state budget to avoid the rotation [especially during the pandemic] has been a crime, an absolute crime.”

Rettig Gur said that Netanyahu’s missteps have created opportunity for his political opponents. “It is easier now to calculate a path forward in which Bennett is prime minister than a path forward in which he’s not.”

“Israeli elections aren’t won on Election Day”, Rettig Gur pointed out, “the question is what coalitions are possible,” as every Israeli government relies on post-election coalition-building in order to gain the majority of 61 seats necessary to lead.

According to Rettig Gur, the number of MKs who would endorse Netanyahu as prime minister in the next election is expected to drop, which in turn will create more possibilities for other politicians to lead – such as Bennett or Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid – particularly if they are willing to share leadership in a rotation arrangement.

[Likud defector Gideon Saar announced that he was forming a new party intent on challenging Netanyahu’s leadership on December 8, the day after Rettig Gur’s speaking engagement. Saar’s name could be added to the list of potential successors to Netanyahu, perhaps as part of a rotation agreement.]


Rettig Gur said he envisioned a post-election scenario where “[Yair Lapid] will turn to Naftali Bennett after the election and he will say to him… ‘Naftali. Benjamin Netanyahu passed a law creating an alternate prime minister and a rotation agreement and all those institutions, that’s all still the law… It exists. Let’s use it.”

Meanwhile, Rettig Gur said, following Netanyahu’s betrayal of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, cheating him out of his turn to serve as prime minister, even those like Bennett who do not rule out making a deal with Netanyahu are not going to make the mistake of letting Netanyahu go first in any future premiership rotation scenario.

Moving on to the issue of relations between Israel and the incoming US administration of Joe Biden, Rettig Gur reassured the virtual gathering that,  notwithstanding the thorny relationship Netanyahu had with Biden’s former boss, Democratic president Barack Obama, any Israeli leader will continue to enjoy generally good relations with the US.

This is “because at the end of the day, America doesn’t support Israel for values and for moral reasons… At the end of the day, America supports Israel because there aren’t a lot of stable places you can support in the Middle East that will ensure stability and it will ensure that the sea lanes are open and can be guaranteed to be an ally.”

Rettig Gur said that Presidents Obama, Trump and now Biden have all been interested in reducing the level of American intervention in the Middle East.

“So America has left everybody just trying to understand what it means for a Trump who who didn’t intervene in the region to switch with a Biden who probably isn’t going to intervene in the region.”

Rettig Gur added the real question is how Biden is going to reconcile the US interest in disengagement in the region with preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons and carrying out acts of destabilising aggression against its neighbours: “Mainly the big strategic question is the question of Iran sanctions” and the specifics of when to ease them.

Most of those decisions will be influenced by Biden administration officials – many of them yet to be hired – who will be trusted to advise the president and carry out the policies with Iran.

This is a process, Rettig Gur told the webinar, that will take time to reveal itself.


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