By Denis Bright
Prospects of Israel’s Return to the Political Centre Under a Blue White Coalition Government Headed by Benny Gantz
Despite the strong showing by Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party, conventional opinion in Israel just prior to polling day still favoured a continuing coalition between Likud and the far-right religious parties with Benjamin Netanyahu staying on as Prime Minister.
Predictions of a continuing Likud vote were surprising as Netanyahu faces a final pre-indictment hearing on three cases of corruption on 2 October. Netanyahu’s capacity for survival is well summarised by Haaretz Online (17 September 2019):
Should Netanyahu triumph in his quest to put together a 61-member Knesset majority, he is believed to be planning to use his power to obtain immunity from prosecution from the Knesset and passing legislation to prevent the High Court of Justice from removing that immunity.
Despite numerous reports to this effect – and public statements from political parties supporting Netanyahu vowing to back immunity legislation – the Prime Minister’s Office has repeatedly denied that any such plans are in place, calling it a “false media spin.”
As tentative results from the Israel’s proportional voting system were tallied, Benjamin Netanyahu still short of the 61 seats in the Knesset needed to form a working majority. Haaretz Online (17 September 2019) distributed the tentative results an hour after polling booths closed:
While the far-right parties in any potential coalition between Likud retained their share of the vote for Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Yamina largely retained their share of the national vote, Otzma Yehudit (Strength for Israel) again failed to gain a threshold vote of 3.25 per cent needed to achieve representation in the Knesset with its commitment to a hardline messianic future for the state of Israel.
Any change of government in Israel will be welcome news to the Arab community which increased its presence in the Knesset by two seats to twelve representatives.
This leaves the Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz a chance to negotiate a coalition deal from his diverse support base which Haaretz Online refers to as Kachol Lavan as explained by the Israel Policy Forum:
Leader: Benny Gantz
Current Seats: N/A (new party)
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: N/A (new party)
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports
Kachol Lavan is a new party built from a merger between two centrist parties, Benny Gantz’s Hosen Leyisrael and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Gantz retains the number one spot on the list, while he and Lapid share a rotation agreement in which the Yesh Atid leader will take over the premiership after two-and-a-half years if Kachol Lavan is selected to lead a government after elections.
The possibility of a change in Israeli leadership resides mainly from a loss of six seats for Likud from 38 seats to 32 seats in the tentative results. Small gains were made by Yisrael Beiteinu which represents the Russian communities in Israel and the left-leaning Democratic Union with its Green support base. Likud was just short of a working majority in the Knesset as a result of Israel’s national elections, just five months ago:
Should the new centre coalition make it into majority government in Israel, the incoming government will inherit a strong but slowing economy from a Likud Government. However, Likud is tainted by corruption, militarism and plans for new settler projects in the Jordan Valley and on the East Bank near Jerusalem.
With or without Netanyahu, Likud presides over a strong economy with a sound if softening economic growth rate expressed in percentage terms from Trading Economics:
Surprisingly, for a centre-right country which is eulogized by conservatives worldwide, Israel has a strong government sector which drives new military spending and economic development:
Since 2014, Israel has moved from traditional forms of government intervention to the formation of a Citizens’ Fund in partnership with the Bank of Israel to assist with economic diversification. This process commenced long before the establishment of the Citizens’ Fund as noted by EE Times Online in 2001:
Twenty years ago, oranges were Israel’s main export. The small Middle Eastern country still helps feed the global economy, but now wireless and optical communications technology are also bearing fruit.
Statistics cited by government agencies depict an amazing transformation in the past two decades, from a nation dependent on agriculture and diamond exports to a thriving economy and a hotbed of high-tech research.
“Israel used to be known as the land of milk and honey. Now it’s known as the land of start-ups,” said Eli Keren general manager of Sun Microsystems Israel Ltd. in Herzliyya. “It’s a Garden of Eden for venture capitalists.”
Investors-lured by the high concentration of scientists and engineers-last year sank some $11.4 billion into Israel’s industry, compared with $537 million in 1992. Technology venture capital investment alone grew to just over $3 billion in 2000, from $1 billion in 1999, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), Jerusalem.
A slump in the electronics sector brought a sharp drop in foreign investment on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in February, but global economic uncertainty and growing violence in both the West Bank and Gaza have done little to dampen enthusiasm about Israel’s future as a major centre for technology development.
Israel now has a vast directory of electronics companies which are available for perusal by interested readers.
Investment in defence electronics is a major branch of Israeli technology. The list of firms involved in military technology is considerable.
Israeli military technology extends to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and other WMDs. These include a new generation of submarine-launched nuclear missiles on both the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean Fleets as well as land-based nuclear field weapons. Sharing of this nuclear weapons technology commenced prior to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1993. Israel has not ratified the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972. NATO ally Egypt is a non-signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention.
Surprisingly, Australia’s DFAT boasts of its defence ties with Israel when a gentle diplomatic nudge to the incoming Israeli government to ratify all international agreements against WMDs might be more appropriate:
Australia continues to broaden bilateral cooperation with Israel. In recent years, there has been significantly increased engagement across a range of sectors, including innovation, security and defence.
Austrade established one of its five innovation Landing Pads in Tel Aviv in 2016 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. As a bridge between the Australian and Israeli innovation ecosystems, the Landing Pad offers early-stage Australian start-ups a platform to build links with local and multinational business partners in Israel. In February 2017, Australia and Israel signed a Technological Innovation Cooperation Agreement. The Agreement includes a bilateral funding program to enable cooperation between Australian and Israeli companies.
Since 2017, Australia and Israel have expanded cooperation on national security, defence and cybersecurity. Defence officials began annual strategic talks in 2018 and in early 2019, Australia appointed a resident Defence Attaché to the Embassy in Tel Aviv. Leveraging Australia and Israel’s respective areas of expertise, cooperation on national security, continues to develop, including on aviation security with Home Affairs as the lead Australian agency. In January 2019, following a series of reciprocal visits and dialogue, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cybersecurity cooperation.
Expanded economic engagement has been underpinned by the conclusion of several bilateral agreements including a Double Taxation Agreement in March 2019, an Air Services Agreement in February 2017, and a Working Holiday Agreement in June 2016, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defence industry cooperation in October 2017. The opening in 2019 of an Australian Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem will facilitate trade, investment and defence industry partnerships.
Australia’s acquisition of Israeli defence technology is a badge of honour for Australian defence forces as noted by ABC News Online:
The kill chain: Australia’s drone war
Updated 27 Jun 2012, 8:23am
Let’s hope that Australia and other countries linked to NATO can move on from that love affair with the Netanyahu Era when everyone is assured by further negotiations on the character of the next Israeli government.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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