There was a general election in Israel yesterday and before I go into the results and their importance to the U.S., I’ll answer a question that I know some of you are asking.
What does the government of a small state halfway across the world matter to the cost of baloney at my local Piggly Wiggly? Shouldn’t we be suspicious of getting that much more involved in the Middle East anyway, as we give the various players tons of money already and the whole region seems like it’s never going to get fixed no matter what we do?
Well, that small state has an outsized effect on American national security because it sits close to main energy suppliers and routes that mean a lot to America and our allies. The oil gets closed down there and the U.S., Europe, and Japan are in a world of hurt. But, you retort, didn’t the president say we are energy independent?
However, our allies and major economic partners aren’t. They take a dive, or go to the Russians for all their energy, and the ripple wave could make for bad sailing for our ship of state.
Another factor is intelligence, the lack of such of those who can’t see value in the relationship with Israel. Why? Because Israeli intelligence services like the Mossad are the best in the world, bar none. They have to be because if they auger in an analysis it’s a matter of their national survival. If some junior analyst at Langley screws the pooch they get a comfy hug and, as long as the wrong call has no immediate political effect, the lad or lass probably gets promoted.
Stories like that of Eli Cohen (check out the upcoming film) reveal that Israeli info on that region, and indeed across the globe, is vital to our national security posture.
And the money? Cheaper than the war that would ensue if Syria and Iran thought that Israel was alone, weak, and vulnerable. If those despots won a war against the Jewish State they could sit unopposed athwart regional oil supplies and routes, not to mention controlling the waters around our 5th Fleet in Bahrain. Then they would call the energy tune for us and the rest of the West. Israel is an insurance policy against that.
Won’t even mention that they are a functioning Western democracy and innovative tech tiger partly surrounded by medieval savages and corrupt tinhorns bent upon their national destruction and virtual eradication as a people.
See? I didn’t mention it.
Enough explanation. Now, the election.
Basically, a tie between conservative Trump ally Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud Party and the vaguely less conservative Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz.
In their parliamentary system you have to get 61 votes to form a majority and thus a government. You do that by forming alliances with smaller parties. In fact, a small conservative secular party triggered this election, the second contest in five months, when they pulled out of Bibi’s coalition.
The kingmaker who pulled that trick, Avigdor Lieberman of the “Israel Our Home” Party, now wants a national unity government where he likely sees himself in a leading role. Some say he was the real winner of the election.
Both Likud and Blue and White have come in around 32 votes. The hardline and religious parties, or the more moderate and leftist parties, will make the difference to 61 for both of them. Hardliners and religicos for Likud and the others for Blue and White.
At this point in the morning hours of our time Wednesday nobody has a clear path to a majority and the formation of a government. Thus horse trading is going on. Likud, who has been sucking up to them as of late, is imploring their possible partners on the harder right not to deliver Israel to Blue and White and its less-than-fire-breathing stances. Blue and White is talking to anyone who will listen and making sure its kneepads don’t chafe.
The stakes are also high for Netanyahu personally, as he could be facing a corruption indictment that would be more likely if he loses. Though he would only have to step down if he was convicted, and the appeal process on that could take years. But, that overhanging sword was a main Blue and White campaign theme and no doubt played a part in voter thinking and coalition maneuvering.
For us? As Trump and Bibi are close —remember the president is very popular in Israel— we want a Likud win and Likud-led government. Though, a Blue and White win would not be tragic for the United States. We’d just have to recalibrate the machine to a degree.
That’s where it stands now. We’ll keep you updated.