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Netanyahu Government Falls - Will New Elections Change Anything? Lia Tarachansky unpacks the power struggle between former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his former ally Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and ...
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MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us.
War has erupted in the Israeli political world. This time it's not between the right and left, or between Israelis and Palestinians, but between right-wing seculars and right-wing religious fundamentalists. It's an explosive implosion within the Netanyahu coalition that led to Netanyahu not being able to form a government, and forcing a new election now scheduled for this September. It raises the level of complexity. Netanyahu could be forced out if he's indicted before the election. The Jared Kushner peace plan, if you can call it that, may never see the light of day. The right-wing hardline seculars are in heightened war with religious parties because of the latter's youth not having to serve in the armed forces. And, oh, let me not forget to mention Netanyahu's last-minute racist stand to bring an Ethiopian Jewish Knesset member into the government from the other major party that failed. And what are the implications for Netanyahu's failure to, for the first time in Israeli history, to be able to form a government?
We'll delve into all that and more with Lia Tarachansky, who is a journalist, filmmaker, founder of Naretiv Productions, and former Middle East correspondent for The Real News who made the documentary By the Side of the Road. And Lia, welcome. Good to have you back with us here on The Real News.
LIA TARACHANSKY: Thanks for having me, Marc.
MARC STEINER: So let's begin with this piece to show everybody, and you, which is from both Netanyahu, when he talks about his saying that what happened with Lieberman, and showing what Lieberman said first. We'll watch this.
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN: When the military draft bill passes during the second and third reading in its original form, same as it did with the first, we are done. I think this is the difference between forming a government and going to an early election.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It is just unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Avigdor Lieberman is now part of the left. He is from the left's bloc. You give him votes for the right, and he doesn't give his vote to the right-wing government. This is what we see.
MARC STEINER: So Avigdor Lieberman is now on the left. This is the man who didn't think that Netanyahu was extreme enough in Gaza. So what's really going on here? What's this battle between these two right-wing fundamentalists? Political fundamentalists, I should say.
LIA TARACHANSKY: The real battle is now between Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu. I just wanted to add a little caveat that I think that there is something incredibly telling about the situation in Israel today, that in order to disqualify somebody as a politician, a human being, or a legitimate member of the public, you call them a leftist.
MARC STEINER: Right. It's almostit's a slur word.
LIA TARACHANSKY: It's a word that essentially means someone who is trying to put a wrench in the machine of what needs to happen for the world to function. Someone who is an ideologue without any political or real world experience, and no real intentions of any kind. That's roughly what the left means in the best case scenario in the Israeli discourse, and in the worst case scenario it means a traitor. So you often hear people who are pro-peace called leftists and traitors interchangeably; leftist or Arab lovers interchangeably. And it's assumed that all the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Palestinian parties are also left, according to that discourse, which is ironic, because there's, as [inaudible] a political spectrum on the Palestinian street as there is on the Israeli street.
But in general, being leftist means that you are with the enemy. That's the kind of language that has now become commonplace in Israel. So I wanted to make note of that. I also wanted to make note of the way that this whole 24 hours has played out. If you watch the last hours in the Israeli press, it was kind of like down to the minute is he, isn't he? Are we going to have a coalition? Is he going to turn the, you know, kick the ball back to the president, Reuven Rivlin, and then give the next guy a chance, right? Because in the election in April, both the so-called lefty party under General Gantz and Netanyahu's party got the same votes. It was the president who decided to let Netanyahu form a coalition, even though, again, they formed the same votes. They got the same votes. And the reason the president took that decision was because it was assumed that Netanyahu would have a better chance of making a coalition because so much of the Israeli parliament is right wing; is ideologicallywhether religiously or secularlyright wing.
And now that we've seen Netanyahu is drawing that down to the last minute, having already arrogantly assumed that he's going to succeed to form a coalition, and having assumed that that coalition is going to stand behind him against the charges that he is facing. So these assumptions have kicked back forming a coalition to the last minute. And the Israeli press have been covering this struggle to form a coalition, and what is he giving to this party, and what is he giving to that party, until the last minute, where instead of kicking the ball back to the president and letting Gantz try and form a coalition and lead the country, Netanyahu called for an emergency vote to dismantle the Knesset altogether, and have new elections in September, which also has a couple of other implications, as well.
MARC STEINER: So let meI want you to describe what those implications. I mean, I want to explore for a moment what do you think it means, the split means, between Lieberman's group and the Orthodox groups, the fundamentalist parties in Israel? There's always been this battle in Israel between the secularists and people who are religious. Has always been this divide. Especially around not serving in the armed forces, which the religious Jews don't have to do. And so the Supreme Court came to a decision that was supposed to change that, on some level. So what's behind this split? What's the reality of it, and what do you think it means for the long term, for the right-wing coalitions in Israel?
LIA TARACHANSKY: Again, I think that the whole debate between secular and religious is a distraction. I think that the fight between Lieberman and the United Torah parties is a distraction from the main point. They're trying to make this seem as though this is a principled fight over the principle of having all Orthodox or religious men serve in the Israeli army, which is an exception that has been in place since the state's creation. Orthodox Jewish men are the only Jewish men who don't have to serve in the Israeli army. The law as it was on the table at this point was so watered down that were Orthodoxwere it to pass, we're talking about a few hundred Orthodox boys having to serve in the army. It was not about the principle of the thing. It was a distraction. And the real fight here has been about the fact that in recent weeks we have seen a growing opposition to Netanyahu, with thousands and tens of thousands of people on the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities. We've seen the fight, the political fight, between Lieberman and Netanyahu weaken Lieberman significantly, and Lieberman once again becoming the kingmaker, while having been elected with a handful of votes in a party that in the grand scheme of things would have been unimportant in the political struggle.