There is no plausible explanation for the dramatic events of the past 3 days, where Gantz, the narrow majority leader, purportedly committed to fight Netanyahu's corruption, yielded and joined Netanyahu to form a new government.
Tel-Aviv, March 28 - the past 3 days have left all in Israel stunned. Today, Saturday, we are informed that the new emerging coalition, again headed by Netanyahu, and joined by opposition leader Benny Gantz (Blue and White party), is considering a bill to allow criminally indicted persons to be appointed government ministers. [i]
Such bill is intended to personally serve Netanyahu, who was indicted in three separate matters on bribes, deceit, and breach of trust. The central theme in Gantz's election campaign was fighting the corrupt Netanyahu government...
On Wednesday, Israel appeared on the brink of total chaos, and concerns of eruption of violence were mounting , after Interim Knesset Chair Yuli Edelstein (of Netanyahu's Likud party), defying Supreme Court decision, refused to convene the Knesset and allow the election of a new permanent Chair to replace him. Edelstein resigned instead, intending to leave the Knesset in limbo for at least a few days. [ii]
2020-03-25, 1:33 pm - renowned journalist Attila Somfalvi : "People, aren't you afraid of the eruption of a civil war? Aren't you concerned of the eruption of violence? What the hell is going on?
The main concern remains of violence by the settlers, who are effectively organized as armed militias, and who would not hesitate to act violently, if so ordered by their rabbis (who are on state payroll!). The settlers, encouraged by US Ambassador David Friedman, are expecting immediate annexation of major parts of Palestine, following the late January announcement of Trump's "Deal of the Century". Trump's announcement (unworthy and far-fetched as it was) also amounts to a blatant intervention in favor of Netanyahu in the early March general election in Israel. However, the settlers' expectations were dashed following the outcome of the early March general election and Netanyahu's apparent loss of power. A Gantz led government could have agreed to concessions to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
2020-03-25 3:38 PM B'tselem, human rights NGO reports serious overnight vandalism by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, 'expressing "the promise", which was written on a wall in Kafr Yasuf [Palestinian village south of Nablus-jz]: "Judea and Samaria means war"'. “Judea and Samaria” are the Israeli right-wing names for the West Bank Palestinian territories.
The calming response to Somfalvi came only 12 hours later, after midnight (early Thursday), from Netanyahu's cabinet minister and settlers' leader Bezalel Smotrich.
2020-03-26, 1:20 am - settlers' leader, Minister Bezalel Smotrich re-tweets Somfalvi and responds: "There shall be no civil war!"
By that time, however, the tables had turned through a sequence of events that makes no sense at all. Netanyahu was again in position to head the new government – his 5th.
On Wednesday, immediately following Edelstein's resignation, petition were filed in the Supreme Court, claiming contempt of the Court by Edelstein and seeking remedies. Indeed, after midnight (early Thursday) the Supreme Court rendered a decision, which in itself was unprecedented. The Supreme Court avoided imposing any sanctions on Edelstein for defying its previous decision, but denounced Edelstein's conduct 'an unprecedented violation of the rule of law'. At the same time, the Supreme Court decision appointed a new Interim Knesset Chair (a member of the newly elected narrow majority, headed by Gantz) and ordered him to convene the Knesset on the very same day, Thursday, to elect its new permanent Chair. Such decision was not only of dubious foundation in the law, it also amounted to a major breach of the separation of powers, where the Supreme Court effectively took over the management of the legislature. Moreover, according to Israeli law, the resignation of Interim Chair Edelstein took effect only 48 hours after its submission, and therefore, the Supreme Court's decision effectively generated a situation, where two Interim Knesset Chairs held office at the same time. [iii
The Supreme Court decision appeared as a victory for Gantz's narrow majority, and its expected outcome was the election on Thursday of a new Knesset Chair by the new narrow majority. However, by mid morning Thursday it turned out that the outcome was the exact opposite. It turned out that the night hours, gained by Edelstein's maneuver, obviously coordinated with Netanyahu, were sufficient to somehow convince Gantz, head of Blue and White party, to cut a deal with Netanyahu to join a new coalition, headed by Netanyahu, and break down his own party Blue and White in the process. Once the Knesset was convened on Thursday, as ordered by the Supreme Court, Gantz, who even today (Saturday) still holds the mandate to form the new government, was elected the new Knesset Chair through the support of Netanyahu's Likud party and its partners. I.e., the lawfully designated head of the executive branch was elected the new head of the legislature. [iv]
Thursday's news left Gantz's party leaders and their voters stunned and furious. Gantz was denounced as a traitor by those who had been his closest associates just 24 hours earlier.
2020-03-26 5:44 PM - Yair Golan, Blue and White party MK, retired IDF Deputy Chief of Staff: "Benny Gantz has displayed despicable leadership, second to none. Our voters despise his, and justly so. Anybody who joins him in serving the government to a corrupt leader on a silver platter would be blamed for eternity."
Nevertheless, Gantz was congratulated for his election as Knesset Chair by none other than Edelstein - the Interim Knesset Chair, still lawfully in office...
2020-03-26 6:34 PM - Interim Knesset Chair Yuli Edelstein: "I congratulate Benny Gantz, the new Knesset Chair. Benny, I wish you joy in your new position, but only for a short time..."
Edelstein's strange congratulation apparently referred to the underlying scheme: Gantz would remain in his office of Knesset Chair only for a short time. Eventually, Gantz would be appointed Deputy Prime Minister in a new Netanyahu government, would resign from his position as Knesset Chair, and Edelstein would be re-elected Knesset Chair. Therefore, Gantz was intended only as a place holder for a couple of weeks. Needless to day, the re-election of Edelstein as Knesset Chair, with Gantz’s support, following Edelstein’s conduct this past week, would amount to another blatant blow to the rule of law.
Gantz's two major partners, Bogie Yaalon and Yair Lapid were apparently left out of Gantz's overnight dealings with Netanyahu, and refused to join him as turncoats. Therefore, Blue and White party was split and its power base in the Knesset vanished.
2020-03-26 8:44 PM IDF Radio: "MK Bogie Yaalon in a joint declaration with MK Yair Lapid: Gantz's agreement to join a Netanyahu government is inexplicable and disappointing. It tramples any norm."
Regardless, Gantz managed to sway with him over 10 members of the Blue and White party, enough to secure a Knesset majority for Netanyahu. It appears that as part of such deal, each and every one of the defectors would be appointed minister (some perhaps “minister without portfolio”) in a bloated government with 30 ministers...
2020-03-26 9:12 PM - Yariv Oppenheimer, prominent left-wing figure, former "Peace Now" CEO: "Shell-shocked nation"
On Friday, Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev wrote: "there is no doubt that over the past few weeks Gantz committed one of the greatest fraud in Israeli politics." [v]
And yet, even today, Saturday, newly elected Knesset Chair Gantz has not returned his mandate as Prime Minister designate to the President.
It appears that one key problem remains: Netanyahu's indictment on charges of bribes, deceit and breach of trust, pertaining to his conduct as Prime Minister during his previous terms as prime minister"
The issue, whether the President may offer the mandate of prime minister designate to a person, who is criminally indicted on such charges, was the subject of petitions to the Supreme Court a few weeks ago as well. However, at that time the Supreme Court refused to rule on the matter, reasoning that it was "theoretical".
Early next week, remaining factions of Blue and White party plan on attempting to pass a bill that would explicitly prohibit the President from giving the mandate of prime minister designate to a criminally indicted person. Gantz had repeatedly announced such intention over the past several weeks, in his previous role as Blue and White leader. Blue and White, still headed by Gantz, still planned on voting on such bill last Wednesday. That plan was apparently a key reason for Edelstein's maneuver. [vi]
However, in a bizarre turn of events, today, Saturday afternoon, journalists claim that Netanyahu and Gantz are planning an opposing bill, which absurdly would explicitly permit the appointment of criminally indicted ministers.
2020-03-28 3:41 PM columnist Gur Megiddo: 'Resilience for Israel [Gantz's faction following the break down of Blue and White – jz] is negotiating possible support for enactment of a Base Law that would permit the appointment of criminally indicted ministers. Response: "We don't comment on details of the negotiations".
Needless to say, enactment of such law with Gantz's support would not only be an absurd, it would also transform the Israeli regime into a criminal parody.
The new Netanyahu-Gantz bill, if enacted, would surely be the subject of new petitions to the Supreme Court. However, that is likely to lead to a new "constitutional crisis".
Over its 72 year history, the State of Israel has failed to write a formal constitution through a process similar to constitutional convention, although its 1948 Declaration of Independence stated that a constitution would be written within half a year. Over the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has claimed that it holds the authority to declare laws, which are enacted by the Knesset "unconstitutional". However, Netanyahu's camp does not accept that notion"
In short, the crisis isn't over yet.
The most likely scenario is that the justice system, now crippled, would simply eliminate the indictments against Netanyahu and his partners. Following Gantz’s defection, on Thursday Haaretz editor Aluf Ben wrote: "Soon the indictments would probably be thrown to the garbage..." [vii]
In the meanwhile, an unprecedented attack by settlers on IDF took place on Thursday evening.
2020-03-26 11:04 PM - military affairs reporter Or Heller: "Very serious incident this evening in Yitzhar settlement in Samaria: Masked settlers through 4-5 fire bombs on IDF vehicle" The vehicle caught fire, but the fire was extinguished" "
As usual, the Shin-Bet, which is very effective in preventing such terrorist acts by Palestinians, is unlikely to find the perpetrators.
The Shin-Bet, which has recently been openly authorized by Netanyahu to spy on all resident of Israel under emergency Corona- related regulations (bypassing lawful Knesset approval), also maintains a dubious role in a series of events over the past year, particularly related to alleged cyber criminality, which allegedly undermined the integrity of the 3 general elections.
Since Gantz's total change of heart in the night between Wednesday and Thursday remains entirely inexplicable, rumors have in the meanwhile spread that he is the victim of extortion by Netanyahu, perhaps related to hacking of his personal cell phone. The hacking was attributed to the Iranians, but rumored to be the handiwork of Israelis. [viii]
Claims of criminal cyber activity by Netanyahu's camp over the 3 election campaigns of the past 12 months have been repeatedly raised. The latest case involved specific allegations of cyber spying on Gantz, orchestrated by a person, who operated out of Netanyahu's personal counsel's office and who employed a "Cyber front company". [ix
] None of it has been apparently investigated by law enforcement. The authority to investigate such matters is vested in the Shin-Bet. Then again, the Shin-Bet is under Netanyahu's direct control.
It appears that Ed Snowden's promise is fulfilled - that the notorious Israeli specialty of criminal cyber activity, under state patronage, would come home to roost. [x
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2020-03-28 Netanyahu: "I thank US President Donald Trump, who called me to congratulate me on formation of a government headed by me..."
White House official announcement of the phone call makes no mention of such congratulations, and congratulations on putative future government are not the common protocol... However, it is obvious that US President supports the formation of a right-wing authoritarian regime in Israel (and elsewhere), and that Netanyahu is using such support as part of his campaign.
2020-03-29 8:20 PM - columnist Shemuel Meir: "It turns out that one of the dispute issues, which delays agreement on the formation of a new Netanyahu-Gantz government, is Netanyahu's insistence on including annexation of the West Bank as part of the new government agenda..."