Post-Election negotiation in Israel: Will Bibi Become a Pensioner?

Date of event: 15.10. 16:30 - 15.10. 2019 18:30

The Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations of the CEVRO Institute (PCTR) organised a public debate and launching of the publication “Post-Election negotiation in Israel: Will Bibi Become a Pensioner?”. Will be Benjamin Netanjahu, as the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel, able to build once again the government? Who will be the next Israeli Prime Minister and how much is Israel threatened by the third elections within one year?

The event was part of the Festival of Democracy, the accompanying program of Forum 2000 Conference.

The debate was be introduced by Alexandr Vondra, Honorary chairman of PCTR and moderated by Tomáš Pojar, Vice-President of CEVRO Institute and former Czech Ambassador to Israel. The main guests were Dan Schueftan, Chairman of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, Amichai Magen, Head of Diplomacy and Conflict Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya and Gadi Taub, Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Summary of event:

Dan Schueftan was the first speaker. He spoke about Israel’s political system, right and left. He emphasized the strong element of patriotism that prevails in Israeli society. Israelis are not afraid to show nationalism, as they do the Germans, where a nationalist slowly equals a Nazi. As a result, there is enormous solidarity throughout Israeli society. He also focused on the recent parliamentary elections in Israel. During the elections, two issues were taken into account: security and the Palestinian question.
Social and economic issues were also discussed. The speaker emphasized that Israel is a capitalist country and that no one would consider socialism. On the contrary, during the elections, the question of the relationship between the state and religion, which is very important, was little discussed. His speech did not leave out what threats exist to Iran. Most Israelis agree that Iran is the main threat to them. But is there any change in this region when it comes to the violent area? According to Schueftan, it can be inferred from the election results that nothing fundamental will happen in Israel in the coming years. While the government may lead to conflict relief, it will have no major impact on the Middle East or Europe. Basically, Israelis don’t care about how Europe approaches them. As for relations with the US, it will not affect the Israeli Prime Minister, but the outcome of the next US elections.
Then he took the word Amichai Mage. According to him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a big role for modern Israel, although probably not as famous as Ben Gurion. In his speech he focused on his doctrine, achievements and legacy. Thanks to him, Israel has in recent years emerged from the paradigm of the Oslo Accords, which was a strategic mistake for Israel. Amichai Mage emphasized the fact that the Israeli population is increasingly increasing, even without the influx of immigrants. There is also an increasing number of professionals, such as doctors. This is one of the reasons why we need to invest in economics, technology and military so that Israel is strong and respected by the Arabs and Europe. Israel’s GDP is now higher than Japan’s GDP, Israel’s 6th place in the development index, and the past 10 years have been a lot of success for this country. Israel’s status can also be seen in terms of the strength of the shekel compared to the dollar that has weakened. Mage agreed with Schueftan that the Israeli public wanted a centre-right policy.
The last one was Gadi Taub. Unlike the previous speakers, he focused primarily on the elections and not on the description of the situation in Israel. Taub also mentioned the word nationalism, this time in the context of Europe. According to him, the European Union is liberal, but not democratic, because nationalism is seen here as some form of chauvinism or even racism. Since the European Union does not let states be nationalistic, it denies their nationality, and thus democracy. In connection with Israel, Taub drew attention to the growing power of the judiciary, which is an unelected branch of government. He explained that judicial review can reject legislative proposals and even delete parts of the Constitution. Yet the Constitution is the basis of power, and such would not happen in the US, for example. Almost any decision must go through the judicial review; the Supreme Court has a huge authority here. In this case, neither the brake and counterbalance system nor the VETA right apply. Instead of winning the elections again after a long time, the left is settling in the judiciary and restricting right-wing politics.
He called the judiciary a supremacy over the Cabinet. You could say that the judges today represent the law in Israel and are basically the heads of ministers. Moreover, according to Taub, these elites also control the press, declaring flattering articles bribed, and prosecutors are not afraid to abuse criminal law against certain individuals. Taub said that civil servants could even deprive the prime minister of power. Instead of happening through impeachment as in the US, only two or three people can remove a prime minister in Israel because of the local judicial authority. This in turn makes people feel as if the elections are meaningless. According to Taub, Natanyahu is in an unfavorable situation.