17. Stalemate in Israel: Not Another Election?

So far there is no clear path for either the pro-Netanyahu or anti-Netanyahu forces in Israel to form a government. Does this mean that, despite bone-breaking fatigue after two and one-half years of non-stop campaigning, a fifth election (presumably in September) is possible?

Yes. So long as Bibi splits the right-wing in Israel, stitching together a coherent government is a daunting challenge. Not impossible, but daunting. As it happens, I wrote a satire about this following the second election, a year and half ago. And what seemed ludicrous then seems a bit less so today.

"Perspective" applies to historical background and to broad comparison, which have been a feature of these missives. But what I'm recycling here is perspective by means of ridicule (with some slight editing of dates). Here is how things appeared, to an incurable cynic, in Novermber 2019:

"September 2024: Finally, following the 16th Israeli election since April 2019, a coalition agreement establishing a majority government has been concluded. The ongoing trial of caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, which began in 2020, will not be affected by the agreement. Given the pattern of such trials, no verdict is expected for at least six years, far beyond the term of the new government.

After the 5th election in September 2021, wise heads concluded that allocating three months for campaigns, and two months for negotiations after elections, was colossally inefficient. Accordingly the time for campaigns was reduced to a week -- there being absolutely nothing left unsaid that would require more time -- and negotiations were reduced to two weeks, since it was usually blindingly clear by that time that the chances of success were nil. By 2024 elections were being held every month.

There were two occasions when it seemed that a solution might be in sight. In January 2023 Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party formed a bloc with parties of the left and other anti-religious groups on a platform of not only drafting yeshiva students into the army, but of making them serve a double term of duty. The idea had great appeal amongst the secular public who despised the draft-dodging ultra-Orthodox (haredim), but it failed to achieve a majority. And then in the 11th election in April 2023, the haredim formed a joint list with the Islamic Movement within the Arab bloc in support of converting Israel to a theocracy. That idea foundered among threats from Lieberman and others of armed revolt if the theocrats gained a majority.

The idea that finally broke the deadlock was that Bibi and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid would serve as co-Prime MInisters, sharing power in every respect down to the slightest details. Each would inhabit one floor of the Prime Minister's residence and have use of the official limousine for three days each week. One co-PM would make decisions and deal with the Knesset on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and the other would take over on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

And on the seventh day? Even God needed a day of rest."