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From one election to the next

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Donald Trump needed more than 3 weeks to admit Joe Biden’s victory, and even so, he keeps saying that the election had been fraudulent, which none of the investigations conducted so far has confirmed. If Biden’s victory is undisputable on the popular vote by more than 6 million votes, and by the number of States won with 306 Grand Electors against 232 for Trump, that election is characterized by a strong mobilization of both camps, and has ensured the highest voter turnout since 1900 with 67%.

In order to know the flexibility of the new democrat administration, we will have to wait until January 5th, when the second round of the senatorial elections will take place in Georgia. If the Democrats win both senator’s terms, they will be par with the Republicans (50/50), which will allow them, with Vice-President Kamala Harris’s vote, to obtain the majority. If not, it will be difficult for them to implement their agenda. A very heavy agenda, at the domestic level, since the Unites States, like all countries in the world, have to deal with a major social and sanitary crisis, and on the international scene, where the new team will have to restore the image of the United States, that has been strongly affected by the policy conducted by Trump during four years.

Nicole Bacharan and Elie Barnavi, the two guests invited to participate in our last videoconference co-organized with La Paix Maintenant — which you may see again HERE on our website — agreed to state that under Biden, the United States will pursue the policy of disengagement from the Middle East initiated since Bush and Obama. Even if the new administration revises certain decisions taken by Trump, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be less of a priority.

Of course, we have to expect the return of the United States to the Iranian nuclear agreement which Trump has revoked, with undoubtedly a renegotiation of certain parts, and to a resumption of relations with Palestinians, by reopening their representation in Washington and by reinstating American contributions to the budget of UNRWA, the UN organism in charge of the Palestinian refugees and of their descendants. The new administration will also undoubtedly pursue the process of normalization of relations between Israel and the Sunni-ruled countries. But it is unlikely that other Arab countries will commit to a formal reconciliation with Israel as long as there won’t be any progress with Palestinians. And that progress is not part of the plans of the Israeli government.

Conscious of the challenges ahead with the future democrat administration, which will certainly more critical in respect of his policy towards Palestinians, Netanyahu’s governement tries to establish faits accomplis in the field that will make difficult, and even impossible in the future, the creation of a Palestinian State. He launched a call to tenders in order to build 1257 housing unities in Guivat Hamatos which, if it were to emerge, would stand between East-Jerusalem and Bethleem, making it impossible to establish a territorial continuity between those two cities. That call to tenders will end as if by chance on January 18th, on the eve of Biden’s induction, and will certainly be one of the first sources of conflict between the two governments.

This American withdrawal offers Europe a real opportunity to replace the United States and to become a major political actor in the region instead of being content to be the funder of the Palestinian Authority. Does it have the will and capacity to do it ? It will be the theme of our next videoconference on Thursday December 10th, starting at 7 p.m, with our guests Bernard Guetta and Michael Gahler, both deputies in the European  Parliament (Inscription HERE).

We will probably know by Biden’s arrival at the White House if Israel is heading for new elections. If Benny Gantz and his party still require the 2021 budget to be voted by the end of December and if Netanyahu refuses to allow it, in order to be able to call elections at a time that would be convenient for him, The Knesset will automatically have to be dissolved, and for the fourth time in two years, elections will be called for next spring. So far the polls are largely in favour of the right which would get a clear majority, with a strengthening of Yamina, the extreme right party, led by Naphtali Bennett who will be competing with Netanyahu to run the country.

The opposition has not succeeded in using the large protest movement against Netanyahu that has been mobilizing each Saturday, for 23 weeks, tenths of thousands of Israelis gathered in the whole country, on road junctions or close to the Prime Minister’s residences in Cæsarea or Balfour Street in Jerusalem. Many of these demonstrators claim that their movement is neither right, nor left, but is the expression of their requirement, namely that they don’t want anymore to see their country led by a Prime Minister indicted for corruption in three cases, for breach of trust, bribery and fraud. That absence of a clear commitment for a political alternative explains the improvement in public opinion in favour of Naphtali Bennett who presents himself as a “cleaner” right-wing personality than Netanyahu, and more competent than the Prime Minister to deal with the actual economic and sanitary crisis.

It is the topic most Israelis choose according to a poll, broadcasted by channel 12, on the decisive reason of their choice of a leader in the event of an election: 38% will do it according to his ability to deal with the economic crisis, 22% for his ability to gather the divided people, 15% for the ability to deal with he sanitary crisis, 10% for his ability to ensure the security of the country and only 2% for his ability to bring new peace agreements with Arab countries. Thus, there is no Biden effect in Israel. On the contrary, Netanyahu claims he is the best positioned to resist to the future pressure of the new democrat administration, as he did before under Obama’s.

But that tendency may still change during the next weeks and months, depending on different factors. On one hand, in contrast to the propaganda of the Israeli right, that chose Trump as its candidate, the new team taking place in Washington, composed of competent persons who know the region, will easily show the Isaeli public that it is as attached to the security of the country as the Republicans, and that moreover, it is concerned about its future so as to keep it as a democratic State with a Jewish majority. On the other hand, we must expect recompositions of the lists competing for the next election, with the arrival of new actors and maybe the return of old candidates.

And starting in February, Netanyahu will have to appear before his judges several times a week, which will certainly cause the mobilization of his unconditional basis, but might also cause fractures inside his majority. All the more if the actual protest movement succeeds in ensuring that the submarines case — in which Netanyahu is suspected as well of self-enrichment and questioned for having excluded the then minister of defense and the general staff from decisions of far-reaching consequences for the security of the country — will be brought to justice and won’t be limited to an examination of the case by the committee of the Ministry of Defense, set up by Benny Gantz, Minister of Defense.

Aware of these issues, we will mobilize without fail during the next weeks to condemn the colonization projects of the actual government and to support the Israeli movements and political parties who will commit to fighting for the safeguard of democracy.

David Chemla

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