IN THE MEDIA

AIJAC’s Ahron Shapiro discusses Israeli political situation on ABC News Radio

May 31, 2021

Naftali Bennett (Credit: Gil Cohen Magen/ Shutterstock)
Naftali Bennett (Credit: Gil Cohen Magen/ Shutterstock)

AIJAC’s Ahron Shapiro discussed the Israeli political situation on ABC News Radio with Glen Bartholomew, 31 May 2021.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Glen Bartholomew: Trying to keep up with it all is Ahron Shapiro, Senior Policy Analyst with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. He joins us now from Melbourne. Ahron, some calling this a momentous event, but we have been here before, how do you see it?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, I don’t think we have been here before. This is momentous. Although it’s not a done deal yet, we are closer to seeing Netanyahu removed as prime minister than we have since he was elected in 2009, eight? It has been a while.

Glen Bartholomew: It has been a while indeed. Why is it happening now? Has Netanyahu effectively run out of options, as you know, alienated too many other potential political partners?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, he did get a lot of enemies on the right more than, you know, he’ll have a lot of regrets about this. But the point is that the country was stuck in the cycle of elections that, you know, Naftali Bennett came and he didn’t campaign on right-wing issues at all, he just said, I’m not going to allow a fifth election and true to his word, he is working the best he can to prevent that from happening.

Glen Bartholomew: Because we should remind people, as you just pointed out, there’s been four elections in two years, and no doubt the public is a bit over it and they just want to see a government. What do you think of that description from Naftali Bennett? Is the country in a tailspin?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, I think that what they’re seeing is, because of the paralysis at the top, even though the other parts of the country are functioning well, that you need, you know, he’s coming out of a big crisis of the COVID crisis. You also have, you know, we’ve seen all the tension and the fighting and Hamas starting a war, the sectarian violence that was sparked a lot by Hamas, and instigated by them. And we’re coming out of that, and what they really want is national cohesion. And I think with that sectarian violence, especially, there was a backlash in a good way that said, we really have to work together and help each other out to really get a national government going in a positive direction.

Glen Bartholomew: Some believe the recent Gaza conflict saved Netanyahu from a similar fate a little earlier. But he’s again, trying to frame this all around security question saying, you know, who will look after Israel’s interest when it comes to dealing with Iran or Gaza? Mr. Lapid has until I think Wednesday to announce a firm deal. Some will say we shouldn’t write Netanyahu off yet. Could it still all fall apart?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, absolutely, it could fall apart. You know, Yair Lapid’s coalition that he’s cobbling together is the most complex that’s ever been done in Israeli politics before. As you’ve said, it brings in right-wing, left-wing, centrist – everybody in about eight different parties to try and come together for a coalition. It’s never really been done before. And it will be very fragile, even if it does happen. So there are all sorts of ways this could go wrong, even between now and then. But even by Wednesday, there are other possibilities that could happen. But I think if the government doesn’t come together, the most likely event would be another election. But right now it’s on track to come together. A lot of people have committed their political futures to it.

Glen Bartholomew: I think the line was everyone must compromise for this to work. That’s probably an understatement. It’d be a power-sharing agreement. Mr. Bennett would replace Netanyahu as Prime Minister for two years and Lapid would take over for the remainder of the term which is unusual and was suggested before but never quite came to pass with Netanyahu involved. Ultra-nationalist leader Bennett as prime minister, what would a new government look like? What would be different?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, he’s already committed, as all parts of this potential government have committed, to keep ideology out of it. Bennett is ideologically right-wing and there’s no question about that. He’s built his career attacking Netanyahu on the right. But he’s also a pragmatist. And he is ready to make a lot of sacrifices to make sure that this government works. He’s putting his political future and those of his party members in it. And he wants to make a government that’s moving the country forward. And they will put aside all the controversial things, they’ll just put it aside and not deal with them. And you know, and maybe that’s what’s needed right now.

Glen Bartholomew: What about the corruption charges Netanyahu has been facing? Where does that stand right now?

Ahron Shapiro: Well, again, and Netanyahu is in a predicament because the president is about to be changed. Ruvi Rivlin is the only… you know the President is in a position to pardon anyone, but Isaac Herzog is the likely winner of the presidential race and he is not likely to consider pardoning Netanyahu. And besides that, basically his case is going to move forward and there’s nobody to save him.

Glen Bartholomew: Alright, so we have an interesting couple of days ahead. Let’s see whether Wednesday does turn out to be D-day for Benjamin Netanyahu. It sounds like he’s not going quietly.

Ahron Shapiro: Well, you know, he’s always been a fighter and you know, even his deepest critics say that he knows how to politically survive, but this may be the one time that the magician doesn’t have a rabbit to pull out of his hat.

Glen Bartholomew: Ahron, we’ll stay in touch as ever. Thanks very much. Ahron Shapiro, Senior Policy Analyst with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, speaking from Melbourne, but watching with interest the latest events. After four elections in a couple of years, could we see a new unity government in Israel and might that lead to a fifth election?

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