“The deal of the century” is how Donald Trump referred to his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s ‘brilliant’ idea of offering the Palestinians large amounts of investment (“tens of billions of dollars”; exact amount unspecified) in return for their agreeing to give up their right to east Jerusalem and to land settled by Israelis on the West Bank.
Palestinians are virtually unanimous in responding that they are not prepared to sell their homeland.
In the meantime, just a few short weeks after Prime Minister Netanyahu of the ruling Likud party was believed to have won himself yet another term in office in the Israeli elections, it turns out that his celebrations were premature.
To consolidate his party’s control of government he needed to work in coalition with two other right-wing parties, the United Torah Judaism party, an ultra-orthodox religious party and the Israel Our Home party led by Avigdor Lieberman.
To control parliament, an Israeli government needs to have 61 seats, and it was thought the right-wing coalition was a done deal, which would give Netanyahu, so long as he retained in-office immunity from prosecution for the fraud and corruption offences threatened against him.
However, Avigdor Lieberman, despite only having five seats at his command, has thrown a spanner in the works because United Torah and Likud only have 60 seats between them, but Lieberman refuses to join the coalition unless immunity of the ultra-religious from military service is much reduced – something which United Torah is not prepared to stomach.
As a result, Netanyahu was not able to form a government before the 30 May deadline.
In these circumstances, the country’s president would normally call on the opposition, in this case Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party (indistinguishable from Likud on policy matters, but based on not having a government led by a person facing serious criminal charges) to try to form a government. To forestall any such outcome, Likud secured the dissolution of parliament by 74 votes to 45.
Thus a new election is scheduled for 17 September. One thing is certain, however, and that is that if Netanyahu is ousted, whoever replaces him will be at least as reactionary as he is.