The following was sent to leaders of J Street by Yael Patir, its Jerusalem representative. J Street is a the largest Jewish PAC in our nation’s capital. It is pro-Israel and pro-peace and its primary agenda is advocacy for a two-states for two peoples negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This week I resumed my former position as a national co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet that includes 900 clergy. I share this position with Rabbi Andrea London of Chicago and Rabbi David Deutsch of Philadelphia.
We were asked to distribute this report.
Dear J Street Leadership:Shabbat is about to arrive in Israel and I am writing to you with some of my thoughts following yesterday’s big news.Yesterday marked the third time in this election cycle in which we could legitimately say the “election has just begun”. The first was when Benny Gantz announced his entrance into politics aiming to challenge Netanyahu’s leadership. The second was the week before last when Gantz, Lapid, Yaalon and Ashkenazi announced that they are running together under the Kachol Lavan banner and saw a rise in the polls. And the third was yesterday, with Attorney General Mandelblit releasing a much anticipated letter of indictment of the prime minister, pending a hearing.The reactions soon followed. Netanyahu delivered a well staged speech on prime time TV broadcast live, where he shared his now-familiar defense – it’s all a conspiracy of the left and the press, no other politician in Israeli history has been so badly treated, he will come out of all this clean.The right wing parties and leaders did not move from their previously articulated positions. All are standing with Netanyahu and all will recommend him for the position of prime minister. He is innocent until proven guilty. There are some nuances between the leaders – Kahlon and Bennet/Shaked are taking a more cautious line – but all in all, no one on the right withdrew their support from Netanyahu.On the center, Gantz and Lapid announced that they will not sit in a government with Netanyahu and called for his resignation. Left wing parties have already taken the position of not joining a Netanyahu-led government, so on that front nothing has changed.What now? It’s hard to predict how this announcement will affect the election results. Some pollsters say that it might cost Likud 5-10 seats, while others say that Netanyahu’s popularity is stable and might even grow. Indeed, Netanyahu is doubling down and has the resources to launch a fierce campaign using the victim narrative which serves him well on the one hand, and vicious incitement against ‘the left’ and the Arabs on the other.After the State Attorney submitted his recommendation comes a process of a hearing — which is not likely to end before the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020. By then we will have a new government in place. After the hearing the State Attorney will announce his final indictment charges and it will take a few months until trial will begin.The story is not over yet. If Netanyahu manages to keep his power and forms the next coalition, he will then promote legislation known colloquially as the ‘French law’, which basically will redeem him from all past charges and make it impossible to prosecute him while his a sitting prime minister. Netanyahu has already received commitments on this from his natural coalition partners (like Habayit Hayehudi as part of the deal that brought in Otzma Yehudit). Netanyahu promised Israelis yesterday that he is here to stay as prime minister for many many more years.We have six weeks to go and as of now it seems that anything could happen. The coming weeks will give us much more information about what is to come and how the Israeli public is reacting to all this.Shabbat Shalom,Yael