Daily Kickoff

Will there be a third Israeli election? Netanyahu, Gantz appear deadlocked following redo vote

AP Photo/Oded Balilty

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside the Blue and White party leaders in Tel Aviv in April.

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DEADLOCKED, AGAIN — While results in the election for Israel’s 22nd Knesset are not yet final, one thing is already clear: There is no easy path for either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or challenger Benny Gantz to build a 61-seat governing coalition. Will Israel end up with a third national election? That remains to be seen.

Results trickle in: With 91% of the votes counted by Wednesday afternoon in Israel, Blue and White appeared to have a slight edge over Likud. These results are not final, and could shift once all the votes are in and the double envelope ballots — from diplomats, soldiers, prisoners and others — are counted. Potential legal challenges to the results are also possible. The current projections are:

Blue and White: 32
Likud: 31
Joint List: 13
Yisrael Beytenu: 9
Shas: 9
United Torah Judaism: 8
Yamina: 7
Labor-Gesher: 6
Democratic Union: 5

The far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, led by Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir, was predicted to fall short of the electoral threshold. 

Buzz on Balfour  — by JI’s Amy Spiro and Jacob Kornbluh: There’s no doubt this is a political setback for Netanyahu’s quest to serve a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. Neither the right-wing bloc nor the center-left bloc are poised to have the 61 recommendations required to form the next government, and even the most veteran Israeli political analysts aren’t sure what the path forward will be.  

Kingmaker or matchmaker: As expected, Avigdor Lieberman saw a boost in yesterday’s vote, with a projected 9 seats compared to the 5 his party received in April. In his speech last night, Lieberman renewed his vow to join a unity coalition. “We have only one option, a nationalist, liberal, wide coalition.” The former defense minister suggested President Reuven Rivlin host an informal meeting between himself, Netanyahu and Gantz on Friday afternoon, before the official results are even in. “Maybe we’ll even do Kabbalat Shabbat together, talk about this week’s Torah portion,” Lieberman said. “It’s an interesting portion this week.” 

On the table: Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Lieberman said his conditions for joining the government include legislation drafting haredim into the army, requiring a core education in all schools, establishing civil marriage and overturning the law banning businesses from operating on Shabbat. 

Bibi’s calculation: Netanyahu knows he doesn’t have enough recommendations to form the next government, but he is not remotely close to giving up. Speaking to his supporters in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Netanyahu predicted that he would end up with more support than Gantz from Zionist parties. The country, he said, needs “a strong government, a stable government, a Zionist government, a government committed to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” to prevent “the formation of a dangerous anti-Zionist government” supported by the Joint Arab List.

No victory: Unlike April, where both Gantz and Netanyahu gave joyous victory speeches, the party leaders were more reserved as the results began trickling in overnight. Both said they were waiting for final results before making any decisions. In his speech, Gantz did not explicitly rule out negotiating with Netanyahu, unlike during the campaign  

Key players: President Reuven Rivlin has a big decision to make. Though largely a figurehead, the president is tasked with selecting one person to work on building a governing coalition. With no candidate expected to receive more than 60 recommendations, Rivlin could play more than the usual ceremonial role. Yesterday, the president reiterated his pledge to avoid a third round of elections: “I will do everything possible according to the law and to the powers granted me in my role that Israel has an elected government as soon as possible and that we avoid another election campaign.”

Showing up: Negating almost every electoral prediction, Israelis showed up to the polls in higher numbers than they did in April. Turnout in yesterday’s vote is projected at 69.4% nationwide, compared to 67.9% five months ago. 

Can Bibi survive? Pollsters, partisans and pundits have proclaimed the end of the Netanyahu reign for years, and always erred — so far. But Netanyahu took a drubbing in yesterday’s vote, and he also has a looming pre-indictment hearing on multiple corruption charges slated for next month. Even the rumor of Likud ousting him internally caused Netanyahu to force 40 party MKs to sign a loyalty pledge over the summer.

Signs of splinter? It’s way too early for any Likud lawmakers to show signs of abandoning Netanyahu. Likud MK Yoav Kisch pledged last night that “either Netanyahu will be the prime minister or we’ll have a third election.” But, as The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov pointed out: The Likud “is not a party of lemmings, either. Its top MKs may not remain loyal to Netanyahu for long.”

Next opposition leader? If Netanyahu and Gantz agree to form a unity government, Ayman Odeh — leader of the Joint List — will likely serve as Israel’s opposition leader, for the first time in history. Some analysts have speculated that Shas and UTJ could unite as bloc to prevent Odeh from holding the position. 

• NYTimes: In tight Israeli election, Netanyahu’s tenure appears in peril
• WaPoIsrael’s two main parties locked in dead heat as negotiations begin for new government
• Politico: Israel’s Netanyahu appears to suffer election setback
• Maybe, just maybe, the age of Netanyahu has come to an end, writes Chemi Shalev
• Financial Times: Israel’s political survivor is on the ropes
• The Guardian: Lengthy coalition talks loom as early results point to deadlock

Travel plans: Netanyahu is expected to travel to New York next week to meet with President Donald Trump and deliver a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. A warm embrace of Trump and the focus on Iran will give the embattled premier a moment of salvation. 

Trump’s peace plan: During his speech at Likud HQ in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Netanyahu referenced Trump’s peace plan, which he said will be expected soon. He suggested that only a Likud-led government “can ensure that the way the negotiations with the president will be conducted will define Israel’s future for generations to come.” 

Annexation watch: Netanyahu’s pre-election announcement about applying Israeli civil law to settlements in the West Bank will likely be dropped if a unity government is formed. 

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Outgoing White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said during a panel discussion hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the Jewish Center in Manhattan that the administration will make a decision on when to release its peace plan once the official Israel election results are in. [Pic]

Greenblatt reiterated the White House’s response to Netanyahu’s annexation declaration last week that U.S. policy has not changed “for the time being.” He added, “I don’t think that an announcement like that precludes the possibility of a comprehensive peace agreement.”

Greenblatt on Iran talks: “I am confident that [the ayatollah’s statements about killing Jews and annihilating Israel] will be [discussed] in a meeting between the president and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, and maybe that is the better approach… I have trust that President Trump, who was the only one who was actually going to rip up the agreement as quickly as he did — even in a meeting like that — would not go the road” that President Barack Obama did in 2015. “I don’t think he’s going to try and convince people that he can do a deal just for political purposes.” 

IRAN WATCH — Trump is weighing a range of options for retaliatory action against Iran, including striking Iranian oil facilities, U.S. officials told NBC News. During a national security meeting on Monday, Trump — according to the report — asked military brass for options that wouldn’t draw the U.S. into a physical conflict with Iran.

On the Hill: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged the president to take “decisive action” against Iran, while Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it was too early to make a decision. 

Pushback:Trump lashed out at Graham on Tuesday evening for suggesting that the muted response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone was a sign of weakness: “No Lindsey, it was a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!” 

Meeting called off — for now: Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he is not looking to meet Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly. But, like in the past, he did not rule it out. 

Word from Tehran: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that “there will be no negotiations at any level with the United States.” Khamenei blamed the Trump administration for requiring too many pre-conditions. 

STAY TUNED — Trump on Tuesday named five candidates who have made the shortlist for national security advisor. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump listed attorney Robert O’Brien, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ricky Waddell, nuclear security expert Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, former National Security Council chief of staff Fred Fleitz, and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as possible replacements for John Bolton. 

ON THE HILL — Former U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Stu Eizenstat, Holocaust survivors’ rights advocate Sam Dubbin, and David Mermelstein, a Holocaust survivor and co-founder of Miami-Dade Holocaust Survivors, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Holocaust-era insurance claims. [CSPAN]

Mermelstein is pushing for a law that would give Holocaust survivors the right to use the U.S. court system to compel private European insurance companies to look through their own records and pay money owed to survivors and their families, which could total up to $25 billion when factoring in compound interest over time.


UPCOMING — At November’s 3rd annual conference on Jews and Conservatism, the Jewish Leadership Conference (JLC) is convening a great conversation about Jewish ideas and public affairs. If you are a young professional working in the Jewish world, you could qualify to attend for free as a Gemunder Fellow. Or else, visit our website to join Ruth Wisse, R’ Meir Soloveichik, Norman Podhoretz, Henry Kissinger, Victor Davis Hanson, and hundreds of attendees.


UP NORTH — Sameer Zuberi, a candidate with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, is pushing back against antisemitism accusations over past social media posts about Israel. In a lengthy Facebook post, Zuberi denied the claims as “blatantly false,” saying the rival Conservative Party is trying to distract from “their ties to far-right extremism and white supremacy.”

2020 BRIEFS — Bernie Sanders campaign wracked by dissension… Elizabeth Warren took selfies for 4 hours after her New York rally. It’s part of her plan… Tulsi Gabbard drives coverage in push to qualify for October debate… Joe Biden’s economic tap dance… Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign has burned down, fallen over and sunk into a swamp… 

Jewish vote: A new Siena College poll of voters in New York State showed that the Jewish community is most supportive of Biden’s bid for the Democratic nomination. According to the poll✎ EditSign of 798 registered voters in the state — 12% of whom were Jewish — 29% said Biden was their preferred candidate. That was followed by Warren with 16%, Sanders and Buttigieg tied at 4%, and Booker and Klobuchar tied at 2%. Asked who was most likely to win the 2020 election, 45% of Jewish voters said Biden, and 16% said Warren. 

WHAT WE’RE READING — Warren and Trump speeches attack corruption, but two different kinds — by Alex Burns: “From the right, there is the strain Mr. Trump brought to maturity in 2016, combining the longstanding grievances of the white working class with a newer, darker angst about immigration and cultural change. And on the left, there is a vastly different populist wave still gaining strength, defined in economic terms by Ms. Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The messages underlined the possibility that the 2020 election could be the first in a generation to be fought without an ally of either party’s centrist establishment on the ballot.” [NYTimes]

Inside the divorce rattling Silicon Valley and Democratic politics — by Gabriel Debenedetti: 
“This dynamic was well illustrated by WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, who’d never demonstrated much interest in domestic politics before. ([Reid] Hoffman, at least, has been a big Democratic supporter for years.) The Israeli-born businessman, who in the past few weeks has reportedly decided to cut the valuation of his company precipitously in advance of an IPO, recently talked with a political pro about the feasibility of changing the laws so people not born in the U.S. could run for president. He was told that this would be quite an undertaking and that it was unrealistic—it would require a change to the Constitution. Neumann was then asked if he might consider running for governor or mayor in New York. According to someone familiar with the conversation, he replied, “Once you’ve reached my level of success, only president will do.” (A person close to Neumann says he was kidding about the requirements for running for office and denied he said that line.)” [NYMag]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork’s Adam Neumann admits to being ‘humbled’ [FinancialTimes• Sarah Pontius, WeWork’s global head of real estate partnerships, is among a string of recent departures [RealDeal• Institutional investors swarm Silverstein’s new TASE bonds [RealDeal• Steve Ballmer pledges $75M for affordable housing in Inglewood amid Clippers stadium controversy [RealDeal]

MORE BRIEFS: Tom Barrack is done with traditional real estate. He’s going digital [WSJ] • Facebook details rules for its new ‘Supreme Court’ that will handle controversial posts [NBCNews] • Israeli insurance company sues Facebook for using the name Libra [Calcalist• Shekel weaker after inconclusive election [Globes]

SPOTLIGHT — How Toby Moskovits is building her Brooklyn office empire — by Rebecca Baird-Remba: “Toby Moskovits has always been an unusual force to be reckoned with in the real estate world. The 42-year-old Orthodox Jewish single mother of three started out in the venture capital business in Tel Aviv before moving back to New York City to do tech investing for Cammeby’s Capital Group, the investment arm of Ruby Schron’s real estate company. She started buying properties during the Great Recession in 2008 and didn’t look back. In the 11 years since, she’s helped build the Williamsburg Hotel (which last year was rumored to be on the selling block, although Moskovits claimed it was never officially on the market) and 25 Kent Avenue, two buildings that have helped define the North Williamsburg industrial zone.” [CommercialObserver]

HOLLYWOOD — TV legend’s Sony deal renewal takes him to age 100 — by Michael Schneider: “Ask Norman Lear what the past couple of months have been like for him, and he responds with a joke. ‘It’s been 60 days of waking up,’ he says… But what the legendary producer really relishes is going to work, and at age 97, Lear is enjoying yet another career renaissance. He won an Emmy on Sept. 14 (making him the oldest winner ever) for ‘Live in Front of a Studio Audience,’ which ABC recently renewed for two more specials. His ‘One Day at a Time’ remake, which had been canceled by Netflix, scored a fourth season at new home Pop TV and is back in production. And with partner Brent Miller, he’s got a number of projects in the pipeline — both original ideas and fresh takes on his classic library.” [Variety]

Jewish princess: Little Jewish girls around the globe will finally have a Jewish Disney princess of their very own. The Disney Channel announced Tuesday that the third season of its animated show “Elena of Avalor” will feature “a visiting princess from a Latino Jewish kingdom.” The princess, to be voiced by Jewish actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, will visit the kingdom in a Hanukkah-themed episode slated to air in December. “I am so excited to voice Disney’s first Jewish princess,” Sigler tweeted.

TALK OF THE NATION — Family separation and refugee cap reinvigorate Jews’ activist roots: ‘We’ve always been immigrants’ — by Sarah Parvini: “Jewish Americans’ support for immigrant rights stems from their own experiences in the late 1800s, when European Jews began migrating en masse to the United States, fleeing the Russian czars’ pogroms and other antisemitic persecution in their home countries. Their increasingly vocal stance in the Trump era flows from that long tradition, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University… Now, amid continuing uproar over policies such as family separation, reduced refugee admissions and the travel ban that Trump critics said targeted Muslims, progressive Jews are returning to, and reinvigorating, their community’s activist roots.” [LATimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Jewish summer camp with campfires, crafts and no lights out — by Rachel Levin: “Trybal Gatherings was founded by Carine Warsawski, 34, a buoyant, Boston-bred M.B.A., with the goal of fostering lasting community among Jews in their 20s and 30s, and, ahem, a few in their 40s… Whereas traditions like Birthright Israel offer free trips to the homeland, Ms. Warsawski’s aim is to offer an immersive, low-commitment experience closer to home — one rooted not in Zionism or religious doctrine, but in the shared nostalgia of a Jewish-American rite of passage, complete with archery and horseback riding, and a roster that reads like it’s from the Old Testament.” [NYTimes]

Hasidic Jewish man attacked, robbed by group of men in Brooklyn: police — by Mark Sundstrom: “Police said they’re investigating after a Hasidic Jewish man was assaulted and robbed while walking home in Brooklyn Tuesday night. The 24-year-old man was walking on Warsoff Place, near Flushing Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, around 9:30 p.m. when he was confronted by a group of four men, authorities said. Police said one of the men told the victim, ‘Give us everything,’ before a man in the group punched him in the head.” [PIX11]

Conor Climo, a former security guard, has been charged with possessing “firearms, specifically destructive devices” to attack a Las Vegas synagogue last month. Paul Riddle, Climo’s court-appointed attorney, said on Tuesday that the suspect plans to plead not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Nevada. “The defendant had gathered component parts that can readily be assembled into a destructive device,” Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe wrote, and “had very specific plans about attacking one specific synagogue near his house… wanting to light an incendiary device and having others join him to shoot people as they came out of the synagogue.”

A teenage driver was arrested over the weekend after police said he nearly struck two Jewish people in Jackson Township, New Jersey while yelling antisemitic slurs. The driver was charged with harassment and bias intimidation.

TRANSITION — Rabbi Asher Lopatin, founding director of the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse, was tapped as executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC in Detroit. 

DESSERT — For Libyan Jews, this spicy fish stew is the taste of Rosh Hashana — by Joan Nathan: “For [Shalom] Saar and [Hamos] Guetta, whose families left Libya, dishes like aharaimi, shakshuka and mafrum, a potato-encased flat meatball with tomato sauce, are the few remainders from their past that they still eat today… As Jewish food of the diaspora gains popularity in Israel and elsewhere — and Libyan restaurants crop up in Tel Aviv featuring these dishes — the next generation is beginning to reinterpret old recipes.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Marina Del Rey, California resident, Kathy Levinson Wolf turns 71… Former co-CEO of SAP (2008-2010) and CEO of Hewlett-Packard (2010-2011), Léo Apotheker turns 66… Harvard professor of psychology, Steven Pinker turns 65… Executive director of the Los Angeles Westside Jewish Community Center, Brian Greene turns 63… An early Israeli tech entrepreneur, founded Aladdin Knowledge Systems in 1985, Yanki Margalit turns 57…

Co-host of the morning show on Bloomberg Radio, Lisa Abramowicz turns 40… Former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Bakari Sellers turns 35… Professional poker player Nick Schulman turns 35… New Jersey native, Aaron Kaplowitz turns 35… Assistant executive director and managing director of global communications at AJC, Avi Mayer turns 35… Host of the Washington Nationals’ pregame and postgame shows on MASN, Dan Kolko turns 34… Senior associate in the DC office of Finsbury, Zak Sawyer turns 27…

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Former Obama White House speechwriter David Litt… Elected official on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education, Nick Melvoin… Founder of the Israel Summit at Harvard, Max August

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