Bibi’s Bid Backfired

Bibi’s Bid Backfired

With 95 percent of the votes counted, Israel's election still hasn't yielded much clarity about who will be running the country. If it feels like we've been here before that's because we have — this is Israel's second vote in five months. Back in April, voters just barely gave Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu's Likud party the most votes, but he failed to form a government, and called a do-over rather than let his chief rival, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, try to form a government of his own.


Did his move pay off? One Haaretz reporter summed it up best: "Nobody won, but Netanyahu definitely lost."

What happened? Neither Netanyahu's Likud party nor Blue and White has a clear path to attaining a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. As of now, Likud is projected to win 32 seats, trailing Blue and White's 33. Both parties have teamed up with others to strengthen their negotiating positions: Netanyahu would command a 56-seat bloc of right-wing and ultra-orthodox parties, while Gantz's center-left grouping would pick up 44 endorsements for prime minister. Meanwhile, the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties has 12 seats, making it possible that an Arab Israeli could become opposition leader for the first time in Israel's history.

Avigdor Lieberman, kingmaker? This spring, it was Avigdor Lieberman, a wily far-right secularist, who doomed Bibi's chances of forming a government by defecting from the Likud-led coalition. After yesterday, he is a potential kingmaker again: his party, appealing largely to Russian-speaking Israelis, has currently won a crucial eight seats, which will be coveted by both Netanyahu and Gantz.

What happens next?

A unity government — A coalition made up of both Blue and White and Likud remains likely. But there are many forms such a government could take. Who would serve as prime minister? Will Likud depose Netanyahu this time around? Gantz says he will not serve in a unity government with Netanyahu so long as the Likud leader remains implicated in corruption scandals. If a unity government is the outcome, pull up a chair and get comfortable – coalition talks could take weeks, if not months.

Netanyahu forms a single right-wing bloc — Netanyahu has already reached out to his natural coalition partners – right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties – suggesting that he's working towards preventing a "liberal, nationalist" coalition that Gantz would hope to lead. If Netanyahu can win them over, he would have the biggest bloc, improving his chances of forming a government.

Center-left government — Gantz could bridge the gap needed to form a minority government with support from the Arab parties, but neither side seems enthused about that prospect. If it happens, it would be an extremely tenuous coalition.

Election 3.0 — It's the option that nobody wants, but if deadlock persists, Israel could head for its third election in just 12 months. President Reuven Rivlin has said he will do everything in his power to avoid another election, but that would require some parties to compromise. And lack of compromise is what led to repeat elections in the first place…

Would any of this change Israel's foreign policy? Probably not much. Benny Gantz would certainly offer an opportunity for Israel to reset its relations with countries disaffected by Netanyahu's cozying up to illiberal nationalist leaders. (Think of this "warm embrace" with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro or Bibi's affection for Hungary's Viktor Orban.) But Gantz is a former army chief whose actual views align closely with Netanyahu on many foreign policy issues, including the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. On the Palestinian issue, Gantz recently echoed his rival on annexing part of the West Bank, leading Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to conclude: the difference between Gantz and Netanyahu is like the "difference between Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola."

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.

US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.

More Show less

Trump is willing to give up Wisconsin for Belarus' democracy? When multilateralism hits the Zoom calls, we can't really tell what's real and what's not. #PUPPETREGIME

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how the pandemic has influenced climate action:

Has the pandemic helped or harmed efforts to tackle climate change?

More Show less

In a new interview with GZERO World host Ian Bremmer, conducted on the eve of the 2020 General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres confronts the challenges of leading a multilateral organization in an increasingly nationalistic world. "I am not naïve," he tells Bremmer. "I know this is going to be a very tough ideological battle."

Watch the episode: UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Why we still need the United Nations

How has the pandemic influenced climate action?

Business In 60 Seconds