Michal and I were recently touring through Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales, but not Northern Ireland) for a few weeks. Almost at the beginning of our trip, while we were in Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II died. Immediately, our trip took on a unique character as we were submerged in a sad yet somehow buoyant atmosphere. Immediately and deeply, the British celebrated the life and times of their longest serving monarch and welcomed their new titular head – Long live King Charles III!
Partly because the Queen had died in Scotland, the city was stunned, but so was England, Wales, and I suppose Northern Ireland (which we didn’t visit). London, where we ended our tour, of course was plastered with flags and likenesses of the Queen – so were most other places in Britain – but even more so. The town was packed with Londoners and visitors who desperately wanted to be among the crowds who viewed the places which the Queen frequented in Windsor and London as well as watch as the funeral procession as it passed by. Many left bouquets of flowers in the many locations designated to display them.
Understandably, we also wanted to see those places, so our detailed list of 10 must-see sites in London was mostly derailed. On the day of the funeral, the sidelines of the funeral route were crammed with huge crowds. Just after 9 o’clock we watched the spectacle on TV in our hotel room, rather than join the huge crowd just down the street from our hotel at Charing Cross. The route of the Queen’s coffin was roughly ten miles from Westminster Hall in London to Westminster Abbey in nearby Windsor. The casket was “guarded” by Royal Navy sailors, according to a myriad of traditions which were scrupulously followed. As everyone who saw it can attest, the funeral procession was a dignified, yet stupendous, royal spectacle with enough going on to satisfy even the most expectant royalist. But enough about that….
We returned home to heavy campaigning to elect a new government on November 1, the fifth such election in three years. From my viewpoint, it looks like it may be another stalemate, with Bibi Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud (the most popular party) failing to form a majority coalition. The current “caretaker” prime minister, Yair Lapid, who heads the leftist Yesh Atid (the second most popular party) has been increasing his clout by performing his interim duties fairly well. He addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 and gave a well-received speech which gladdened the hearts of liberals here and in the current US administration.
Why well-received? Because Lapid promotes the two-state solution, which would whittle down Israel’s borders to a 9-mile width in its center and deprive Israel of the Jordan Valley, which is the indispensable bulwark against an invasion from the east. Lapid boldly lied when he proclaimed that, “a large majority of Israelis support the vision” of a two-state solution. The most recent poll results show that only 31% of Jewish Israelis think that a new government should try to advance the two-state solution. 58% of Jewish Israelis were opposed to such a move, while 11% were undecided. A resounding majority oppose a Palestinian terror state, similar to Gaza, situated adjacent to the Tel Aviv metropolitan area!
Lapid entered politics in 2012. Up to that time, he was an author, TV presenter and news anchor. As such, his persona before the cameras is at least equal or better than Bibi’s. Lapid comes across as conciliatory, as opposed to the often antagonistic Bibi, who has headed the government longer than any other politician since Israel’s independence in 1948. On a person-to-person matchup, Lapid’s party has a chance to come close to the perennial Knesset leader, Bibi’s Likud Party.
There’s one other major personality in the race, former Chief of Staff and wannabe prime minister, Benny Gantz, who heads the center-left National Unity Party. In a previous coalition with Bibi’s Likud Party, Gantz was scheduled to become prime minister following Bibi’s half-term. Unsurprisingly, Bibi turned the tables and called a new election rather than allow Gantz to head the government. The National Unity Party will probably be among the top three parties after the votes are counted.
While the Yesh Atid/National Unity Party combination will appeal to some voters, I oppose it. Both Lapid and Gantz consider Judea and Samaria expendable. Lapid proves it by promoting the 2-state solution and Gantz, in his current position as Minister of Defense, has allowed the EU and Palestinian Authority to construct institutions and communities throughout Area C. (According to the Oslo Accords, Area C is under Israel’s total control. Area C consists of 63% of Judea and Samaria.)
Note: Judea and Samaria are geographic regions known by those names for thousands of years. In contrast, “West Bank” was coined only in 1950 by the Hashemite rulers of Jordan to promote their claim to land west of the Jordan River while erasing Jewish history in the Jewish homeland.
I believe that Bibi is past his “sell-by date,” yet he is the best candidate. He is still the preference of the Likud Party and also the plurality of Israeli voters, including me. But if the election results in another stalemate, I believe that the Likud will push Bibi out, necessitating Israel’s SIXTH election, sometime in 2023. Let’s hope not!
A happy, healthy, and prosperous Shana Tovah (new year) for all of my readers!