Webinar Transcript- Tal Schneider on Key Issues in Israel’s November Elections

Ori Nir  00:47

 Hello everyone. Welcome to this Americans for peace now webinar on Israel's November 1 elections Today is Wednesday, September 21 2022; which means that the elections are exactly 40 days away. I'm Ori Nir with APN here in Washington. Before I introduce our guest, I'd like to remind you that this is a this webinar, like all our webinars is recorded, the video will be posted on our YouTube channel, hopefully sometime later today and the audio on our podcast podcast. Also, as always, you're encouraged to post questions on our using our q&a tool, which should be at the bottom of your screen. You can do that anytime beginning now. And I just asked you that you keep your questions short because I'm going to be reviewing them as we go along. In our conversation, I won't have much time to devote to it. So our guest today is touch Tal Schneider. She is one of the best political correspondents and analysts in Israel. She's a friend and former colleague. Tal is currently the political correspondent of The Times of Israel. She's been covering Israeli politics for years. She is a frequent commentator on Israeli and American politics, on radio and TV stations in Israel. And we're really fortunate to have her with us today. So welcome, Tal. Thanks for joining us.

Tal Schneider  02:15

Hi, Ori. Thanks for having me. Thanks for inviting me.

Ori Nir  02:18

I'm sure it's a very busy time for you. And I really, thank you for taking an hour out of your busy schedule, covering the elections. So as I said, we're exactly 40 days before the general elections in Israel. This is for the what; the fifth time in four years, am I right? Yeah.

Tal Schneider  02:38

Less than four years. Yeah.

Ori Nir  02:41

So in our conversation today, Tal, what I'd like to do is to ask you to describe and analyze the political scene in Israel. But also, I'd love it if you could zoom out from time to time and make some broader observations about trends in Israeli society, in Israeli politics, and how they're reflected in the current political dynamics. I'd like to ask you to start by, if you if you could, by depicting the nature of the political competition in Israel today as we as we approach the elections, because I think that many Americans fail to really comprehend it. What I mean by that is that Americans tend to view election campaigns as a kind of a binary competition between two people, you know, two parties, blue versus red, and so on and so forth. In Israel, it's different. And I think most Americans were interested in Israel understand that the game in Israel is played between blocks. Now we've been conditioned in the past to to perceive the blocks as right versus left today, it's different. So maybe you could talk a little bit about the nature of those blocks, and what is the objective of each one of them?

Tal Schneider  03:56

Okay, lots of questions. Definitely. Israel is in, you know, a major political crisis. It's, I can't even start to explain how big the crisis is here. Five election in three and a half years, this is, you know, not natural, not normal, not logical. And, you know, very unfortunate. I have to tell you, Ori, I think the Israeli public doesn't care about the election anymore. Doesn't have interest. Especially we're having the election in November 1, which is probably a week and a half after the High Holidays after the second sukkot holiday, which means that the Israeli or now, as of this Sunday, we'll go into a month of relaxation, vacation, lots of family dinners. Nobody's listening to the news. This is tradition- Traditionally, during the High Holidays, the news are not, you know, a big thing. And definitely with those politicians just repeating themselves with the same messages over and over again, nobody really cares. So I don't know how the turnout is going to be because we saw a high voter turnout in Israel, even in dire situations. Having said that, you know, the voter turnout can go down. I, I sense, a lot of indifference. If you look at the newscast in Israel, the the political items in the election items might be, like 40 minutes after the newscast began, or page 17 in the print or not on the top of the homepage, and so on. So we have lots of other issues. And as prayer, you know, you know, what's going on with this selection is just, as I said, you know, the the sides in Israel are, you know, divided by half, we definitely don't have the two party system, Israel goes by the British system. For those of you all of you probably know, Israel used to be a British colony before, before the country was set up, and the that all of the the constitutional laws and all of the procedural laws, and the election laws and so on, are based on the British system, which is, you know, more than two party system, even though in Great Britain, they still have the two party system, you know, as a major rule here, with so many groups in the society, anyone can set up a party, the threshold is quite high, it's three point 25, three and a quarter percent of the of the voter base, which means you need you need at least four MKS in order to cross the threshold. This rule entered Israel's semi constitution, back in 2015. '15 was the first time that it was used. So this is probably going to be the seventh, I think, election cycle that we are, you know, maybe semantics, that with the highest with the higher threshold, this threshold instead of, you know, people when they enacted the threshold, they were hoping that Israel society will go by, you know, two big parties instead, we have lots amount, huge, huge amount of 10 people parties, 10 people, 30 people, nine people 40 people, so basically around so many parties, I think, the outgoing Knesset, the 24th Knesset had unprecedented number of 30 parties. When you have 120 seats, you know, the average you can you can you understand the picture. Obviously, not all of the parties are so small, the Likud is still the biggest party. It's it's been the ruling party for many years for the last 40 years. Other than months here months there. In the last year, most of the time the liquid has been in power. And they had in the outgoing Knesset, they have 29 seats, actually they won 30 But you know, went down to 29. According to prediction and the predictions at the moment, they will remain the biggest party. Benjamin Netanyahu is the most popular politician here still, with a huge and very reliable or very loyal voter base. But, but he's unable in Israel, it's not enough to be the most, you know, the leading politician, the most popular politician with the biggest number of seats in the Knesset, you also need to be able to form a government based on 61 At least 61 seats because 120 divided by 2; 61, you need at least 61. Neither of the sides get 61 This is what's going on here. In the last, you know, three and a half years. First Election, Netanyahu got 60 He was short in one seat, that is April 20 2019. Second election gained 55 , 3rd election again 58 fourth election Again, again 59. So, you know between 55 to 60. This is your best polling data. I mean, people are, you know, trying to look into the polling and I keep telling them, why do you need polling you have four election cycles, in which the right side that between 55 to 60. So obviously from 60 to 61 It doesn't seem such a huge step, it can be done. But let me tell you it is even if you get 61, and he forms a government, based on the 61 seats, based on recent years 61 doesn't, you know, it's you're unable. I'm sorry, you're unable to maintain a coalition. We started last year with the 61. Government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. But Netanyahu also had 61, back in 2015. And it was unsustainable. The 61 government was in power for a year only, after which Netanyahu had to pay big time for, Lieberman to jump in, and large is government. But we all know that 61 is unsustainable, even if Netanyahu wins 61 I don't presume that he will be able to keep it more than one year.

Ori Nir  10:55

So so the blocks today, the two blocks are basically the Netanyahu block and the anti Netanyahu block. That's right. The In other words, the block that tries to, to block Netanyahu from the Prime Ministership is not united, isn't not united around any kind of ideology, it's a collection of parties that are actually ranged from right to left, correct?

Tal Schneider  11:26

Um, you know, yes or no, I don't think it's there they are. You know, they don't have ideology. Definitely, they're coming from both right and left. But the main concept is keeping Israel rule of law, keeping Israel's basic principles of freedom of the press of independent judicial system of democratic values. I mean, you are in United States, this may sound very familiar to you, when you have people that are coming from the Republic, some parts of the Republican Party and some parts of the Democratic Party they have, they have the same vision as per what constitute a proper government, and what is just on on the border or out of out of the question. Now, Netanyahu has proven in the last couple of years where he was in power, that he's willing to cross lines that never were crossed before, such as ignoring the attorney general rule and appointing a justice minister on a whim for a couple of hours, such as attacking severely the courts and the justices on account of his own criminal trial. And, you know, maybe one of the worst thing that happened here is that we didn't have a budget for almost two and a half, almost three years. So that's, you know, what you call a lockdown. Right? When you don't have when you don't pass a budget. I don't know how far the United States go for, you know, lock downs. Here, it's it's never it never happened before. I mean, we never had any kind of non budget, more than maybe three months in which they negotiate, and then they pass a budget. So we just didn't have a budget at all. And that was devastating to the country. And I can give an example. You know, one of the things for example, is that Israel applied to the United States to purchase. aeroplanes that it can... That can be, how do you say,

Ori Nir  13:45

Can be refueled in midair. Yeah, exactly.

Tal Schneider  13:48

And Israel actually, you know, sign wrote a contract with the Americans defense industries to buy I think eight, eight of those. And since the Congress was waiting for budgetal approval from Israel, and the budget approval never made it because we didn't have any budget. The entire deal was postponed and I don't have to explain to you why people here need on whether the Israeli military needs the refueling, the airplanes that refuel in air, y'all know the situation. So in other words, yeah, so that was purchased just like a month ago on Benny Gantz visit to the United States. The deal was re-, you know, put back on the table and completed. Obviously, it was made possible due to the fact that this government, the outgoing government, actually passed the budget after almost two and a half, three years without a budget. So, those things I mean, you know, not passing a budget that goes to the core system of a democratic state because when you don't pass a budget, the government uses the the previous budget, but you don't have the Parliament, the the Israeli Knesset oversizing and overlooking on the budget so the government can do with former money, whatever they want to do without any oversight. This goes, you know, right into the heart of the system when you don't have the Knesset committee doing inquiry, inquiry, inquiries and oversight on the budget. It's so so when you asked me, people who are on the side of Bb, this is just not BB. This is their own, the only ideology they have is objecting BB No, no, it's not just objecting BB, it's objecting the fact that the country needs to be run on democratic value. And therefore they can be parties from the right wing and the left wing also think that the country cannot be organized by just, you know, one person show.

Ori Nir  16:00

Okay, so let's let's now, if you don't mind, let's try to take stock of where we are with the various segments of the electorate, or the parties that are running will go from from left to right. But we'll talk also about the ultra orthodox and the Arab party. So left, right, ultra orthodox and arab. And I'm starting with the left, because I'm assuming that most of our viewers would be most interested in that. The state of the left so the traditional left that we You don't count the Arabs in the left? No, I don't think so. I know, there are different. I think that there are different electoral because some of the of the Arab parties that are running are actually right wing, or conservative, I should say, in their in their approach. So so let's talk about design. This left the Jewish left, if you want to call it we have

Tal Schneider  17:01

two parties out there, the meretz and labor, both very old parties were now both run by women at the moment. The former chairman of Meretz , who is the health minister, and Nitzhan Horowitz stepped down. So Meretz now has went back to its former leaders Zehava Gal-On she's a very popular within the left. She's very viable. She's well known. She's a big figure in Israel. She's the she's now the she's back into business being again, the chairwoman. Labor is chaired by Merav Michaeli. She's been in the Knesset for more than 10 years or about 10 years. Also, very prominent figure very feminist, both of them feminist Merav was very known, and Current TV and a journalist. And she's a very serious politician. She's trying to bring labor back to its big days, but I don't think she's going to be able to get more than, you know, five and six seats, both parties will probably get together between, you know, 11 to 13 seats together in a very small part of the Knesset, but basically more of a traditional liberal secular liberal, some, you know, if you're looking for green agenda, social agenda, reform movement is being represented at the at the, you know, reform movement, Gilad colleagues in labor. Yeah, I think also a religious guy coming from the left is, you know, like, some some people that are religious and want to be in the left, they have the representative there.

Ori Nir  18:51

So, recently, you're, Yair Lapid, the Prime Minister tried to bring them together and have them run together. Why did he try that? And why did he fail? And why did he fail? Why did they opt to not do that?

Tal Schneider  19:06

Yeah, it was different he was trying to do for his own good. And actually, when they when they are together, they came out, you know, in politics. You know, three plus three doesn't equal six, three plus three equal five or four. So it was trying to get them together. But actually, since we have so many, so much experience in the last couple of years, every time they were united, they dropped in the numbers when they ran apart. They actually managed to get six and seven seats. So there was no logic in that. He was trying to do it, but you know, because he wanted more and more seats for himself.

Ori Nir  19:43

But according to recent polls, neither labor nor Meretz seem in danger of not passing the threshold, right.

Tal Schneider  19:52

It's always a danger, actually, because the threshold is so high, as I said earlier, I think at the end I'm coming to an end of the campaign, they will both both party will do what we call a good valid campaign which is crying out loud. We are in a very weak version of distinction, save us and so on. And you know, many people in Israel these days do not vote based on their values, but they they vote strategically, which means they will choose at the last day who to vote for according to who is closer to losing the party. So if Labour is down to four, on the last poll before election, you would probably people would run and you know, they would make they may dump Yesh Atid, and say, I'll put my vote here, because this is basically it's the block. So if you're helping labor, you're actually helping Lapid. So if you if you prefer the period, you can assist Lapid by making sure labour doesn't lose it, and so on. So this is the strategic vote it's it's a common phenomenon after four election cycle coming into the fifth.

Ori Nir  21:06

Let's turn right now and look at what I think is one of the most significant phenomenon phenomena of this election campaign. So why LIkud has more or less maintaining its power, the alliance between the religious Zionism party headed by Bezalel Smotrich, and the Kahanes Jewish power party, that is led by Itmar Ben-Gvir. That alliance is likely to come out as the third largest party in the Knesset, after Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, then of course Likud. And that party, that extreme right wing party is now Likud's closest natural ally. So many people are asking me, how did this happen? How did the Kahane ideology become? So I don't know if mainstream is the right word, but so accepted in Israeli society

Tal Schneider  21:58

I will expand the process for a couple of years, Netanyahu actually worked very hard in one of the last election, I think, the third or the fourth, to enter Ben-Gvir, he was the one who negotiated the agreement between religious Zionism and Jewish power. Netanyahu was not just calling them to sit together, he actually negotiated between them, they actually offer them a relief by taking into his list one of their party members. So it's actually yiou know, your offer to them. If you will get, you know, together, I will help you by installing one of your people in my list. So it's actually gave them a present of one of one seat. And he also, you know, there was an agreement. It's, it's on paper, the agreement is published to the public, in the website of the election committee, in which Natanyahu promise to Ben-Gvir to be the next chairman of the judicial committee in the Knesset. This is fourth election. In the fifth election, we are talking now about a promise to be a minister. So when you asked me how did this came along, it came on because if you look at the likud back in the 80s, or back in the 90s, the liquid was opposing Kahana. And every time the leader of Kahana, Kahana, went up to the podium to make a speech, all of the liquid members, including Prime Minister left the plenum. Now, now in 2022, the record is having a full force campaign saying how when he was a nice person, how he changed over the years, and Ben-Gir himself is going from a high school to high school or other places and telling people I have changed when I was making threats against Rabin, I was a teenager. I'm not doing this anymore. This was wrong. He's doing like a full apologizing campaign. I don't buy it. Let me tell you just you know, even Israeli kibbutz these days is hosting Ben Gvir kibbutz you know, some of the kibbutz is not all of them, but some of them are hosting when we're for political panel or you know, like a Sunday show where you talk you know, you discuss the, the situation so, he is invited is like invited to speak at the kibbutzim. unbelievable. And just one more thing, if you're thinking to yourself maybe Ben Gvir has changed, and he's not the person that used to be if any You don't know who Ben is. I just urge you to Google when we're in the Times of Israel and the Times of Israel is good. Very good and detailed piece about Ben Gvir, about two years ago. It's it's still the same. It's the it's not changed. It was written by my colleague Javi retic. Ready? A very good piece, just Google Ben Gvir Times of Israel COVID. And you it will come up. But just to say this bank beer was having in his household, in his living room, a photo like I have a photo here. I don't know if you can see that those photos. He had a photo of Babylon Gulch and the doctor who did the massacre in 1994, killing about 30 worshippers, Muslim worshippers in the Manhattan Babylon in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Ori Nir  25:54

 In Hebron.

Tal Schneider  25:57

The person who committed this crime and was then killed himself was the physician of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, he was a friend of the band of your family. So Ben Gvir put a photo of him in his living room to educate his his kids in light of gholston, heritage, and when TV camera went into this house and saw this, the camera people were like, What do you have a photo with Ben Gvir in your living room? And when they said, Yes, it was a really fine doctor, really fine physician. And he saved a lot of life before He massacred 30 of them. So there was a huge outrage, you know, Ben Gvir, your claims he's changing, he never change, and so on. So Ben Gvir said, Okay, I am taking the image down. And then he made a whole scene. I mean, it's very sophisticated. It brought the cameras back into his house, he made a whole scene about, I took the photo down, I don't educate my kids anymore in the light of Dr. Goldstein, and so on. But then just like a month ago, Ben Gvirs wife was on Israel's radio, and she's been asked, you took Dr. Goldstein's photo off, what other photos do you have in your house? And she said, Oh, we still had the photo of Kahane in our living room. And this is persisted. So they have the following. I mean, if you don't know Kahane, is listed. Karna is under the name of Meir Kahane. Is it was assassinated many years ago, but Kohane Chai, that's is organization Association, is still listed in the terror list organizations under the United States Department of State to this day, and one of the Kahane supporter, which is a very good friend of Ben Gvir. And someone they were running a party together, Michal Ben-Ari, he's actually not allowed to enter the United States to this day, is a former MK himself is not allowed is blocked from entering the United States because he's in the list of terror organization participants. So this is Ben Gvir, and he claims that he has changed and so on and so on. Yeah, I was running this campaign saying how nice Ben Gvir is these days. And if Netanyahu will win, then he will probably be the Minister of Homeland Security. That's what his goal is.

Ori Nir  28:32

Okay. Let's talk a little bit about orthodox parties. They're very solidly Netanyahus camp, very loyal to him. Anything interesting that has changed there in these in this election campaign? If not, we can go on.

Tal Schneider  28:50

There were slight, slight hint that at least one of them Gaffney, who is the chairman of degla to whites the most it slipped the Lithuanian Jews. There were some hints that he may change sides after the election. I don't I don't know.

Ori Nir  29:09

Okay. Okay. Um, the Arab votes. There, we have some dramatic developments. So let's talk a little bit about them and a little bit about how they might impact the broader picture.

Tal Schneider  29:25

Yeah, um, a vote is comprised of four different parties to begin with. One is a very religious one. One is a very nationalist. They want to have one state solution and other one is very social used to be social democratic workers. That's Hadash. And another one was just like a personal party of another physician. They when they ran in the last four years and three and a half years when they ran apart, the numbers went down whenever they joined forces numbers went up. last election Raam, which is the Islamic movement, the religious party, they split all together for, you know, a groundbreaking event in Israel's history in Israel politics, headed by Mansoor Abbas, they broke from the rest of them. And they said, We are breaking in order to become a member of Israel's next government was, again, an unprecedented move very brave on behalf of Mansoor Abbas . They did it, they went into government. Now, the other three parts remained very confused. And at least some of them decided that they should go for that also, maybe not embracing Israel coalition and really entering into the coalition like Mansoor Abbas did, but playing a bigger role in you know, you can play you know, from the opposition, you can play a role in votes in recommendations and so on. They decided that they will break from the party that is the nationalist one, the one that wants one state solution, that's Balad. Balad is the most extreme to the to the we call it to the left, because it's, you know, it's on the other side, it's the most extreme. Some of its former members are, you know, one of them at least sitting in the Israeli jail. Another one escaped Israel a couple of years ago, and is sitting now in Qatar, both for espionage indictments, it's this party is on the verge of being delegitimized nobody in Israel really cooperating with them, they will probably not cross the threshold they have like 40,000 supporters. So that means that they cannot enter the next Knesset, if they're on their own, unless there will be a huge vote towards them, which I don't I don't think will happen. The problem with our voters turnout with our voters is the turnout, the general turnout is 70%. The our voter turnout can be between 40 to 50. And when it went up was 165, when all of the joint Arab list was together, when they were separated, it went down. According to all pollsters this election, we expect very low voter turnout in the Arab society, for many reasons I can I can start to talk about them. But you know, I'm not an Arab citizen. So I don't want on behalf of them. But basically, it's a lot of disappointment from you know, for the from the first time that our party was part of the government. Instead, they're not, you know, they are not, they did not become so happy about it. And so if the voter turnout of the Arab society will be very low, there is a concern that at least, you know, Balad, as I said, probably would not cross the threshold. So you lose 4000 votes, when you lose 40,000 votes, the balance of power shifts, because when when you lose on one side, 40,000 goes, it means the other side of the map, which means the likud gains more proportional power. And that means that the division of the six will gain will give the other side at least one wants one more set. So right now you're actually seeing the polls, the liquid has come up from 59 to 60. Based on that specific event, also, I mean, Raam and Hadash, both the two other both faced the same problem, as I said, with respect to the labor and meretz, they all face the same problem. They can not cross the threshold if there isn't enough voters. And definitely for another party on the on that side do not cross the threshold, then Netanyahu is definitely the next prime minister without you know.

Ori Nir  34:03

Okay, so we talked about the left the right, the ultra orthodox, the Arabs, we didn't talk about the center, I think it may be worthwhile to say a few words about I think there are two parties that can be considered center. And those are the Lapids Party Yesh Atid, and the Gantz party. So maybe just a few words, I think that the Yesh Atid particularly is interesting because it has managed to not only maintain but even increase its power over time. So maybe just a few words about about those two parties, how they're faring

Tal Schneider  34:40

Lapid is now, if you look at the poll is 2423 24 seats that's higher than what he has in the outgoing Knesset. He has 17 I have to tell you, it's very risky to trust those polls. I think many times you know parties is in the center or in the left center. had higher numbers. And when it comes to election day, it was it dropped. So, you know, I don't you know, I'm not sure but definitely if Lapid is able to form a government is 61 seats, it will be the next prime minister. Next to him. You have Bennigan's, former chief of the IDF. They start together in one party back in the first and second and third election. The party's name was blue and white. They went together. But then then Corona COVID came in. And Netanyahu made a big, huge speech about how this is a time of risk and time of you know, well, I don't have to tell you what what was going on back in March 2020. Around the world to hear the same. Netanyahu made a huge outreach thing. Benny Gantz said, you have to join me into government. Lapid refused and said, I will support you from the outside every decision you're going to make on closed downs and so on, I will support it as an opposition. Benny Gantz on the other side decided that the country cannot go to a fourth election and enter the government only to be cheated on deceit. And they signed the coalition agreement which Netanyahu broke immediately thereafter, like, within weeks. And in this government, which was between the third and fourth election, this government actually broke down very fast was today people were you're talking to Netanyahu now, he's regretting this shouldn't have cheated him and so on. But you know, this is like, this is history by now. After that we had after that break down, we had the fourth election, and I'm telling this entire tale. Because this day when you ask the Benny Gantz when you stepping to help Netanyahu, he says, no, no, I've learned my lesson. The problem is that you're going to have a huge public in Israel calling Gantz maybe to enter an agreement with Netanyahu because they would come up and say, it's either Benny Gantz or Ben Gvir . So if the likud wants to have a government without Ben Gvir, they're the extremist. I didn't even mention back in that party, you do have people who are against LGBT people who are against I mean, really against like, extremely against people who are against women rights, they want to have they want to stop women service in the military. It's kind of suggestions like that. I'm sure they're looking to the abortion issue as well, if they can do it. So so people will come up to Benny Gantz and say, you know, save the country. Let bebe be the be prime minister, as long as you're the defense minister. And as long as Ben Gvir's staying out. And I suppose the voters should ask themselves, I mean, right with Benny Gantz in the same party, he has one of the biggest opponents of Netanyahu, which is Gideon Saar is now Justice Minister, give us up keeps on saying no, never will not sit with him. The big question if you trust him or not.

Ori Nir  38:25

So let's now think about the day after you it's not I'm saying that they after, but never is the day after it's it takes months in Israel, if Netanyahu in fact manages to form a coalition, and particularly if he forms it with an extreme right wing party and the ultra orthodox parties, first of all, how high on his order of priorities is going to be passing laws that would help him particularly personally in his legal fight, and how up higher priorities or other laws or other the other parts of the agenda that relates to the legal system as you pointed out earlier?

Tal Schneider  39:17

Well, listen, obviously, we already know because you already made it a try not just one he worked in several fronts so I suppose it's going to be very high on his list. I don't I don't know what to tell you. In what way but you know, for example, just at the end of this Knesset, one of the people from the Likud not even from the very right for for alt right and so on, from the record, his name is Amsalem, David Amsalem, a member of the Knesset. He put forward a bill in this June or July to change the nomination of Supreme Court judges, such that the government will appoint them This is you know, completely. The system here is different from the American system, right? We don't deploy it. The judges are not political. This is, you know, hungary textbook, have the government appoint Supreme Court judges. The bill was put forward by someone from the Likud. And it's now actually took the step to enter the plenum and vote for that bill. It voted for that.  He voted for the change of election of judges to be appointed by Israel's government. This is unheard of. And I mean, I don't know if they will put a bill like that, again. For the for the criminal trial that already started and being heard every day now, three days a week, for more than a year now. I think that he cannot really stop. I mean, how can you stop a trial like that? You can What would you do you cancel the judicial system in Israel? I mean, I'm laughing when I'm saying I don't know, I don't think But definitely, they will try to maybe change the identity of the attorney general. So again, in Israel, you cannot just dismiss the attorney general, we don't have a change of professionals at those jobs. When a government replaces itself. The Attorney General of the State of Israel is a professional appointee. It's never ever in the history of Israel, any of them was discharged. But Netanyahu is people the MKS from his party are talking openly about discharging her and replacing her with someone to their convenience. This is like a revolution in in Israel's, you know, concepts. It's it's not it's undone. It's like. So I mean, when Netanyahu is asked, Will you replace the attorney general? And he says, No, of course, I will not do such a thing that this is just weak. I mean, he issued a statement saying, replacing the Attorney General is out of the question. It's not and I urge likud MKs to stop saying it. I mean, would you trust Him on that? I don't know. What about any others idea? They have many other ideas. So they basically I don't think they will be able to stop the trial. But they do have, you know, a range of other ideas on how to deal. And let me just say this judicial judicial system in Israel definitely needs a reform. You know, it's not like everything is perfect. They need to change some things. It's a from left to right. People are saying they need to reform, specifically when they have  detention, they need to change some things. But election process of judges is actually considered in Israel a very good one. So I don't think they need to touch on that.

Ori Nir  43:07

So since we talked about it, and yeah, here's a quick question. I see the polls, often. Often the question that's asked in the polls, is, who do you feel is the most qualified to be Israel, Israel's Prime Minister, and Netanyahu scores consistently somewhere between I'd say, 3638 and 40, something sometimes as high as 45. And it hasn't really gone down significantly after he was indicted. How do you explain it?

Tal Schneider  43:41

And Lapid, actually, the numbers are went up to 2425 26, something like that. So lipid was having probably 11 or 12. Back in the past. Bennett, when he was serving as a prime minister, his number did not go up at all. He was very unpopular Prime Minister. How do you explain that? I think that Israel's public? Well, I think that Netanyahu is very popular. It goes, the number of his support for the job as a prime minister relates to the number of the , the seats that he gets imposed, which is around 30. And, yeah, is very popular in Israel. You have a lot of people who still like him. You know, many people in Israel don't think that being under trial, or even a suspect in bribery. They think it's, I'm saying this with dismay, but they don't think it's something bad. If they hear on the news day and night that the prime minister or the former prime minister is lying and deceiving. They say to themselves, yeah, it's good. I want to Prime Minister who can be a liar because I want him to cheat  and I want him to cheat the US presidents and so on so I mean, they think it No, it's sad to say, but they appreciate those characteristics in him. He's very charismatic, I don't have to tell you that. He's been very charismatic. And also Ori, it's also important to note, some of the things that he did, we were very, very good. We're talking about the Abraham accords. You know, he's been in power for 12 years, Israeli economy is in a fine situation, not everything is good. Obviously, we have some problems with the housing crisis and consumer goods, and it's very expensive here. But you know, the job market is good. The country has a reserve from on the budget. We are not in depression in any way. And export is unbelievably high. So I mean, you know, you can criticize Netanyahu, some of the things. We're actually very good.

Ori Nir  46:03

I'd like to take a few of the questions that we have posted. I've already related to some of them. But a question that we have asking if there's any younger leader, potential leader, in your opinion, who may be capable of unifying the country around the idea of a two state solution? What do you think?

Tal Schneider  46:25

Um, what do you mean?

Ori Nir  46:28

Is there any charismatic young leader that you see who is left of center? Basically, I'd say that that's,

Tal Schneider  46:35

well, listen, um, Netanyahu is definitely the most charismatic one. And you can't really compare anyone to him, because he is by far the most charismatic figure. And when you when you try to put people after Netanyahu, obviously, he's 73, I think when you try to look on the day, following Netanyahu, and will, will you have, you know, Lapid and, and maybe someone from the Likud and other people, they will all compete each other on a more a more equal terms right now, but they have to compete with him. It's, it's almost impossible. So when you ask me about, you know, is any of them impressive, or? I don't think so because we are so used to him, we compare everything to him. So at the moment, I don't see them as being, you know, I'm fine with any of them. Of course, I'd rather have a non charismatic Prime Minister, but you know, more loyal to the country than having someone who is very, very charismatic, but he's only loyal to himself. So but I don't think, you know, the next generation of leaders will definitely have to confront a situation where, you know, it's different. It's not all about the speeches and so on.

Ori Nir  47:55

Okay, we have a question here, asking if there are any Arab members of the lists of labor and meretz, and I think the answer is yes. But I want to broaden the question a little bit and talk about the buzz on the left in the past few election campaigns was joined Jewish Arab work, collaboration, and harnessing the energy that was there toward electoral political objectives. Do you see any of that actually being translated into you know, Knesset election campaigns?

Tal Schneider  48:36

Meretz traditionally had at least one seat out of six or seven coming from the Aarab community. They had Issawi Frej who is still a minister coming a Muslim coming from the middle of the country, one of the big cities. He stepped down, he decided to leave the political arena at the moment. Even though it was very popular. There is a Druze MK Elisa Lucha who was a manager of high school in college jack, and the high school that he managed is listed on the top, you know, when you have rating of high school around Israel, I know you have the rating of high schools around the United States, right? So in Israel, it's a small country, it's maybe it's like one state of you know, it's like just New Jersey here. Okay, so we have a listing of all the high schools and  Druze high school under Alyssa was rated number one, the best high school in Israel. This is just This is obviously on performance, not just what people like but about performance of the students. So it's based on the real numbers. So he's coming with success to the Knesset. He was already an MK and he was he will probably be an MK in the next Knesset, in labor. I think you have someone in the list but not in not immediately so not labour actually used to have Being a voter base in the Arab society back in the 90s. It's gone. They don't have our reporters anymore. You see everywhere. I mean, if you check the results, the real results. They lost there Arab base. I mean, labor today it's a small country. It's a small party, so maybe, I don't know if they even put the resources to bring on our borders. Um, we don't have any Arabs in Yesh Atid. Unfortunately, I think Benny Gantz has Drew's in his list in spots that can enter the Knesset liquid actually deteriorated there are again, only Druze MK to number 44, which means that not even there, which means he will not enter the Knesset. So that's basically but you know, it's all mixed. I mean, we if you go around the country, you do have Arabs, Muslims or Jews or whatever that will fully could you have Arabs that vote for even they will talk to the party of shass has our borders. And the art I mean, we're still robots. Robots actually made you huge change in the way people see things he's very if you never if you never heard of him or didn't listen to him. It's just you know, a very pleasant ride to listen to him. He is very moderate. He's also as I said earlier, the only two doctors in the Knesset I'm sorry, it's about doctors today. But you know, the only two doctors in Israel's Knesset are Arabs, Mansour Abbas who is a dentist, actually. And the other one is Ahmad Tibi, who is a...

Ori Nir  51:43


Tal Schneider  51:44

Okay, exactly. I wanted to say, OBGYN, is that the right word?

Ori Nir  51:47

Yes. The reason I know is that, you know, years ago, when I used to cover Palestinian affairs, and he was a, he was working with Yasser Arafat at the time, he had a clinic in East Jerusalem, and I'd go to meet him there. I'd knock on the door, he would finish his business with a woman who was sitting there (I of course, didn't see it) with a stirrups and everything. And yeah, so I would interview him at the clinic.


Tal Schneider  52:14

He actually delivered many babies in Israel. So it has like, you know, as babies and we had a career before. So that's the only two doctors at the moment they're Arabs, it's not accidental. If you look at Israel's Arab society, it's huge on the medical profession, all the pharmaceutical doctors, nurses, technicians, entire medical business, I mean, not entire, but you know, the huge chunk, I mean, we all started during COVID, every second person you met was an Arab, either nurse or assistant or a caregiver, and so on. So um, so it's also reflected in the Knesset, basically, also, you can say about the Arab Israeli society, very high educated, lots of people in poverty, but with, you know, huge percentage of academics, even within the poverty, youth percentage of academics, suffering in an unbelievable way from crime rate in our society. It's a huge deal here in Israel at the moment, we have daily count. And we are, you know, programs, government programs about the Arab society. Again, this is to be different differentiated from the Arab population of the West Bank, do not mix it, you have the Arab population of the week spent probably around two and a half million. And then you have the Arab society, Arab citizens of Israel 21%, which means around 2 million, I think. And they, mostly Muslims, 90% Muslims, and then 2% are Christian Druze, beduin, and . And other kinds of little groups, but most of the Muslims, as I said, so when we, when we talk about the Arab society of Israel, it's basically Muslims, big cities and so on.

Ori Nir  54:20

I saw a poll. I just thought it was interesting, because you mentioned the issue of the the the crime rate there a poll in which Arab citizens of Israel, our voters were asked, What is the main issue that they think the next government should tackle? And 47% said, the crime in Arab society, only 11%, by the way, said that it should be the Israeli Palestinian conflict. If we're talking about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, I just wanted to ask them because I think it's interesting. It's something that is related to what has been happening in the West Bank in the last few days. We see a rearise in The violence, both anti Israeli violence and  Palestinian violence there. If there is a major outbreak of violence, right before the elections, how do you see that impacting the election result of the voting patterns?

Tal Schneider  55:18

Usually works for the right wing. People are, you know, when they get, you know, the violent times, they just, you know, specifically with the Yair Lapid, there now is going to speak tomorrow at the UN. And his speech is 10am your time 5pm Israel's time. And according to what we've heard, he's going to say that he believes in the two state solution, which is something that former prime minister did not say for many years. I think Netanyahu mentioned that only once in 2009, in the  pitch after being under pressure from Obama to do it. And not since then. So when Israel's Prime Minister talks, chooses, talks about to talk about a two state solution, and it's going to bring it up in the UN, then definitely, it's going to be part of the campaign here. So you do see Lapid already being attacked for many people. I think, you know, I think that the fact that this is, you know, when I say to situation to you, it sounds very How do you say that you know, what's the what's the big deal? Yeah, it's an obvious thing should have been obvious to at least I don't know. But I think maybe he's doing it in order to differentiate himself from Benny Gantz to just, you know, let people know who he is. Because the Yeah, lipid has never been a lefty. It's never been like a real lefty presented himself a center, right. And he grew up in a house of center, right or even right wing. So it's interesting that he chooses that he chooses to emphasize that. And I don't think a statement like that, by itself would get any uprise in the West Bank, but it will definitely have a lot of a lot of reactions here. I mean, most of the complaints actually don't the Palestinian issue. And it's just interesting that it chooses to, to bring it on.

Ori Nir  57:20

Do you think that there are any kind of electoral considerations that would would make him mentioned that? Yeah, I'm sure you think so. Yeah.

Tal Schneider  57:30

Because, yeah, I think again, I think he wanted to make sure that he's not the same as Gantz. You wanted to make himself look, you know, I'm getting good press from certain parts of the Israeli press for that statement, and so on. And it's, you know, Mark Melman from DC, is his adviser and his pollster. So I'm pretty sure that was the that question was tested, before being announced?

Ori Nir  58:01

Yeah. Good. Tal, we are approaching the end of our hour. I don't know if there's anything that you want to say that we haven't touched upon, if you want to take the risk and try to predict, go ahead and be my guest.

Tal Schneider  58:17

You know, the only thing I think is that we are in still in a deadlock, and I don't see how election this election is going to solve it.

Ori Nir  58:26

Yeah, I think that's safe to say. I want to thank you very much. I want to thank everyone who joined us, I want to wish everyone shall not have a Happy New Year. And the new year will be a more peaceful and at least, at least more peaceful year. snad Shalom. So thank you very much.

Tal Schneider  58:48

Thank you.

Ori Nir  58:49

Thank you. Goodbye.