Archive for April 15, 2019

Satellite images show possible Iranian missile factory in Syria destroyed 

April 15, 2019

Source: Satellite images show possible Iranian missile factory in Syria destroyed – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

“The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings.”

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 APRIL 15, 2019 04:32
Satellite images show possible Iranian missile factory in Syria destroyed

Satellite images released by the Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) on Sunday showed the complete destruction of a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria’s Masyaf District, allegedly struck by Israel on Saturday.

“The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings. The rest of the structures were affected and damaged by the blast,” ISI said, adding that they “assess that all the elements and/or equip-ment which were inside are completely destroyed as well.”

According to ISI, “if the bombed site was indeed a missile factory, it could allow for the produc-tion and assembly of different SSM [surface-to-surface missile] elements or for improving the accuracy of missiles.”

The factory, ISI said, is located in the vicinity of other facilities likely linked to Iran’s SSM project in Syria, which have previously been struck in alleged Israeli strikes carried out over the past two years.

The factory was built in the western compound of the base between 2014 and 2016, and was surrounded by a wall to separate it from the rest of the military base. The entrance to the fac-tory passes through the base.

“It is possible that the location of the factory inside what looks like a regular military base was chosen in order to camouflage its real purpose,” ISI said.

While ISI wrote, “It is unclear which entity controls and owns the base” – the Syrian army, Iran or militias – if the factory allegedly attacked by Israel was “indeed controlled by Iran, it is prob-able that the eastern part of the base is controlled by them.”

The possible SSM missile factory included a main hangar measuring 60 meters by 25 meters, and several big industrial hangars and buildings which probably served for production and as-sembly of missiles.

“However, there is probably no manufacture or assembly of missile engines and warheads in this factory, since protected structures weren’t detected. Also, no missiles or launchers were identified within the compound,” ISI said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that anyone who puts Israeli citizens at risk “is in a much greater danger.”

“When Israel’s security is at stake, we are operating at full force, and whoever puts us at risk is in a much greater danger. We will continue to act on all fronts, including on the northern front, because we are not prepared to allow someone to establish power and endanger the State of Israel,” he said.

“Power is the guarantee of our existence, and it is the essential and fundamental condition for achieving peace with our neighbors.”

On Saturday, Syria’s SANA news agency reported that Israel had carried out air strikes against military positions near the city of Masyaf in Hama Province. The agency quoted a military source as stating that IDF jets carried out the strike from Lebanese airspace at around 2:30 a.m. and that Syrian air defenses “immediately intercepted the hostile missiles and downed some of them before reaching their targets.”

While SANA said the interception of the Israeli missiles resulted in the destruction of several buildings and the wounding of three “fighters,” according to a report by the London-based Syr-ian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Iranian “elements” and pro-Iranian terrorists were killed and another 17 were injured.

According to SOHR, the strike targeted a Syrian military college in the town and two buildings used by Iranian forces in nearby villages – a development center for medium-range missiles in Zawi and a training camp in Sheikh Ghadban.

In January, Russia deployed its S-300 air defense system to Masyaf. Russia delivered the launcher, radar and command and control vehicle of the advanced air-to-surface missile sys-tem to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in early October as a response to the downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli air strike on Iranian targets the previous month.

The S-300 was not used during this alleged Israeli strike.

 

After U.S. sanctions, Iran’s petrochemical exports decline 

April 15, 2019

Source: After U.S. sanctions, Iran’s petrochemical exports decline – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

The United States have started to enforce sanctions in the second half of 2018 after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

BY ROSSELLA TERCATIN
 APRIL 15, 2019 06:39
After U.S. sanctions, Iran’s petrochemical exports decline

Iran’s total exports of petrochemical products during the last fiscal year stood at 20 million tons, compared to the 22.4 million that the country exported during the previous year, according to a report by Radio Farda.

Iran’s fiscal year ended on March 20, 2019. The official statistics released by the National Iranian Petrochemical Company show a decrease of over 2 million tons compared to the previous year (March 21, 2017-March 20, 2018). The revenues went down from $12 billion to $10.645 billion.

The head of the state-owned Nouri Petrochemical Company Taghi Sanei did not point to a direct correlation between the decrease in exports and the US sanctions. However the figures show that the country’s petrochemical exports declined by 13% in value and 10.7% in volume since the sanctions have been imposed again.

The United States have started enforcing sanctions over the second half of 2018, after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Among other measures, the US has banned the use of the US dollar for any trade with Iran, forcing the Islamic Republic to use other ways to receive payments for its exports.

The sanctions are also affecting some of the country’s allies. According to Bloomberg, drivers in Damascus are suffering from a shortage of gasoline, after Iranian oil shipments ended last October.

 

Off Topic:  Significant natural gas discovery made off Israel’s shore 

April 15, 2019

Source: Significant natural gas discovery made off Israel’s shore – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

The newly-found gas will be added to the previously discovered gas fields increasing Israel’s energy independence.

BY EYTAN HALON
 APRIL 15, 2019 15:43
gas field

According to preliminary estimates, the latest discovery in the Karish North exploration field contains between 28 to 42 billion cubic meters (Bcm) of natural gas.

Publicly-listed Energean will now conduct further evaluations to further analyze resource potential and determine the liquids content of the discovery.
The newly-found gas will be added to the 45 Bcm already discovered at Karish, and an additional 22 Bcm identified at the Tanin gas field, also managed by Energean.
“We are delighted to be announcing this significant new gas discovery at Karish North, which further demonstrates the attractiveness of our acreage offshore Israel,” said Energean CEO Mathios Rigas.
“We have already signed a contingent contract to sell 5.5 Bcm of this new resource, and our strategy is now to secure the offtake for remaining volumes. We continue to see strong demand for our gas, which we believe will be
supported by today’s announcement.”
Drilling of the initial phase of the Karish North field is now complete, the company said. Energean will now deepen the well to identify additional energy sources. Once completed, Energean will return to drilling the three development wells at the Karish Main natural gas field.
In December 2018, Energean signed a contract with the IPM Beer Tuvia power plant, 60 kilometers from Jerusalem, to supply an estimated 5.5 Bcm of gas. Future agreements are likely to focus on both local and major export markets.
The contingent contract, dependent on the results of Energean’s 2019 drilling program, is significantly more likely to be converted into a firm contract following Monday’s announcement, the company said.
“Following years of standstill, natural gas exploration resumed in Israel’s economic waters a month ago – and the company is already reporting an additional discovery,” said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.
“I congratulate Energean on the large amount of natural gas that has appeared in Karish North. This is a prelude, which I am sure will herald further discoveries in the future. If you will it, it is no dream, and Israel will become a regional energy power.”
Until large discoveries of natural gas were made off Israel’s coastline in recent years, few perceived the historically natural resource-poor Israel to be a significant source of energy.
This perception started to change with the discovery of the Noa gas field off the shores of Ashkelon in 1999.
The discovery of more major natural gas fields in Israel since 2009, including Tamar and Leviathan, has transformed the Jewish state from an energy-dependent country into an energy supplier, both domestically and abroad.
Israel is now planning to supply former adversaries Jordan and Egypt with natural gas valued at $26 billion and plans to construct a 2,000-kilometer pipeline to supply Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.
In January, seven countries hoping to benefit from the region’s newly discovered resources, including Israel, established the Cairo-based Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
Several major energy firms, including American oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, are reportedly considering competing for a new round of offshore exploration rights, the second auction of its kind in Israel, with bids due to be submitted by June 17.

 

IAI redefines the future battlefield with OPAL 

April 15, 2019

Source: IAI redefines the future battlefield with OPAL – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Solution connects all platforms in the area to give a optimal utilization of all resources.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 APRIL 15, 2019 15:42
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announces the launch of OPAL on April 15th, 2019

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has announced the launch of OPAL, an innovative solution that will redefine the battlefield by connecting all platforms in the battle arena, manned and unmanned alike.
“The OPAL solution provides an unprecedented range of proven capabilities and operational flexibility, which allows for optimal utilization of the available resources to maximize effectiveness for a wide range of missions. OPAL is installed in a variety of advanced fighters, attack helicopters, refueling aircrafts, UAVs, ships, Command and Control centers, as well as mobile and fixed-base stations,” IAI said.
OPAL is based on forming a decentralized communication cloud for all members to allow real time information sharing, the company said, explaining that the system “allows all members to exchange relevant information in order to achieve a comprehensive operational picture of the battlefield.”
The system – which is compatible with any platform including fighter jets, tanks, ships or ground troops – relies on a secure and proven communication network that connects different networks and platforms without fixed-base stations.
It provides users with optimized effectiveness in accomplishing their mission goals by generating and sharing a Common Operating Picture in real time – providing interoperability of fifth-generation fighter aircraft with legacy platforms, maximized utilization of resources and the ability to execute multiple missions within a given time frame.
By sharing threat data, ground forces can improve their survivability in danger zones; pilots will have enhanced flight safety with collision avoidance warning indicators, which provide visual avoidance maneuvers.
OPAL also “significantly reduces the time to introduce new capabilities on the platforms from years to months” by enabling users to develop new operational capabilities and rapidly deploy them without having to change any hardware or aircraft avionic software blocks.
“OPAL is a unique and advanced IAI development that has been operational for many years and is a major factor in operational successes. OPAL provides comprehensive interoperability of communications and operational capabilities between air and ground forces, and serves as a force multiplier,” said Yossi Melamed, executive vice president and general manager of Aviation Group. “I believe it will be a major asset for air, sea and ground users, and enhance their performance in the future battlefield.”
The IDF has recently begun practicing on a new four-dimensional combined battle strategy called the “Gideon Battlegroup” in preparation for a possible war on its northern front with Hezbollah.
Gideon, which was drilled on during the recent large-scale divisional exercise with the 36th Armored Division, will include an invisible battlefield network having 24 intelligence planes that can detect anything that emits a signal.
Once that signal is detected and decoded, it’s exact location is found and turned into a target in a matter of seconds by the “smart trigger” system.

 

Israel’s national security adviser to meet with Bolton for Iran talks

April 15, 2019

Source: Israel’s national security adviser to meet with Bolton for Iran talks | The Times of Israel

Trump’s national security adviser says he and Meir Ben-Shabbat will discuss ‘shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity and other destabilizing actors’

US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration’s Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, December 13, 2018. (Cliff Owen/AP)

National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat will meet with his US counterpart John Bolton on Monday in Washington to discuss Iran and “other destabilizing actors.”

Bolton tweeted Sunday that he and Ben-Shabbat will discuss their “shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East and around the world.”

The Kan public broadcaster reported that the two security advisers will also talk about the growing concern in the United States over Chinese investment in Israeli infrastructure projects.

US President Donald Trump last month reportedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if Israel does not curb its ties with China, its security relationship with the United States could suffer.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. (Amos Ben Gerschom/GPO)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly issued a stark warning to Israel that the close security ties between the two nations could be reduced over Jerusalem’s growing cooperation with Beijing.

Kan also reported the delegation for the trip to the United States includes senior officials from the defense and foreign ministries, as well as the IDF, Mossad and other bodies.

Known as a hawkish proponent of American military confrontation, Bolton has previously urged an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

Bolton visited Israel in January to reassure Jerusalem over Trump’s order for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, vowing that Washington would remain “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in the country.

Netanyahu on Sunday seemed to hint that Israel was responsible for an airstrike in central Syria over the weekend that reportedly targeted an Iranian-linked weapons factory.

Israel maintains that Iran is seeking to establish a military presence in Syria and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group, its proxy in Lebanon and Syria.

In recent years, the IDF has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Sunday, a satellite imaging firm released pictures of the aftermath of the Saturday morning raid that showed a large hanger and three adjacent structures flattened in the bombardment. ImageSat International said the missile facility targeted in the strike was built between 2014 to 2016, adjacent to an existing Syrian military base outside Masyaf.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

The recent strikes come at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Syria, following last month’s decision by the US administration to recognize Israel’s control over the Golan Heights. The decision sparked condemnation and protests in Syria.

 

The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel

April 15, 2019

Source: The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel | The Times of Israel

Israelis were not under-informed or unfairly swayed. They knew what they’d get with a 5th term of Netanyahu. The result was the highest vote ever for right & ultra-Orthodox parties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The people have spoken. And a week after the elections, with the president now in the midst of consultations with our newly elected politicians ahead of the formation of our next government, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the people actually said.

They knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, unless he could persuade the attorney general of his innocence. They knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that, if reelected, he might try to use existing or new legislation to avoid being prosecuted, and would likely seek to stay on as prime minister even if he were to be prosecuted. And that, if reelected, he would make the case that the public had given him a mandate to offset the state prosecutors’ recommendations that he be put on trial.

They knew. And 26.45% of the voting Israeli public chose Likud — a vast number, by Israeli standards, 1,139,079 out of the 4,306,520 legitimate ballots cast nationwide.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff — an unprecedented assemblage of security expertise, in a country where security concerns always figure at the very top of voting considerations. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists. Even though it included Netanyahu’s own former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose public positions are more hawkish than those of Netanyahu, and even though Netanyahu in 2013 extended Gantz’s term as IDF chief by an additional year in the most overt illustration possible of the confidence he then had in Gantz’s security leadership capabilities.

Members of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz (second left), Moshe Yaalon (right), Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 10, 2019, a day after the elections. (Flash90)

They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable. They watched Netanyahu attempt to make political capital out of a bizarre saga involving the reported Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone — a saga in which Gantz and his colleagues did not provide a clear-cut explanation of what had gone on. They watched Gantz veer between an attempted statesmanlike, high-ground approach to beating Netanyahu and a lower-ground trading of insults and accusations.

They watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich declare he’d set his heart on becoming minister of education. They watched the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked vow to curb the power of the Supreme Court if she continued as justice minister.

They watched. And they made their choice. Very few voters from the right of the political spectrum threw their support behind Gantz and the other generals. While Blue and White also topped the million-vote count — 1,124,805 — much of its support came from the center and the now decimated Labor, and that wasn’t enough to thwart Netanyahu’s fifth election victory.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They recognized other likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service.

Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.

The people have spoken.

Residents of the Gaza envelope communities of southern Israel have for years complained about Netanyahu’s policies in dealing with Hamas. They have protested that the government has turned them into rocket fodder. Sderot, the most rocket-battered city of all, voted 43.52% for Netanyahu’s Likud. (The next most popular party was Yisrael Beytenu at 10.14%.) To the east of Gaza, Netivot voted 32.46% Likud (second only to 33.35% Shas.) Ashkelon, to the north, voted 42.61% Likud (followed by Blue and White at 15.62%). By contrast, kibbutzim and moshavim in the Gaza periphery area generally voted overwhelmingly for Blue and White.

The people have spoken.

Early on election day, reports started circulating about Likud-paid activists bringing hidden cameras into polling stations in Arab areas. Some of those involved have since acknowledged that they were indeed acting on behalf of Likud; a PR agency has claimed responsibility, saying it was hired by Likud; the Likud party’s lawyer, on the day, claimed the operation was open and legal, and necessary to ensure the “integrity” of the vote in districts ostensibly prone to voter fraud; Netanyahu himself championed the use of public cameras for the same purpose. (Needless to say, the Central Elections Committee has its own, nonpartisan procedures for preventing election fraud.) In fact, ruled the judge overseeing the elections, the deployment of the cameras was illicit; the equipment was ordered removed.

Israel’s voters watched and read about all these developments in real time.

Some analysts have suggested that the camera gambit depressed Arab turnout — it’s not comfortable showing up to do your democratic duty, as members of a minority that was traduced by the prime minister on the previous election day, when you hear on the news that you’re going to be filmed in the process by his supporters. Arab turnout does appear to have been down last week (an estimated 52%) as compared to 2015 (an estimated 63.7%). And while the Joint (Arab) List won 13 seats in the last Knesset, its constituent parties, now running in two separate lists, managed only 10 this time.

But if the camera ploy worked to Netanyahu’s advantage, possibly costing his political rivals a seat or three, and maybe boosting support for a Likud seen to be taking on the Arabs, there was a more dramatic arithmetical factor on the right-hand side of the spectrum that worked against him. Between Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right (138,491 votes, or 3.22% of the national total) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut (117,670 votes; 2.73% of the national total), a staggering 6% of right-wing votes went down the drain — a potential six or seven more Knesset seats for a Netanyahu-led coalition. And yet Netanyahu still has a clear, if complex, path (involving reconciling the ultra-Orthodox parties with the fiercely secular Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu) to a 65-strong coalition.

Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud; Shas; UTJ; Yisrael Beytenu; United Right-Wing Parties; Kulanu; The New Right; Zehut, and Gesher). This is the highest proportion in Israeli history. Only 34% went to centrist and left of center Zionist parties (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz).

The two ultra-Orthodox parties, it is worth noting, had repeatedly stressed in the run-up to polling day that they would only consider joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even when the polls closed and for a brief moment Gantz was claiming victory on the basis of a predictably inaccurate exit poll, UTJ rushed to say that it would go into the opposition with Netanyahu rather than partner with Gantz.

Menachem Begin, center, speaks to supporters at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 1977, as they celebrate the Likud Bloc’s election to government after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. (AP Photo)

By way of comparison, the 2015 elections saw over 56% voting for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Yachad). In 2013, the comparable figure was 48% (Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ, Otzma LeYisrael). In 2009, it was 54% (Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, National Union and Jewish Home).

Going way back to 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud first won power, the comparable proportion was about 53% — and that’s including the then-relatively centrist National Religious Party, which had partnered with Labor-led governments for the past three decades.

The people have spoken.

Were some worried by Gantz’s warnings that Netanyahu is turning Israel into Turkey — becoming our un-oustable leader, gradually marginalizing opposition, taking control of ever more of the media, bending the cops and the prosecutors and the courts to his will? Doubtless, many were. But not enough to unseat him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a voting slip for his Likud party in a video filmed at a beach in Netanya on election day, April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The people saw Gantz caught by a camera in his car, toward the end of election day, looking exhausted. They saw Netanyahu, sweating in his suit on the beach at Netanya, imploring potential supporters to get out of the sea and vote Likud.

The people saw everything, internalized what they chose to internalize, and made their decision. No nefarious forces, as far as we know, skewed these elections. The public was not under-informed; nor was it disaffected. The turnout was a healthy 67.8% (compared to 61.4% in the 2016 US presidential elections, or 66.1% in 2015’s British parliamentary elections).

The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.

 

A victory for the Netanyahu paradigm 

April 15, 2019

Source: A victory for the Netanyahu paradigm – www.israelhayom.com

Israeli voters have embraced Netanyahu’s view that the territorial concessions and a peace process are not the key to making Israel stronger. Gantz’s loss proves that the Left cannot successfully obscure its views.

The people around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were well aware of the dire situation. Just after 4 p.m., after Netanyahu had gotten the impression that things were truly out of control, he took to Facebook and aired live videos showing his angst over people failing to vote, imploring them to go to the nearest voting booth.

The schedule he had for the remaining hours of Election Day was scrapped and instead, he became fully invested in energizing grassroots activists. It was as if Netanyahu was Shimon Peres in 1996.

Back then, in the afternoon hours of Election Day, Peres had come to the realization that despite being a shoo-in for another term according to the polls, something was not right. Something big.

Peres realized that his voters had simply decided to stay home and refused to heed the party headquarters’ pleas to go out and exercise their right to vote. Peres then decided to go to the party headquarters and started calling activists as if he were a low-level campaign official and his facial expression said it all: He was worried.

Netanyahu, unlike Peres, was not worried about losing because he knew he would still be able to form a coalition no matter what happened, but he was worried that Blue and White would get more seats than Likud and the media would simply launch an all-out assault against him to ensure that President Reuven Rivlin would have an excuse to give Blue and White leader Benny Gantz the first shot at forming a government and deny him a fifth term.

This was not unlike what Netanyahu felt in 2009. Back then, after Kadima had gotten one more seat than Likud,  he was convinced that then-President Shimon Peres would go out of his way to task the centrist party with forming a government. But Netanyahu pre-empted this by clandestinely forming a de facto coalition of 65 MKs, essentially forcing Peres’ hand.

In the midst of the nerve-wracking drama on Election Day, there was some relief when his old friend Rabbi David Nachshon called him.

“I am calling to inform you that you have nothing to worry about. The late Lubavitcher rebbe told you that you have nothing to worry about because God would always be on your side if you chose the right path even if all other MKs were against you.”

A large smile appeared on Netanyahu’s face and he replied, “Not only were 119 MKs against me but world leaders were against me until recently; I have withstood enormous and unprecedented pressure for the people of Israel.”

The rabbi retorted: “You will continue doing great things for the people of Israel; you have the rebbe’s promise: You will win today.”

The fundamental reason for Netanyahu’s victory this week, which is also the reason for his rivals’ failure, is purely ideological. Netanyahu is the first leader in several decades to position Israel as a force to be reckoned with on the diplomatic stage.

He has done this with unprecedented success and without holding peace talks with the Arabs over territory, a mirror image of the Left’s paradigm that peace talks are key to diplomatic stature.

The Left has long warned, even during Netanyahu’s years as prime minister, that Israel would become an international pariah if it refused to hold talks with the Arabs and that a “diplomatic tsunami” would hit us if we did not change course.

However, Netanyahu called the Left’s bluff. Not only has he shown that there was no point in handing over territory to the Arabs, but he has also managed to make himself a member of an elite club of leaders of major powers, alongside Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. He has done that over the course of 10 years without even once sitting down to hold peace talks with the Arabs.

Gantz tried to obscure his unpopular ideological views but he failed to convince a single person that he shared Netanyahu’s view that there was no point in holding negotiations with the Palestinians. He could not utter the phrase, “I will not evict a single settler.”

He also gave up on any traditional Jewish theme to his campaign. He may be slightly more traditional than Netanyahu in private, but while Netanyahu kept mentioning his love of Judaism and its followers, Gantz’s campaign advisers forgot to present voters with their candidate’s Jewish side in the few months he got national exposure.

This meant that Gantz’s campaign only appealed to one side of the political divide, a side that may have many seats but lacks a majority among the public. This election, like the one in 2015, proved that you cannot fake your way to victory, you cannot obscure your views and say there is no difference between Left and Right and just assume people accept this as gospel.

Gantz failed to provide even one good reason for why right-wing voters should abandon Netanyahu and park their vote with him. His main message, perhaps the only one he actually campaigned on, was that he was not plagued with corruption, unlike his rival (allegedly). However, Netanyahu knew how to communicate with his voters in a way that Gantz could not.

When Gantz pressed hard in the campaign to implicate Netanyahu in the so-called “submarine affair,” he failed to realize that he was stepping on a land mine. His was so eager to besmirch Netanyahu over his alleged role in that affair that he failed to realize that no one was listening to him except the voters he already had.

The other side was ignoring the noise he and others in Blue and White were making all across Israel in virtually every studio. Not only that; it appears that Gantz’s constant pounding only antagonized Netanyahu voters who were holding back their anger.

There was a feeling that law enforcement officials were clandestinely doing all they could to unseat politicians who were not falling into line with their agenda. This feeling was no longer just limited to people who believe in conspiracies, it had permeated most of the Right.

The investigations into Netanyahu only intensified that feeling of injustice and persecution to a degree that was never seen before. Voters, who took great offense from the attorney general’s inclination to indict Netanyahu, the ongoing allegations against Netanyahu regarding the submarine affair and the various other accusations on his finances, decided to express this sentiment at the ballot box.

In fact, this feeling has now permeated the Left as well. Attorney Danny Cohen has served in a host of positions in the Labor party, including as its chief legal counsel. In 1996, he voted for Peres, and voted for Labor in every election since. That is, until this Tuesday. For the first time in more than 20 years, he voted Likud.

“I have never been a Netanyahu fan,” he told Israel Hayom. “And even though I appreciate his work on the world stage, I didn’t vote for him because of this. I voted for him this time, despite the hard feeling, because I could no longer tolerate the fact that law enforcement agencies had simply gone off the rails in their quest against him. Someone must restrain them.”

A day after the election, Blue and White held a meeting at the bloc’s headquarters. The melancholy among the newly elected MKs was palpable.

They were asked to place their phones outside the room. After making a statement, Gantz asked everyone to speak from their heart, with comments on what they should do next. It was like an after-action report in the military.

Then Gantz and his co-chairman, Yair Lapid, talked with reporters outside. Each communicated a completely different, even contradicting, message.

Lapid shut the door on a unity government, vowing that Blue and White was going to serve in the opposition and would not creep its way into the cabinet but instead make Netanyahu’s life a living hell. Lapid is truly convinced that Netanyahu’s days as prime minister are numbered, perhaps six months at most, because of the potential indictment.

Gantz, who refused to hear what voters had to say a day earlier, was not as determined to serve on the opposition benches. He muttered a few words on the various scenarios that lay ahead but refused to commit himself to the opposition and to making Netanyahu’s life a living hell.

The fact that Gantz won 35 seats three months after just entering politics is very impressive, but this is meaningless if you cannot become prime minister. Only the final outcome matters.

Lapid wrongly assumed the largest party would get to form a government and Gantz followed along.

But this thesis was wrong on two levels: first, because it forced Gantz to campaign against other left-wing parties that would have been his natural coalition partners, while also undermining the possibility of striking a de facto alliance with Arab parties that would deny Netanyahu a governing majority; and second, because Gantz’s Blue and White failed to get more seats than Likud.

Gantz, deep down, probably wants to get the defense portfolio. Netanyahu will have to be loyal to his coalition partners on the Right but it would not be a stretch if Gantz eventually joined, along with 14 of his party members.

Netanyahu would be very happy to see Blue and White unravel into the three parties that formed it but will not actively try to trigger this. It will probably happen anyway because its members are not keen to spend their days in various Knesset committees as opposition MKs.

As far as Lapid is concerned, the bloc will stay intact and he will do his utmost to make sure there is a united opposition. Lapid will benefit regardless of what happens to Blue and White.

If everyone stays together, he would have a legitimate claim to the party’s leadership come the next election. If it disintegrates and Gantz joins the government with his loyalists, Lapid would automatically become the head of the opposition and the Left’s de facto challenger to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu wants stability and has already indicated that he would like to serve out his entire fifth term. The coalition agreements he will draft might include provisions that refer, explicitly or implicitly, to the scenario in which he stands on trial.

Netanyahu won’t have to seek special legislation to protect him, he could simply include a provision in the agreement that prohibits parties from leaving the coalition so long as Netanyahu can legally serve as prime minister (that is, until he had exhausted the appeals process).

The weakest link as far as he is concerned is Yisrael Beytenu. Party leader Avigdor Lieberman wants to exact revenge from Netanyahu, not just because of the circumstances that led to his departure from the Defense Ministry.

He wants revenge because of the reports that Netanyahu tried to keep him from entering the Knesset by courting Russian votes and spreading the rumor that he would not pass the electoral threshold. Lieberman went overseas a day after the election, as he has done before, leaving Netanyahu to his own devices.

Netanyahu needs Lieberman and he will likely be willing to pay the price for having him on board: the defense portfolio.

The real headache is getting Lieberman to stay on board once other coalition partners start pushing through measures to which he objects (chiefly among them, the haredi effort to modify the new conscription bill).

The next Knesset may be the one that finally passes legislation that clearly defines the powers of the executive and judicial branches in a way that gives the Knesset the final say on crucial matters.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon has already indicated that he would support such a measure. Such legislation would also defuse the tension on the haredi conscription bill. After all, the reason it was drafted in the first place was that the High Court forced the Knesset to do so.

If the bill no longer has to meet the standards set by the High Court, then it can accommodate both Lieberman and the haredim and be approved at a pace that is comfortable for all coalition partners.

One of the most colossal mistakes of this election was the decision taken by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who decided to leave the helm of Habayit Hayehudi and form the New Right. The big surprise is not their failure to get any Knesset seats but the fact that practically every poll had them crossing the electoral threshold in the first place.

It was never quite clear whom they were courting and what votes they could count on. Yes, there are many who admire Shaked and Bennett, but why did they have the impression they would deliver them Knesset seats?

The New Right lacked a voter based, unlike Habayit Hayehudi, which could count on national religious voters.

Those who are not religious could vote for Likud and Kahlon, leaving Bennett in the lurch. He failed to convince voters that he could, and should, be defense minister.

Shaked had a good track record as justice minister but she failed to convince right-wing voters that she was better than the Likud’s Yariv Levin or Habayit Hayehudi’s Bezalel Smotrich. It appears that voters choose their party based on whom they would like to see as prime minister, not according to their preferred justice minister.

Labor officials were shocked just how arrogant Chairman Avi Gabbay could be. In his concession speech on Tuesday night, after it became clear that he had led his party to an electoral catastrophe, he had many things to say but not once did he own his failure.

Gabbay is not about to tender his resignation or change course, despite party activists demanding he do so now, more than a year before the party deadline.

Labor’s charter gives leaders about a year to stay on the job if they fail to win an election but the election outcome was no failure – it was a total meltdown.

Under their plan, MK Amir Peretz would assume the leadership position as an interim chairman, as he is the oldest MK in the party.

Peretz has yet to decide whether he would take that role (if offered), and this may have to do with his emerging bid to become president in two years, when Rivlin’s term ends.