Vote counters used conveyer wheels

It was an 11th-hour breakthrough, quite literally.Less than 30 minutes before his midnight deadline, Israeli opposition party leader Yair Lapid announced Wednesday night that he and Naftali Bennett — the tech millionaire leading one of Israel’s ultraright wing minority parties — had reached an agreement to form a governing coalition that could oust long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The coalition also includes an Islamist party, the first time in Israeli history that an Arab party has agreed to join a governing alliance.

It’s a big deal. The controversial Netayahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and is in his 12th year in power despite facing numerous corruption charges, which he denies.

And this newly formed alliance between his opponents only came together after four inconclusive elections in less than two years.

Israeli PM Netanyahu faces removal after coalition agrees to form new government
The arrangement for Lapid and Bennett rests on the agreement that Bennett, who leads the minority right-wing Yamina party, becomes prime minister, with the centrist Lapid as foreign minister, until 2023. At that point, Lapid would take over the premiership.

But it’s not over yet — Netanyahu still has some time to fight back, as the vote confirming the new government is not expected for around 12 days.

And the fragile coalition between Lapid and Bennett, and the parties whose support they had to secure to achieve the magic number of a 61-seat majority in the Israeli Parliament, or Knesset, is baffling to many onlookers. The parties making up the likely future government of Israel represent a vast array of differing political ideologies: right wing, left wing, centrist — and Islamist.

‘Considerable’ limitations to power
Lapid, the 57-year-old former TV anchor and finance minister, is described as being on the center-left politically. He supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians and upholding secular values. Bennett and his right-wing Yamina party are unapologetically nationalist and support the expansion of Israeli-Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, something that has repeatedly sparked conflict and international condemnation.

Arab Islamist party Raam, an unlikely partner in the alliance, is likely to push for more funding and better treatment for Arab-Israeli communities.

One of the sole things they all have in common is the desire to unseat Netanyahu. Bennett was in fact a protege of Netanyahu, formerly serving as his defense minister. Under the agreement with Lapid, Bennett is in line to be prime minister.

Israel’s potential coalition will be ‘too unstable to survive for long’: Expert
But even if he becomes prime minister, Bennett will be far more limited in what he can do, given that his power rests on the support of so many other parties of dramatically different ideologies from his.

“Even to the extent that (Bennett’s) ideology is similar to that of Netanyahu, or even somewhat more hawkish on some issues, the limitations are much more considerable than any that Netanyahu has faced,” Ofer Zalzberg, director of the Middle East Program at the Herbert C. Kelman Institute, told CNBC from Jerusalem.

“Any major decision will need to pass Lapid’s veto,” Zalzberg said. “Lapid is publicly supportive of a two-state solution, and publicly opposed to any form of annexation, so from that point of view Lapid’s party is also considerably larger than Bennett’s and there are other left-leaning parties in the coalition. … So Bennett’s ideology will face significant coalition restraints.”

To Matt Masterson, the review of 2020 ballots from Maricopa County, Ariz., that’s currently underway is “performance art” or “a clown show,” and definitely “a waste of taxpayer money.”

But it’s not an audit.

“It’s an audit in name only,” says Masterson, a former Department of Homeland Security official who helped lead the federal government’s election security preparations leading up to November’s election. “It’s a threat to the overall confidence of democracy, all in pursuit of continuing a narrative that we know to be a lie.”

By lie, he means the assertion from former President Donald Trump and some of his allies that election fraud cost him a second term in the White House.

Former Election Security Official Says It Will Take ‘Years’ To Undo DisinformationFormer Election Security Official Says It Will Take ‘Years’ To Undo DisinformationAnd, Masterson says, the strategy chosen by the state’s Republican state Senate leaders is working as intended to undermine confidence in the outcome of last year’s vote.

The process is a simple exercise in how disinformation spreads and takes hold in 2021. And experts fear it presents a blueprint for other states and lawmakers to follow, one that is already showing signs of being emulated around the country.

“Now we have a playbook out there,” said Masterson, who is currently a policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. “Where if you don’t like the results — by the way in an election that wasn’t particularly close … you just claim you didn’t lose and in fact the process itself was rigged against you.”

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Step 1: Create a false reality

At a basic level, it’s a victory for those looking to sow doubt in the 2020 election results just to have them still being litigated six months after Election Day.

To be clear, Maricopa County’s election results have already been audited multiple times by companies with experience in the field, with no issues being uncovered.

Biden Says He Will Ramp Up Push To Expand Voting Rights, And Puts Harris In ChargePOLITICSBiden Says He Will Ramp Up Push To Expand Voting Rights, And Puts Harris In ChargeThis latest process however is being run by a company without election experience that’s led by a CEO who has spread election-related conspiracy theories.

Actual election audits have consistent and transparent procedures, often established in state law, but this has none of that, says Jennifer Morrell, a former election official and a national expert on election auditing. Morrell observed the process in person in Arizona for a week.

“They were sort of making up the process,” Morrell said. “They were improvising as they went along.”

Vote counters used conveyer wheels to tally ballots, often having to grab the wheel to stop it from moving too quickly past them. Other volunteers did data entry into a spreadsheet with no quality control checks in place to make sure they entered it correctly. Observers from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office have documented a series of ” problematic practices, changing policies, and security threats that have plagued this exercise from the start.”

The coalition will also depend on the active support of Raam, the Islamist party, and the passive support of other Arab parties, Zalzberg added — which he says “can lead to its toppling.”

“It’s unprecedented for an Israeli coalition to be based on active support of a non-Zionist Arab party. So this coalition will have an interest in treating Israel’s Arab Palestinian citizens differently,” he said.

A different approach to Washington?
At the same time, “Lapid is pragmatic. He’s not leftist, he’s not rightist, he’s pragmatic,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and faculty member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s political science department. “If there will be a settlement that would satisfy Israel’s security, he would support it.”

Lapid and Bennett favor liberal economic policies and reforming the judiciary, Rahat said. But “Bennett is more hardline in terms of security. … In terms of the Palestinians, it’s clear that Bennet is right wing and Lapid is pragmatic.”

Tom Friedman: Biden may be the last pro-Israel US president
Both leaders want to improve Israel’s relationship with the U.S. Democratic Party, and vocally criticized Netanyahu’s heavy reliance on the Republican Party — specifically the Donald Trump wing — for support.

“The emerging coalition, unlike Netanyahu, is more interested in fostering bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S.,” Zalzberg said.

“The coalition will want more of a cooperative relationship with the Biden administration. … It will likely have to, at minimum, find ways to advance improvements for the quality of lives of the Palestinians, and these should be done in ways that are visible to gain acceptance and goodwill in Washington.”–166053361/–166053617/–166053922/–166053361/–166053617/–166053922/–166053361/–166053617/–166053922/

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