Israeli and Argentine elections: What do they mean for the Jews?

On October 27, Argentineans went to vote and elected Alberto Fernandez as the next President, with Cristina Kirchner as his vice-President. This formula represented the Peronist faction of the political spectrum and defeated the pro-business incumbent Mauricio Macri. What impact can this have on the Argentinean Jewish community of 230,000?

First thing to understand is that in Argentina there is no such a thing as "the Jewish vote" and the community was split between the two parties, as well as represented in their leadership. Also important to understand is that Argentinean elections are always played over the economy and foreign relations is not even part of the consideration.

Carlos Menem (Peronist) was President of Argentina at the time of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Jewish community Headquarters (AMIA) in 1994. He also had deals with Hamas and his wife is a Muslim Syrian of the Allawite sect (The Assads' group) and member of a family close to the Assad family. After leaving power and being implicated in a suposed cover up of the investigation on both incidents, he was elected Senator for the province of La Rioja and protected from prosecution by his successor, Nestor Kirchner (Cristina's Husband)

During the Kirchners' turn in power, the investigations on the two incidents was obstaculized; a special agreement was signed with Iran essentially exonerating them from any partiicpation in the attacks (in spite of the evidence). In 2015, a prosecutor called Alberto Nisman announbced that he was being to present evidence to Congress proving government collusion with Iran in covering up prior investigatiopns on the AMIA case. The night before presenting his evidence, he was found dead in his heavily guarded apartment. Initially, Kirchener's government ruled it suicide - but subsequent investigation redefine it as homicide. The Kirchners' also sided with Venezuela's Chavez (and his succesor Maduro). When Cristina left power, the country was for all intent and purposes bakrupt and almost every item of basic needs heavily subsidized by the government through monetary emision without backup. Inflation was controlled by government decree by controlling the market.

Under Macri, the economy was open up, foreign investment came in, and subsidies were rolled back. This, of course, brough serious social consequences in the beginning, including an increase in the number of people living under the poverty line. These latter elections were played as a confrontation between "the left" (Peronists) and "the right" (Macri) even when the definitions of right and left do not really apply to Argentinean society in the same sense we understand them in America.

A Fernandez (Kirchner) administration is likely to shield past President Cristina Kirchner from prosecution in the multiple causes for corruption and even treason in which she is accussed. It is also likely to reinstate the subsidies even when the treasury cannot sustain them for long. There is still a question mark over whether Fernandez will again side with Iran and Maduro or whether they will keep the relationship built by Macri with the United States and Israel; but again, this was not a real factor during the electoral campaign.

230,000 Jews live in Argentina, and should the country's economy deteriorate (as it is likely), social stability will suffer and there is a fair chance that Argentina will go the way of Venezuela. Jews will suffer this situation like all other Argentineans. Given the strong Zionist leanings of most Argentinan Jews we might see a significant surge in Aliyah - but a large number of Jews will still remain in Argentina.

In the Israeli soap Opera sometimes called coalition building, the ball is now in Benny Gantz's court (Kachol V'Laban), but he will be as unable to form a governing coalition as Netanyahu was. The most viable solution is still the same, a Unity government involving the Likkud Party as well as Kachol V'Laban. After all, with both of them in the coalition, they already command between them 65 seats in the Knesset, enough to form a government without bringing anybody else into the coalition. 

The obstacles to this Unity goverment remain the same that when Netanyahu was entrusted with forming a government: If they reach an agreement of rotating Prime Ministership, who goes first? What other partners are to be brough into the coalition if any? Will Gantz be willing to share power with an indicted Netanyahu? Should they not reach an agreement, Israel may well go to elections for the third time in less than 12 months.

The idea of a Unity government is stringly supported by most of Israel friends and allies (starting with the United States) In his recent visit to the region, Jared Kushner met with both Gantz and Netanyahu, in a clear encouragement for them to join in a Unity government. It is impossible, at this point, to predict what will happen. It is however clear that prolonging the uncertainty is weakening Israel's position vis-a-vis Iran and damaging the budding relationships growing with moderate Arab regimes.

When it comes to the Jewish community in Argentina, the Jewish Federations and our partners in the Jewish Agency and the JDC are standing by to step in if necessary. When it comes to Israel, I can only repeat the appeal in the prayer "Our Father in Heaven, bring your wisdom and support to the leaders of Israel and their advisors" THEY NEED IT!!


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