The Ultimate Survivor Netanyahu Jut Might Be Finished This Time
"The myth of Netanyahu as “King Bibi” the unconquered is dead. He may yet manage to torpedo this government, but this will likely be his last shot"
A nerve-wrecking 35 minutes before the end of his 28-day mandate to form a government, Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party informed President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday night that he had managed to form a coalition. It is an ungainly beast: And it’s not yet clear it will actually be voted in.
The next prime minister would not be Lapid, however, but the respect-hungry Naftali “I’ve killed a lot of Arabs and there’s nothing wrong with that” Bennett, who played both sides against the other and, with a decomposing party of seven seats, blackmailed his way to the office. Yet his Yamina party of non-entities may yet be his undoing: two of the seven legislators (I will not repeat their names, as the persons behind them are of no importance) are now already airing thoughts of defecting.
Bennett will be a rotational prime minister: In two years, he is supposed to be replaced by Lapid. Few people give this government three months, let alone two years. But the coalition is of some importance.
First, for the first time in Israeli history, a Palestinian party which is not a meek puppet of the prime minister (David Ben-Gurion fielded some Palestinian parties in the 1950s and 1960s) is a part of an Israeli coalition. For a few hours yesterday, Israeli politicians had to wait for the verdict of the Shuraa Council of Ra’am, an Islamist party. This will probably be this government’s most enduring legacy: It is now kosher to form a government with Palestinians.
It must be said this achievement is actually Netanyahu’s. He was trying to get Ra’am to join his coalition for months, if not years, and his mouthpieces in the media spent the last six months arguing Ra’am is hallal. After this bombardment of the public psyche, the mouthpieces are now finding their earlier messages being flung back at them. (Yes, last night was full of schadenfreude, and we are sipping the tears of the Bibists.)
This government is so patchwork, the parties– centrist-right Yesh Atid, centrist-right Blue/White, extreme rightwing Tikva Hadasha (Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party), rightwing-opportunist Yamina (its name literally means “rightward”), central-left Labour, leftist Meretz, Islamist Ra’am, and Mafiosi Yisrael Beteinu (Avigdor Liberman’s party) – agreed that it would be a caretaker government, without any major changes to policy. Such a government would find it almost unable to function, and is likely to flounder on the first major shoal, passing a budget, which it will have to do within three months of being voted in.
As for being voted in. this too will prove a challenge. The nefarious chairman of the Knesset, Yariv Levin, a longtime minister in Netanyahu governments, is handling his office as if it was the chairmanship of Netanyahu’s Likud party. He is widely expected to postpone the vote on the new government for as long as possible – up to 12 days.
Netanyahu will use this time to bring pressure on Yamina’s Members of Knesset. One of them already announced he will not vote for the government. An attempt to remove Levin from office appears to have crashed and burned this morning, as another Yamina MK withdrew his signature from the motion. (As these lines are written his decision is still unknown – he kvetches publicly about it). This does not bode well.
But Netanyahu’s image has been dealt a severe blow. For three elections rounds in a row, he managed to squeeze a tie and exhaust his opponents. But people begin to realize “squeezing a tie” is a nice term for “being a loser.” And many of his voters dislike his burned-ground tactics, which brought us dangerously close to civil war in the past month. Three hundred thousand of Netanyahu’s voters simply did not go the polls in the March 23 election, and they cost him dearly. His strategy of backing the volkisch Religious Zionism – the party of Kahanists and Judeo-Nazis – also backfired: Those people, it turned out, take their racism seriously, and they would not support a coalition with Ra’am, no matter how much Netanyahu begged.
The myth of Netanyahu as “King Bibi” the unconquered is dead. He may yet manage to torpedo this government, but this will likely be his last shot.
As for the relations of the United States with a Bennett government, I honestly think nobody has any clear idea. Bennett is an extreme right-winger who let his opportunism make better than his idealism. In order to survive the next elections, however, he will have to give his voters something. This is likely to mean, anti-Palestinian provocation.
The main question, I think, is whether a non-Netanyahu government can stem the tide of pro-Palestinian sentiment which followed the last massacre in Gaza. Certainly this is what hasbarists, in the US and Israel, are hoping for. Pro-Palestinian activists should keep the drumming-up of information. The occupation never rests, and each day brings new insults to human dignity. A “caretaker” government certainly could not rein in the Israeli Defense Forces, much less the settlers, without creating heavy tensions within itself.
Elections come and go; the struggle goes on.
So, as the ax is now raised on Netanyahu’s career, excuse this writer for holding out for finality. Netanyahu has gotten out of jams before; in fact, he seems to live for jams, like the man he eventually befriended, Donald Trump, he is a day-to-day player.
But it looks grim.
The ingredients of Netanyahu’s potential demise are in and of themselves vintage Netanyahu: so garrulous in his approach that he has been betrayed by a former chief of staff. Should Neftali Bennett, who has assembled an outrageous anti-Netanyahu coalition that includes Islamists, win a confidence vote in the Knesset, he will finally put to an end the current prime minister’s 12 years in power. As the European philosopher and Portuguese politician Bruno Macaes recalls it, Netanyahu finally met his match: “So Naftali Bennett got to be PM. Not surprised. He had the fire.”
It’s hard not to link such a demise to current events: Netanyahu’s ubiquitous criminal exposure, Trump’s ejection from Washington, and the changing dynamics of the U.S. perception of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In May, Israel flattened Hamas targets in Gaza; they won the skirmish. But it’s less clear—with a Democratic Party and U.S. millennial demographic trailing away from steadfast support for the Israeli hardline—that the country won the media war, which would be a first.
Such a reversal would come at a bittersweet time for the brand of conservatism and nationalism Netanyahu has come to define himself by: civilizational pride has arguably never been more pronounced since the country’s founding, with birth-rates, including secular births, an outlier in the Western world. Many U.S. conservative commentators read into the Israel file lamented Bennett for a cynicism, for a naked will to power that came at the expense of ruining a good thing.
But the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Thursday made all but explicit that no man is too big to fail, even Benjamin Netanyahu. He met with perennial Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister (only in Israel) and the defense minister. “The secretary and the alternate prime minister discussed the U.S.-Israel partnership and America’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”
So should this be a sunset, worthy of the orange-pink landscapes of the Tel Aviv sky, it will be a spectacular one, with Netanyahu going down as in league with the precarious giants of his age. Trump. Modi. Erdogan. Putin. Netanyahu.
Source: The American Conservative