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Photo: Haim Zach, GPO
Netanyahu in China. Completely isolated
Photo: Haim Zach, GPO
Sima Kadmon
In his attempt to threaten elections, Netanyahu lost his deterrence
Op-ed: If the prime minister intended on leading Israel to early elections because of the police investigations against him, he found himself even weaker. The recklessness, emotionality and irrationality in his actions left him with no support, and he now knows that his coalition members are unwilling to commit political suicide for him.
It’s been a long time since we saw had a consensus here. Apparently, when the right nerve is hit, there is a burst of solidarity that we didn’t even think existed. If there is one issue that all the coalition factions agree on today, it’s that there is no reason to dissolve the government and call elections.

 

 

It’s not, God forbid, because they are so concerned about the nation, or because they fear for the billions of shekels that would be wasted because of one man’s whim. It’s solely due to personal interests: None of the coalition faction leaders has a reason to seek elections, whether it's because of the prestigious ministry he leads, the number of Knesset seats the polls predict for his party, or the possibility of an inconvenient coalition after the elections.

 

If the Netanyahu family could get one shekel each time someone said on Sunday that “a government cannot be dissolved over a media-related issue,” it wouldn’t need any donations to fund its lavish lifestyle. That was, in fact, the motto repeated by all factions: from Bayit Yehudi through the ultra-Orthodox parties to Yisrael Beytenu. And never mind the coalition factions. The Likud’s veterans can’t remember the last time there was such an agreement among the faction’s ministers. Apart from the doormats who are accustomed to serving His Royal Highness, no one is willing to place his or her future in the hands of a reckless prime minister.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who represents the majority of Likud members on the election issue (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who represents the majority of Likud members on the election issue (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)

 

The first one to set the tone was Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, whose comments on the morning shows left no room for question: The prime minister did not consult the Likud leadership, Katz said, scornfully dismissing Netanyahu’s consultation forum, which included Ministers Miri Regev, Yariv Levin and Tzachi Hanegbi. The issue, he said, was not brought up for discussion at the Likud ministers’ forum, and it was not brought up at the faction or at the Likud institutions either. If it is brought up for discussion, Katz warned, "I'll make my position heard and I'm confident I won't be the only one of that opinion."

 

He was right. For quite a few faction members, elections mean the end of the political chapter of their life, and no one intends on following the prime minister as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamelin, straight into the abyss. The transportation minister was also the one to first utter the slogan: elections cannot be moved up over a media-related dispute.

 

Katz says he is not alone in his position. The last time Netanyahu dissolved the government, he had an oppositional bloc in the coalition led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, while the Likud’s natural partners were outside the government. The decision to call early elections was coordinated with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which promised to recommend that the president task Netanyahu with establishing the new government.

 

This time, Katz argues, it’s the exact opposite: If the Likud goes to early elections, it will get a worse coalition and a smaller number of Knesset seats. On the backdrop of the security situation, he says, it would be inconceivable to call elections over the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. Asking the public to vote in favor or against the IPBC? The public won’t forgive us.

 

One thing’s for sure: Katz’s message gave his fellow Likud members the backing they needed. Most of the faction members who spoke their mind Sunday evening were against elections. Even Coalition Chairman David Bitan, according to sources in the Likud, spoke against elections in private conversations.

 

Culture Minister Miri Regev, who in the morning said with contempt that Katz “represents no one but himself,” was the one required to provide explanations in the evening. How is it possible that a Shabbat observer like herself traveled to the prime minister’s residence on Saturday to discuss an issue that is not exactly a matter of life and death? Or could it be that her God lives at the prime minister’s residence?

 

And who does Katz represent? That’s a question she got an answer to: He represents the majority of Likud ministers, the Likud faction, the Likud voters and even the majority of the Israeli public, which is having trouble understanding what the prime minister wants. What is this IPBC anyway?

 

But Regev is just the messenger. The person who found himself completely isolated Sunday evening (with about a billion and a half Chinese people) was Israel’s prime minister. From the position of a sole ruler with an odd forum of advisors and an emergency meeting on Saturday—one like we have never seen before—he was basically left all alone.

 

His recklessness, emotional-driven behavior and the irrationality of his actions left him with no support. It’s clear to everyone, after all, that the IPBC is not the issue. That Netanyahu is grabbing the opportunity presented by the IPBC crisis for personal reasons, out of a personal interest. Or as a wise and experience man said: Bibi does not see the country before his eyes. All he sees is himself.

 

But if Netanyahu intended on leading Israel to elections because of the police investigations against him, he found himself even more weakened. The investigations will proceed against his will. He won’t be able to prevent it.

 

And if the police recommend that he be indicted, he will be even more isolated. In his attempt to threaten elections over the IPBC, he lost his power of deterrence. Now, he knows that his coalition members are unwilling to commit political suicide for him. Even Shas leader Aryeh Deri placed a gun on the table Sunday. There will be consequences, he said.

 

The lesson Netanyahu learned over the past two days is extremely important. He can’t take a personal agenda and expect others to carry it for him. The response from coalition factions and his own party members left no room for doubt: This is the fate of someone who tries to lead people to a place they are not interested in being in.

 

(Translated and edited by Sandy Livak-Furmanski)

 

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