נדב איל אייל
Nadav Eyal
Photo: Ynet
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Do not write off Netanyahu just yet

Opinion: The veteran master of tricks and shticks is starting to run out of new material and the latest alleged talks regarding making him 'President Netanyahu' only further illustrate his low state, but can the other guys really form a government?

Nadav Eyal |
Published: 04.05.21 , 23:00
Benjamin Netanyahu has reigned as prime minister of Israel for over a decade, ruling unchallenged for the majority of those years, that is until this week.
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  • Walking into the Jerusalem District Court on Monday morning, he became a man whose political fate was at the whim of others.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: GPO)
    Can he save himself, go to elections again and win? Probably. But the old master of tricks and shticks is starting to run out of ideas, and the spell is wearing off as well.
    The start of alleged talks in the halls of power regarding the possibilities of Netanyahu becoming president was nothing more but the reassurance of how low the situation has got for him.
    This is a dangerous and harebrained scheme that would essentially completely upend Israel's constitutional rule in order to allow an immune-from-prosecution President Netanyahu to run the affairs of state, just not as a prime minister. Netanyahu's allies turned rivals Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar would never lend a hand to it.
    While Netanyahu should not be written off, being one of the most resilient leaders of the Western World, his current state is indeed bad.
    Not only does his right-wing bloc, including Bennett's Yamina, not hold a majority in Knesset, but now his last hope, which at present seems to be all but declared dead, is to convince the Islamist Ra'am to join forces with the far-right Religious Zionist party of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    יו"ר רע"מ מנסור עבאס בהצהרה לתקשורת
    יו"ר רע"מ מנסור עבאס בהצהרה לתקשורת
    Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas
    (Photo: Ido Erez)
    His competition, Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, pretty much had a wide-open route all the way to the finish line: either there is a government without Netanyahu and led by Bennett, or we go to the fifth elections since April 2019.
    "Elections are not going to happen," said a senior Yamina official reassuringly.
    Over the past days, the Yamina head has been moving closer and closer to what just few months ago seemed to be pure science-fiction: A government made up of the left-wing Labor and Meretz parties and the right-wing, pro-settler Yamina.
    As this coalition inches closer to fruition, with Lapid and Bennett's associates meeting Sunday to knockout an outline, Netanyahu will have to really start making some hard decisions.
    For example, maybe it is preferable to let another high-ranking Likud MK such as Finance Minister Israel Katz become prime minister, and then - with the help of special legislation to permit a Knesset member to be under indictment - become a senior minister in a fully right-wing government while waiting and hoping for a chance to return to power?
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Yehs Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina head Naftali Bennett
    Yehs Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina head Naftali Bennett
    Yehs Atid leader Yair Lapid and Yamina head Naftali Bennett
    (Photo: EPA)
    This is the hour of delicate and careful machinations. It is more than likely that Lapid told Bennett that if he wants to be at the head of a government of change, he has to take a stance.
    For now, no one can be completely sure that Yamina won't just take its seven seats and hand them to Netanyahu anyway.
    Bennett, whose party decided to recommend their own leader for the premiership, probably replied that this would make him persona non grata on the right.
    How can you assure me that such a government will be formed, he probably said. How do I make sure I don't lose everything?
    As of now, despite Lapid's public pleas, it is doubtful whether such an amalgamation can actually come about.
    There are major areas of responsibility to figure out: legislation, religion and state, and a slew of other hot-button issues, along with Knesset committees and roles.
    Most important of all, this government would have to actually do things and not rely on empty campaign slogans like "we will fix the economy."
    As it stands, the "bloc for change" does not have more nominations for prime minister than Netanyahu anyway.
    The incumbent should not be written off, for the reports of his political demise could again have been greatly exaggerated.
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