הצבעת החוק בקריאה שניה ושלישית לפיזור הכנסת והקדמת תאריך הבחירות השלישיות
The Knesset plenum
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
The Knesset Plenum

Israel's zero sum politics

Analysis: Making a bid for political power in Israel can be a dangerous process, but there is a simple formula to it: get power and use it wisely; as Israel heads to a third election within a year, some have yet to learn not to cash in that currency too soon

Moran Azulay |
Updated: 12.16.19 , 10:29
While the fact of a third election in 12 months only seemed to resonate with many Knesset members last week, some had already predicted it on election night in September.
Yet it did not take long for the criticism to start, mainly about the conduct not only of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is galloping the country into the unknown, but also Blue & White leader Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman.
הצבעת החוק בקריאה שניה ושלישית לפיזור הכנסת והקדמת תאריך הבחירות השלישיותהצבעת החוק בקריאה שניה ושלישית לפיזור הכנסת והקדמת תאריך הבחירות השלישיות
The Knesset Plenum
(Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
As Election Day on September 17 wrapped up, Gantz randomly stumbled upon a senior right-wing official who told him that Netanyahu was already planning for a third election. That warning, which in retrospect seemed so delusional and unfunny, was extremely accurate.
Likud officials don't need another Netanyahu Facebook video to understand his future strategy. Reading the political map and operating on the fly has always been Netanyahu's strong suit, himself probably being Israel's best at it.
The warning Gantz received that Election Day was very right, but it's not clear that he made the most of it. He didn't offer any creative outlines for a coalition government and failed to fully portray Netanyahu as the real obstacle to a coalition.
בני גנץבני גנץ
Benny Gantz
(Photo: AFP)
The Blue & White leader, according to a senior political insider, is playing the game, but without the political savvy - and it's starting to become dangerous for him.
Caretaker Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, however, is a good example of how the political game should be played.
You could point to him being only a part of an interim government, lacking in authority and a puppet minister installed by Netanyahu to toy with him.
But nonetheless, he is still the defense minister and when he walks into the room, the soldiers salute.
נפתלי בנט ובנימין נתניהונפתלי בנט ובנימין נתניהו
Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett
(Photo: Reuters)
Bennett's actions only highlight how dangerous Gantz's current gamble is – because politics is a matter of results and not process.
Gantz could have had 65 Knesset seats (including Likud's 32), but now he's starting the third election cycle from scratch.
"There are two fundamentals in politics: How to create power and how to use power," says a political insider.
"How does your skill as a ship captain help me if you're stuck out in the middle of a storm?"
אביגדור ליברמן אביגדור ליברמן
Avigdor Liberman
(Photo: Avi Moalem )
This is true of both Gantz and Libermen. Both gained a lot of political power but never used it.
And one more thing about Liberman and his so-called kingmaker skills. Many have debated what he really wants and why he's turning the political system on its head.
But the Knesset's dissolution ultimately showed that Liberman didn't really shake anything up. He stayed his course, demanding a unity government or nothing, and got nothing.

Bibi's next battle

This week saw the first shot across bow in the race for the Likud leadership. And no one should be taking it anything but seriously.
גדעון סער באולפן ynetגדעון סער באולפן ynet
Gideon Sa'ar
(Photo: Avi Moalem )
The clash between Netanyahu and MK Gideon Sa'ar is more than a long-held rivalry between the two. It is a battle for the essence of the Likud and what it will look like the day after Netanyahu.
Sa'ar is fighting to make his mark as the dauphin. If he can secure 40% or more of the vote in the Likud primaries, he will be seen as the most viable heir to the party leadership.
But if Netanyahu manages to land a serious blow against Sa'ar, it will prove that his gamble was too high and he cashed in too soon.

First published: 23:53 , 12.15.19
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