Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in the vote on the settlement regularization bill is not just a numerical win. It was also a moral win, because he taught the settlers an important lesson on the limits of power. The masters of the land were beaten and defeated Wednesday. In the battle between king Bibi and the masters of the land, the king won, big time.
Even before the vote we could see hints of the defeat, when the aggressive, threatening text messages condemning Likud ministers as “criminals, traitors and liars” were replaced by messages bordering on pleas: “Those who can’t be as brave as Gila, Yuli and Ayoob should at least stay away! Don’t vote against the bill!”
However, Knesset Members Gila (Gamliel,) Yuli (Edelstein) and Ayoob (Kara) also exhibited highly limited courage and stayed away from the vote. Despite the settlers’ brutal campaign, and despite what appeared to be a certain victory only weeks ago, they failed in achieving all of their objectives.
The settlers thought that by using the coalition chairman they would be able to coerce the prime minister and believed that most Likud ministers would support their struggle. Yet they were completely wrong. Netanyahu’s achievement has to do not only with his ability to avert a problematic law, but also with putting the settlers in their place with this vote. He regained the power taken from him in the last Likud Central Committee convention by Feiglin supporters.
The prime minister’s defeat in the convention by a cheeky, reckless group that disregards him and his decisions was a trauma for him, and the main motive for bringing Kadima into the government. Netanyahu realized that should he fail to dilute the Right’s power within Likud, this will be his end.
The magician is back
And so, Wednesday’s vote marked a return to proportion: The Right may dominate the Likud convention, but at the Knesset and even within the Likud faction there is only one ruler, and it’s not Feiglin. It’s Netanyahu.
In his first term in office, Netanyahu was known as “the magician.” This was at the time when the media gave him some days of mercy and when his image on television still made a strong impression on the Israeli public. Yet as time passed, it turned out that he was no magician at all: He engaged in so much juggling that he ended up sawing off his own chair.
Yet as of late, this simile is becoming more appropriate. The zigzags, hesitation and winks that characterized him at the beginning of his current term in office grew fewer the more established his position became. The lack of confidence and urge to survive, which were the motive for all his moves, were replaced by confidence and a sense of power.
Kadima’s addition to the coalition was the final stamp and decided who the master of the house is. The vote on the settlement regularization bill, which ended this week with a grand victory for Netanyahu’s position, merely boosts the claim that all one needs to do is show leadership.