The faux apology Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced out of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett for his comments on the peace process may have been the end of the current crisis, but more than a sign of what happened this week, it signals what is going to happen next: The sword of Damocles that the economy minister has lifted above the prime minister's head was not brought down, but it hasn't been placed back in its scabbard either. For now, it's still hovering in mid-air.
Netanyahu's associates said this week that if Bennett is suffering so much in the government he is welcome to quit, but these are empty words: Bennett holds the keys to 12 Knesset seats, and it is only thanks to them that Netanyahu still inhabits the Prime Minister's Office.
Netanyahu's associates can continue spreading fables about a coalition based on the Labor's Knesset seats or on those of the haredi parties, but I doubt that even they believe them – after all, the Likud Beiteinu member will not let the prime minister establish his third term on politicians from the Left who support a withdrawal from the territories, or on the black skullcap wearers with whom Yair Lapid and his friends refused to sit at the same table. And so everything we have seen in the past few days is just a preview of the real thing.
Netanyahu had several opportunities in the past year to put Bennett in his place, and he chose not to do so. He didn't put him in his place when he compared the Palestinians to a thorn in the backside, and he didn't put him in his place when he slammed the release of terrorists.
Bennett's psychological evaluationWhen did Netanyahu demand an apology? When his former bureau chief, who hsa scaled the heights of the Religious Zionist party, shared with us his psychological opinion about his former employer, declaring that the prime minister is suffering from "ethical befuddlement." The panic Bennett identified should not have been shared with the public, and that's what enraged Netanyahu. The prime minister is afraid of the things the economy minister can reveal about his conduct, and that's why he responded in a disproportionate manner and demanded an apology. And Bennett did apologize, if you believe in fairy tales.
So what are we left with? A wait for the next coalition crisis - which will come, for example, when the Americans submit a proposal for a permanent status agreement. Only then the obvious choices to quit the government will actually be Lapid and Tzipi Livni, who won't agree to continue cooperating with Netanyahu's quest for survival, which is a road to nowhere. Assuming that these are actually political figures with real integrity and a commitment to their voters, they will leave Netanyahu and Bennett in the same boat.
Until then, Bennett and Uri Ariel will continue ramping up the promises they made to their voters, and the budgets will continue flowing plentifully to Judea and Samaria. And along the way, it's likely that Netanyahu's "befuddlement" will repeat itself at least once, perhaps at a volume we are unfamiliar with – and we'll see what will happen with that hovering sword.