ISRAEL || Netanyahu’s Last Battle To Remain Clinging To Power
Escorted by bodyguards and aides, Benjamin Netanyahu sped through the corridors of the Knesset shortly before Israeli centrist leader Yair Lapid announced the formation of the “Government of Change.” “Prime Minister, is this your last week in office?” A journalist asked him. The veteran politician turned and replied, “Is it a question or a wish?”
Netanyahu’s response expressed his deep feeling that the Israeli media has been after him since his first electoral victory in 1996 but also a brief and liberating pause in the middle of the battle for survival. It is not known if it is the last, but it is the most difficult because for the first time in the last 12 years in Israel another politician manages to form a government. What Lapid has done — uniting eight ideologically so different parties — is already historic, although Netanyahu is working hard for him to crash in the inauguration scheduled in the next ten days.
Even on the left, which has agreed to ally itself with right-wing Naftali Bennett, euphoria over Lapid’s announcement is mixed with wariness over Netanyahu’s campaign for turncoats.
Read more: The departure of Benjamin Netanyahu
Especially at Bennett’s party, Yamina. Of its seven deputies elected in March, one has already announced that it will vote against the new government while another, Ori Orbach, now admits doubts. Bennett met with him this Thursday at his home and Netanyahu called him and sent messages — without being answered — to undo them but the fact that the new government depends on how Orbach or another deputy wakes up on the day of the inauguration reflects his great fragility.
“This structure, based only on 61 of 120 deputies, is very complex. Furthermore, there is a feeling that Netanyahu has not yet said the last word,” comments journalist Nadav Eyal.
The Likud leader rushes his last cartridges with a campaign on simultaneous channels (social networks, demonstrations in front of their homes, telephone calls, intervention of some rabbis from the nationalist sector, etc.), focused on pressuring legislators uncomfortable with the alliance with the left and the arab islamist partyRaam and remind them of their election promises not to.
“Bennett sold the Negev to Raam! “ Netanyahu tweeted about the agreement between Bennett, Lapid and the leader of this Arab faction Mansour Abbas to legalize Bedouin settlements created without state permission in the southern Negev desert. Proof of Netanyahu’s might on social media, run by aggressive and talented kids, is that the words “Bennett sold” became a trend on Twitter in Israel. It is a classic Bibi play in the inter-electoral war: He throws the darts at the rival for his pact photographed with Abbas but hours before he himself had offered him more generous proposalsto get his parliamentary support away from the cameras and then deny any contact with the Islamist. Paradoxically, Netanyahu’s tango with Abbas in recent months is the one that gave Bennett, former director general of the Settlements Council, the green light to make a pact with him by converting Raamin the first Arab party to be part of a government.
Netanyahu is now trying to abort Lapid’s initiative to replace Knesset President Yariv Levin (Likud) who seeks to speed up the inauguration. The prime minister’s strategy is to delay the decisive vote as long as possible as this increases the chances that the brittle political structure will crumble before it even stands up. Not only because it fuels the doubts of some legislators, but because in these lands everything can change in a minute. For example, three weeks ago Hamas projectiles ignited a full-scale confrontation altering the entire country’s agenda.
The house of Bennett’s number 2, Ayelet Shaked, in Tel Aviv was the scene of another demonstration by the nationalist right to abort the coalition with the left and Raam. “Shaked’s heart is not with this surrealist government but he alleges that Israel is going through a serious crisis and everything must be done to avoid elections,” says Shlomi Levy, an activist close to Shaked whom he sees — or at least saw — as the leader of the right after the Netanyahu era. An era that cannot be buried until the coalition is approved. And even then he will try to return as soon as possible.
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Originally published at https://zaviews.blogspot.com.