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15.06.2021 Author: Vladimir Platov

Will the “Winds of Change” Sweep Netanyahu Off his Political Olympus?


Despite the issue, one seemingly resolved for good, in Israel with the swearing-in of the country’s new government without Benjamin Netanyahu, the political battles among these “hot-headed Israeli boys” just do not stop.

According to journalists from Zman Yisrael, in May Benjamin Netanyahu examined the possibility of running for Israel’s presidency at the suggestion of Likud deputies, who advocated for Netanyahu to leave the post of prime minister and allow the formation of a right-wing government. Along with that, he asked his party colleagues whether the majority in the Knesset would support his candidacy for the presidency. After that secret trial balloon for Netanyahu’s chances of gaining support from other parliamentarians on the issue of occupying the presidency, the Likud came to the conclusion that if he had run for office, he would have outperformed all his competitors, including I. Herzog, who had assumed the presidency. Even Netanyahu’s legal advisers concluded that even the Supreme Court of Israel would not have thrown up any obstacles to nominating the prime minister for the presidency, despite the lawsuit and the charges that were filed against him. However, Netanyahu stated that he was not interested in the presidency, and he would rather lead the opposition than take that seat.

Political correspondent for Channel 12 Yaron Avraham says that B. Netanyahu has not yet come to terms with the fact that he has not been able to form a government. The journalist reports that Netanyahu continues to count on the fact that something will go wrong during the wave of changes, and there will be no new government.

Following a CNN report that drew parallels between the behavior of Benjamin Netanyahu and former US President Trump, the Likud was quick to give reassurances that Netanyahu would ensure a peaceful transfer of power to the new government. Nevertheless, Israeli media indicated that even right before the government was sworn in, no concrete actions have been observed to help transfer power – Netanyahu was only engaged in discrediting the future government, and making plans for its early collapse.

Provocations and incendiarism in respect to Yamina representatives and the party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, have continued over the past few days. For example, starting on June 10 statements and calls to action started to be disseminated in media in which Bennett was called an evil that threatens the world of the Torah, and anonymous calls were published to impose the Kabbalistic curse of “Pulse de Nur” on him (this is a deadly curse: the person against whom it directed is allegedly supposed to die in the course of a year). In October 1995, about a month before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, extremists held a ceremony in front of his home to impose this curse. A similar ceremony was allegedly held against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following his demarcation plan. They also threatened to impose “Pulse de Nur” on the Yamina deputy Nir Orbach, who agreed to support the “government of change”.

Another plan to break up the Bennett-Lapid coalition was announced on June 9 by Channel 12 correspondent Amit Segal, who is well-informed about what was happening on Balfour Street. In particular, he said that in the coalition agreement between Yamina and Yesh Atid there is a “hole” that will allow Bennett to deprive Lapid of its rotation if he manages to enlist the support of all right-wing factions – and this will become possible if Netanyahu temporarily transfers power in the Likud to someone else.

Recently, Netanyahu created his first problem for the new government, involving the demolition of illegal buildings at an Avidar outpost, which arose after the terrorist attack committed at Tapuah Junction. The Avidar outpost was founded in 2013; until recently, only a few “children of the hills” lived there in tents and makeshift structures. However, in the last month the settlers have exhibited tumultuous activity, roads have appeared on the hill, and even permanent houses of stone and concrete have begun to be constructed, whose demolition was recently ordered by Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. This was the reason why Netanyahu’s office sent a letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz on June 9 admonishing against demolishing the illegal outpost in the north of Samaria. The letter states that the Ministry of Defense did not have the right to issue a directive prohibiting construction at the Avidar outpost, since these decisions must be approved by the Prime Minister, and that was not done. In addition, the land under the outpost may turn out to be state-owned, and the original Palestinian owners left the area long ago, so the state can now take over the land and allow construction. Although no evidence has been provided, the letter nevertheless proposes urgently establishing a commission to investigate the issue, and evictions should be avoided until the commission delivers its findings. However, Gantz figured out Netanyahu’s plans, and the possibility of opponents of the “government of change” using this issue to further destabilize the situation in the country, and decided to put an end to this activity until the new government was sworn in so that the problem would not fall upon the shoulders of Prime Minister Bennett.

“After 30 years of right-wing rule that dominated the country after the defeat in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, in addition to the fact that the religious right abandoned Netanyahu without warning to unite with the center-left, the destruction of the alliance with his remaining supporters is already happening within the Likud party itself,” writes the Swiss Le Temps. “Delegitimization, attack, and disunion – that’s what Benjamin Netanyahu is doing. And these are not just words: he has turned the system upside down,” says Gayil Talshir, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and author of a book on the political career of the prime minister. He is sure that Netanyahu’s behavior was prompted by the corruption trial that began 10 years ago against him. “Upon feeling threatened, he began to systematically demonize the judiciary, the Arab minority, the left … He became paranoid. Nowadays, he talks with nobody without recording the conversation. He does not have a single friend left,” says Talshir. The shift has occurred over the past four elections: MPs who previously appreciated him have realized that Netanyahu is clinging to power at all costs, putting his legal interests ahead of the interests of the right, and the country as a whole. This was the case when, in the midst of the COVID crisis, he refused to approve the state budget solely to pressure his opponent, Benny Gantz.

However, despite Netanyahu’s intensified attempts to remain in power, the Maariv newspaper reports that his family has clearly come to terms with the outcome of this political struggle, and is preparing to leave the Prime Minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. According to the newspaper’s source in Caesarea, Sara Netanyahu in recent days has already started renovating their private house.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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