If voters won’t get rid of Netanyahu, will the elites do it for them?

The same political system that Netanyahu thinks he has mastered could now bring about his demise.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event at the President's residence in Jerusalem on July 1, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on July 1, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

If it was up to the Israeli public alone, Benjamin Netanyahu might well continue as prime minister when the vote on Sept. 17 is over. Polls so far show almost no change in voting patterns for the ideological party blocs from April, when the right wing parties won a majority of seats, as they have for the last decade. The opposition parties of the center, left and Arab parties continue to hold a minority.

But an outright win for Netanyahu looks increasingly unlikely. A handful of political elites, and Israel’s complex coalition-bargaining culture, might finally bring about Netanyahu’s exit.

One such leader is Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman, who has been a shoe-in for Netanyahu’s coalitions in the past, and has held top ministries under his leadership. Liberman is now saying that he will recommend a unity government, rather than Likud under Netanyahu, to form the next coalition. Since none of the ideological blocs of parties have 61 seats (out of 120) to form a coalition without his party, Liberman’s demands could carry even more weight than in April, when he won five seats. Polls consistently predict he could get roughly double the seats now.

A unity government refers to the idea that Likud and Blue and White would form a coalition, possibly without the ultra-Orthodox parties, who have joined nearly all Israeli governments, with just a few exception, over Israeli history. Polls indicate that these two large parties could win a near or outright majority of seats between them. To many Jewish Israelis, unity sounds like a good idea.

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The latest Peace Index from Tel Aviv University shows that 30 percent in total would prefer a unity government, broken down into those who prefer their party to lead – either Likud or Blue and White. Combined, these options top the list of options in the poll. Together with Liberman, a unity coalition could have a large, stable and secular government.

However, Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, has stated that it will not join a coalition led by Netanyahu. Over 1.2 million voters supported Blue and White in April in their desperation to oust Netanyahu. By all accounts, that was the main reason. Blue and White stated that a coalition with Likud is a natural option, but not under Bibi. If Gantz does enter a coalition with Netanyahu at the helm, his voters will feel profoundly abandoned and betrayed. The party might split.

Likud members have famously insisted that Netanyahu must continue to lead. Netanyahu even had them swear a strange, Charlie Brown sort of oath that the party commits to keeping him as their choice for prime minister. Agreeing to recuse him would be an enormous broken promise to Likud voters (and anyone else who cares about the integrity of political promises).

These are zero-sum starting points. The only obvious compromise involves a rotation between Gantz and Netanyahu for the top job. Gantz could insist that he start, thus maintaining the image of keeping his promise. Netanyahu could save face, theoretically, by continuing to lead Likud and remaining the designated prime minister. It’s hard to imagine a universe in which Netanyahu agrees to take second place, though.

Another potential compromise is that Netanyahu agrees to step down or suspend himself if indicted. Once again, it seems unlikely – but not impossible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address their supporters as the results of the Israeli general elections are announced, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address their supporters as the results of the Israeli general elections are announced, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 09, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Beyond a unity government, the other likely scenario is another outright Likud-Netanyahu victory. Polls so far do not show the right winning a majority of seats without Liberman. If that finding bears out, and assuming Netanyahu can convene the regular right wing and religious parties, he will still have to negotiate with other partners.

In that case, despite the vast animosity between Liberman and Netanyahu at present, Liberman is the most obvious candidate. However, he brings a shipload of problems. First, he has developed elaborate coalition guidelines linked to policy, not only political demands. The policies relate to the draft law and other religion-state issues, as well as a litany of security demands that he has always promoted, including death penalty for terrorists, stripping citizenship of East Jerusalem Palestinians if they are convicted of terror, and reviving assassination policies.

Netanyahu won’t be able to accept some of the demands regarding religion and state, which will enrage the ultra-Orthodox parties. Therefore, to lure Liberman back, the negotiation will get political.

Netanyahu is expected to demand support for immunity laws from everyone, and in return, Liberman has leverage. He might demand a fabulous ministerial post. He has already served as the defense and foreign minister, so he may want a promotion — perhaps even insist on a rotation for prime minister as well. That sounds like chutzpah for a medium-small party, but Israelis have long resigned themselves to small parties that have too much power.

Without Liberman or Blue and White, Likud doesn’t have many other partners beyond those that have already committed to the right. Labor might be an option, but Labor leader Amir Peretz shaved his moustache to great fanfare last week, to prove his sincerity about boycotting Netanyahu.

Peretz has not nixed Likud, however. When asked about joining a coalition with the party, he was quoted in July saying, “If they replace Netanyahu, it’s a completely different story.”

All current polling shows that a Blue and White-led center-left government is nearly impossible. Even a Blue and White-led government without a firm ideological character is far-fetched. The party would have to defy current polls and beat Likud by a substantial margin. Even then, for Gantz to form a government, a strong lead would have to be combined with a rebellion on the right against Netanyahu, to find potential coalition partners. But the relevant parties could potentially boycott one another.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party has insisted it will not join a government with Blue and White. Liberman and Labor alone won’t provide sufficient seats. If the far-right Yemina party is asked, would it go in with Labor? If Yemina joins, the left-wing Democratic Union is probably not an option. There may still not be enough seats to reach 61, depending on the results.

Joint List leader Aymah Odeh, representing Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, made shockwaves last week declaring that he would consider joining a center-left coalition. Blue and White’s response was anything but visionary. Given that several members couldn’t even share a stage with Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at a demonstration this summer, a historic coalition with the Arab party would be a miracle – the kind that could cost Blue and White defections and a smaller, less stable coalition.

Israelis are used to politicians breaking their political (coalition-building) promises. Those promises come in many forms – they can relate to policy, positions and personalities – but now the noisiest among them relate to Netanyahu himself. Either he agrees to some compromise with Blue and White – a rotation, first or second place; suspension if indicted, or outright removal.

The other option is to face outsized, almost blackmail-like demands from Liberman to form a right-wing coalition. One of those demands might spell the end for Netanyahu, too.

For a decade, Netanyahu has been king of Israel’s political system. Now, that same strange, fragmented and flawed Israeli system that he thought he had mastered could bring him down — even if the voters don’t.

Full disclosure: Dahlia Scheindlin conducted polling and advising for Meretz/Democratic Union at an early stage of the current campaign.

7 responses to “Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Jewish supremacism”

  1. Lewis from Afula says:

    I disagree with Moron.
    I support Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Arab Supremacism ie PLO terrorist ideology.

    • Ben says:

      This comes close to being one of those self-refuting statements Trump is prone to. (“I am a very stable genius. With a big brain.”)

      • Rivka Koen says:

        “I think I am much more humble than you would understand.”

        • Ben says:

          “I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Re: “I support Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Arab Supremacism ie PLO terrorist ideology.”

            I see no problem with this sentence.
            This is despite the irrational sneers delivered by our retarded Leftist friends.

          • Ben says:

            You have an odd concept of partnership. When one proposes marriage one should say to the prospective partner, “Let’s be partners, dear one, as soon as I get done kicking your relatives the hell out of town”? Yeah, Trump might say something like that. And follow it with “I have a very good brain.”

  2. Bruce Gould says:

    In case anyone missed the link at the end, here’s the “A Land For All” website:

    https://www.alandforall.org/english/?d=ltr

    “Two nations live here in this land, and both want to live peacefully and safely. Solutions entailing separation have failed in the past, and will fail in the future. Cooperation, however, succeeds. There is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is right here in front of us. Do you choose to “live by your sword”? Or can you put your fears aside?…”

    • Itshak Gordine says:

      We have seen how coexistence has worked for example in Syria, in Lebanon (between Christians and Muslims), in former Yugoslavia, etc. Civil wars that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The Arab minority must behave in an exemplary manner, like the Jews in the diaspora, (and not in terrorist / criminal association). And she must enjoy security, work, social protection, etc.
      Coexistence is n

  3. Itshak Gordine says:

    We have seen how coexistence has worked for example in Syria, in Lebanon (between Christians and Muslims), in former Yugoslavia, etc. Civil wars that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The Arab minority must behave in an exemplary manner, like the Jews in the diaspora, (and not in terrorist / criminal association). And she must enjoy security, work, social protection, etc.
    Coexistence is n

    • Ben says:

      “We have seen how coexistence has worked for example…”

      I know it’s hard to believe, but you might have missed the point being made about the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan:

      “civil partnership …shared national sensibility…the birth of a collegial commitment to a shared nationality…partnership between the two groups… combat Jewish supremacism, as Jewish and Arab co-nationalists…inspire a new political identity … unity through partnership…in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, the real struggle is between Jewish supremacy and co-nationalism.”

      I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with Jewish nationalists in the holy land. “The Arab minority must behave”—would be nice to get the Jews to behave too, don’tcha think?:
      The Settlers who beat me…
      https://972mag.com/settlers-yitzhar-orthodox-burin/144101/

      I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with the European Christians against that exemplary-behaved minority, the 20th century Jews of Europe, I have seen how how coexistence has worked for example with the murderous demagogic Christian Slav Slobodan Milosevic stirring up hatred and bloodshed and genocide against Muslims in the service of a national-religious land-grabbing ideology. I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with the murderous Chinese leadership savagely persecuting and culturally genociding the Muslin Uighur minority. Etc. Yes I have seen that. And in none of these cases was it “the Arabs” who were the bad guys.

      Your attempt to demonize all Muslims and all Arabs and lump them all into one seething horde and thus delegitimize the Palestinians is transparent. And your attempt to shut down any consideration of a workable shared future (the only real solution) is striking. Really you are strikingly brazen about this and lazy about this. You seem to think that anti-Arab hatred is still the last PC from of hatred, and so what’s the problem?, when in fact it is only the latest form in a long line of sectarian hatreds, about which you as a Jew ought to be far more aware and less hypocritical.

  4. David Kreiselman says:

    A minority gov’t? Interesting idea. Whats to prevent the opposition parties from taking a no-confidence vote in the Knesset and shutting the whole thing down inside of a month?

  5. Ben says:

    The thing you have to realize is how far from Jewish-Arab partnership the Israeli government and its supporting populace have moved. You have to realize that to a significant degree Israel has already become Naftali Bennet’s Israel. Netanyahu can rail against Iran but he and Bennett and allies have turned Israel into the Jewish version of Iran. It’s more subtle than Iran does it, and less out in the open, but it is the same kind of national-religious state enterprise. The Hardali far right types love this. But realize, the premise that Israel belongs in the club of modern western democracies has become a pretense:

    Israeli Schools Teach Pro-settler Religious Nationalism Is the Only Way to Be Jewish
    Raising a pious, pro-settler generation: Israeli schoolkids are now targets of a state-sponsored campaign of political and religious indoctrination

    “… It’s time we faced the truth: In recent years, Israel’s education ministry has pushed a hidden agenda. Not only is it moving our kids towards a more Orthodox approach to their Jewish identity, but it is pushing them to the political right, too….
    Another window of opportunity for religious nationalist influence in secular schools presents itself in 11th grade: “Masa Yisraeli” (Israeli Journey). The 6 day-long seminar for high school juniors heavily subsidized by the Ministry of Education to the tune of tens of millions of shekels each year is the monopoly player in the market of “identity-forming journeys.”…
    Participants report that the overriding atmosphere that the organizers try and foster is permeated by extreme nationalism, supremacism and an “us against them” mindset; counsellors spoke out against a secular Jewish lifestyle and suggested Arabs have no place here in the Jewish state. In some instances, educators push students to try Orthodox Jewish practice…”
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-how-israeli-schools-teach-religious-nationalism-as-the-only-way-to-be-jewish-1.8061651

    • Lewis from Afula says:

      Why not repatriate all JORDANIANS home ?
      Then, we won’t be occupying anybody will we ?
      Its the only strategy that we have not yet tried.
      Go on, why not give MASS TRANSFER a chance ?

      • Ben says:

        Have you considered becoming an Israeli Education Ministry-funded Masa Yisraeli tour guide? You’d fit right in. Thanks for making my point. They’d love you. You’re fond of these pseudo-“deductive,” “there’s only one thing left” pseudo-analyses, all meant to trot out your perseverative mass transfer schtick. But it never goes over here. Why not channel your efforts into a focused indoctrination of Israeli youth? You’d have a much more easily fooled audience. And make money doing it.

        • Lewis from Afula says:

          Ben:
          Have you ever thought of entering the Lunatic Leftist of the Year Competition ?
          You have a very good chance of winning.
          First prize is a one way mission to Syria where you will be im charge of reconciliation between Sunnis & Shiites.

          • Ben says:

            If I go to Israel to work on reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, or god forbid, work on human rights (the horror!) I will be told “Leftist foreigner out!” That famous Israeli “hospitality.”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Yes, if Ben moved to Israel, he’d have to form a new Party just for himself.
            It would be more extreme than Balad and it would be based on ISIS ideology – just to prove how truely radical the Comrade’s views are.

          • Ben says:

            I’ll let the stupidity of this speak for itself.

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Indeed, Ben !

  6. Malthus Anderson, Cairns, Australia. says:

    A wonderful concept. We can only hope the participants are big enough to accept it.