Beyond the Cusp

June 5, 2019

Is it Time to Replace Netanyahu?

 

The inability of Bibi Netanyahu to find the right formula to form a government was the result of his own doings. His craving for vengeance costed him a coalition yet much of Israel is resigned to his being Prime Minister despite his vengeful animus which threw away the chance for a solid religious Zionist right wing nationalist coalition. I hear many now demanding to know what we are referencing. Well, it comes down simply as the Bibi demanding that it is good to be the king and he plans on deciding who will be the king now and who will be the king of the future. In case you might be wondering who would be the future king, Bibi of course. Had Bibi not decided just two days before the election to promise everything which the New Right led by Naftali Bennett were using as the base for their campaign, then Likud might have lost two or three mandates and the New Right would have crossed threshold and resulted in a gain of four or more likely five mandates. This would have resulted in Bibi having sixty-three seats even without Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. But Bibi was determined to cause as much humiliation and heaped scorn on Bennett and Shaked for their betrayal of leaving Likud in order to seek more productive support. This has been further represented by Bibi fighting the prevailing mood within Likud to bring Ayelet Shaked into Likud with a high position on their list and a guaranteed Ministerial position. Many, if not most, of Likud members and those who hold positions within Likud desire bringing Ayelet Shaked back into their fold and may even see her as the heir apparent to Bibi. This has been the problem, Bibi does not desire having an heir apparent as he has no desire, despite what has been reported, of ever giving up his spot at the top of the list and as Prime Minister as a result.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

Since Naftali Bennett has made it very clear that he sees himself as the heir apparent and thought that any party he headed would give Likud a run for their money. Instead, he departed Jewish Home in a manner which left a bad taste throughout the party, and made his own party with Shaked as his number two. Initially, it appeared that his new party would receive over ten mandates, though we warned people that leaving Jewish Home for Bennett’s New Right was a mistake as he would be fortunate to clear threshold, he polled lower and lower and on election day did not pass threshold. The new election might breathe some fresh air into Bennett’s New Right Party but that is only if he retains Ayelet Shaked, which is starting to look very iffy as Jewish Home would also take her back, though Bennett is a wholly different matter. The real problem is because Bibi wanted to extract revenge on Naftali Bennett, and secondarily Ayelet Shaked, the New Right crumbled along with the hopes for a true religious Zionist coalition. Of course, Bibi will deny to the day he retires that this was not of his making and will blame Bennett pointing to his departure from Jewish Home as the reason, not Bibi taking the wind out of their sails.

 

Now we are looking at having no real governance until after the middle of September and also risk the left winning the election and getting first chance for putting together a coalition. Fortunately, such will be next to impossible should the Israeli voting public remain true to form. The best they could hope to patch together is possibly fifty-seven mandates, four short of a majority. This is largely due to the left requiring the Arab blocks to join them in order to even come close to reaching a viable coalition. Even should they find a means of incorporating the Arab lists into their coalition, such an unsteady group would fall apart and require new elections within the first four months. But even to make such a coalition, the Arab parties have proven to be difficult to bring on board as they simply refuse to be part of any ruling coalition where they are not the ones given total control. The simply way of stating this is that the Arab parties will make unreasonable demands and once these are met, they will demand more and more and even more. Eventually, one realizes that nothing will ever be sufficient to bring them into the government and thus making it impossible for the left to form a government at this time. That brings us back to forming a working coalition from the right.

 

There actually could be arguments made for choosing a different party leader from the right leaning parties to form a coalition. The difficulty here is that Bibi Netanyahu would refuse to permit the Likud from joining such a venture. Thus, the only means by which this could work would be through the removal of Bibi from leading Likud. Did I hear somebody say, “impossible?” That is why it is a problem. Bibi would tear the Likud Party into pieces taking a large chunk of the party with him in order to allow him to continue as Prime Minister indefinitely. There was a similar problem during the lead-up to the Gaza withdrawal when Arik Sharon was felled by American pressure to cede Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA) so they could prove their ability to form a functioning governance and state. Well, within two years the PA lost their grip on Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (controlled and provisioned by Iran) who have made war on Israel ever since their 2007 takeover. Erik Sharon was unable to convince the majority of the Likud Party to go along with the plan presented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush to permit the PA to rule Gaza unhindered. This caused him to form the Kadima Party which also included many people from leftist parties such as the Labor Party, and resulted in a coalition made up of strange bedfellows. He kept a coalition and gave away Gaza and the rest is history. The promise that Israel could simply reestablish control if things went wrong itself went wrong and now Hamas and Islamic Jihad control Gaza and threaten Israel representing Iran in the process.

 

We would not be surprised if things went awry, that Bibi would form his own party out of the remnants of Likud and whomever he could bring aboard and make a run at a centrist unity government, taking the same path as Arik Sharon. He could include the Blue-White Party, or whatever might be left after they separate from Yair Lapid and he take the most faithful of his Yesh Atid people with him. Add to this a few sprinklings from both extremes including people who decide that this is the best bet for their future. We can only issue them the same warning we gave those leaving to joining Bennett, be very careful where you cast your lot as things tend to lose their luster once revealed to the sunlight.

 

Still, we have three months plus to the September elections in which time much can come to pass. The attempts by Naftali Bennett to bring the religious-Zionist parties together to run with him leading the ticket are doomed to failure. What does he believe he has to offer after his recent defeat? This is his final push to find his path to being Prime Minister. We long ago told friends that all Naftali Bennett was is Yair Lapid with a yarmulke, nothing more. Bennett believes that he is owed the Prime Minister position on any ticket which he joins. He probably left Likud realizing that he was not going to replace Bibi from within. He left Jewish Home because he believed he was their star attraction and as such he could simply make his own party and people would flock to him and Jewish Home would be decimated. Jewish Home was in complete disarray immediately after he left partially because Bennett had refused to seat the new Central Committee and refused to allow the Central Committee to meet for over a year before he split taking the number two and another Minister along with him. Jewish Home (we) rather than collapse found a new leader, and what a great leader he is, and proceeded to form a small coalition with two other parties and broke threshold. As long as Jewish Home can retain the other parties, all looks bright. There is also the possibility that Jewish Home might pick up Zehut and in the process placing Moshe Feiglin within the top ten positions on the party ballot. Such a move would unite the religious-Zionist parties forming a block which could reach the necessary sixty-one mandates along with Likud in September. The problem will not be incorporating the New Right former Jewish Home party members into the coalition as most never officially resigned from Jewish Home and as such are still members in good standing. Those who did renounce their membership will have a more difficult road back, but will still be welcomed and might even return receiving everything they may have formerly held. These past elections were a disaster waiting to happen and Bibi gave that disaster the push it needed to squelch the New Right and their platform bringing their efforts to a premature end. It was a classic case of cutting one’s nose to spite their face.

 

So, is it time to replace Bibi Netanyahu? Even so, it remains improbable that he can be replaced. He has carefully destroyed every person who came even close to presenting him with a challenge. He did so to Moshe Feiglin and most recently to Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and has done similarly to every individual who posed a realistic challenge to his primacy. We have watched this time and again. That presents a huge difficulty in replacing Netanyahu as he controls Likud ruling it with an iron glove on one hand and silk glove on the other. Those who bed their will to his and serve to increase his power get the silk glove and those who rise to challenge him are struck cold by the other glove. This means that there are only two paths to the position of Prime Minister, one with blessings from Bibi and the other as his opposition. Thus far there has not been one who has curried Bibi’s favor to become heir apparent to his rule and perhaps none sufficiently qualified to challenge him from without. Part of the problem is that Bibi completely controls Likud and has not chosen an heir apparent thus leaving only the adversarial method for defeating him. Thus, one must look at the opponents and their likelihood for challenging Bibi.

 

The Blue-White Party with their presumed impressive list of notable people such as Yair Lapid and the four generals has a problem. The problem is that at least three, if not all four, of the generals hold to the position that some form of the Gaza withdrawal mixed with the IDF remaining in southern Lebanon as the solution they back giving the PA another chance at forming a workable society. Their leading candidate, General Benny Ganz initially spoke of how he learned from Gaza and believed if handled differently it could be applied to the settlements with slight adjustments largely consisting of leaving the IDF behind to monitor and prevent terrorism. So, he would pull back to the Security Barrier, very close to the Green Line (see map below), giving the lands beyond to the PA and declaring the conflict over and expecting the Arabs to concur. The IDF would presumably be left in place while all Israeli civilians would be uprooted and forced to find new residence within the remainder of Israel. Their claim that this time it will work is based on their intent on literally forming these borders by fiat and presenting this as the solution to the PA and expecting them to be happy about this. That will fail and do so miserably.

 

Green Line versus Separation Fence Borders

Green Line versus
Separation Fence Borders

 

The problem with this solution is the same as it has been with every solution, that being that as long as any piece of Israel remains with the Jews permitted self-rule, this will be totally unacceptable to the Arab side. The world and far too many Israelis actually honestly believe that when the Arabs refer to their demand that they be given the entirety of the 22% of the mandate, they are not speaking about some piece of land west of the Jordan River, they are talking about all the lands west of the Jordan River. The basic question is that when they chant, From the River to the Sea Palestine must be free,” what does anyone believe that would leave as the Jewish State. The 22% they are demanding has nothing to do with West Bank or Gaza or any other division of the lands, they are referring to the remaining 22% which is not Jordan which took 78% of the British Mandate. The Palestinian Arabs demand for 22% is from the British Mandate and correspond to all the lands set aside for the Jewish state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the River to the Sea. Their demand is for all of Israel and they demand that this land be Judenrein, and should any Jews remain, they have a solution, a final solution. From all we have seen, Bibi has no actionable solution to this overly-extended problem. So, who might be capable of mounting a drive and replacing Bibi?

 

This depends completely and totally upon the people of Israel. There is no lack of people who could replace Bibi Netanyahu and serve as Prime Minister of Israel. The going argument the people backing Bibi always claim is that nobody has the experience of being Prime Minister as does Bibi. That is no wonder as he will soon be the longest serving Prime Minister and is already the longest serving living Prime Minister. By this argument, Bibi can never be replaced which just might inevitably run into a problem, either his retirement voluntarily or forced by Mother Nature. We may as well face facts, the next Prime Minister after Bibi will have far less experience than does Bibi. Everyone upon being elected to lead their nation for the first time has zero job experience, but they figure out what the buttons on their phones mean and find the button for calling meetings or their aid to come take a letter, or e-mail. So, pushing such a weak argument aside as superfluous, let us move on. Yair Lapid consistently claims he is the man with a plan and if only he were Prime Minister, all the Israeli problems would disappear as he can fix everything. Well, first off, please let us not fix anything which is not broken. Simply stated, leave the economy alone unless you plan on reducing taxes. The real problem is that Yair Lapid is one of those who believes that there is a solution which can be reached if only the perfect concession of land were proffered the Arabs. Of course, he does not mean all the Jews moving to California and giving all the lands to the Arabs, so, as we have explained, whatever his proposal, the Arabs will refuse it as not sufficient. The Generals from the Blue-White Party also suffer from the same ailment. Their solution takes the worst of the Gaza disengagement, pulling the Jews from their homes, and combines this with the worst of the disaster of Southern Lebanon where Israel left the IDF in a region she had surrendered any claim which eventually led to a hasty retreat executed by one of the generals (another of the generals was responsible for the Gaza disengagement). So, their solution to the problems with the PA is to combine the Gaza disengagement with the disaster of southern Lebanon and pretend it is something which has a viable chance at success. There is a single saving grace in their plan, Mahmoud Abbas and his terrorists will refuse this as a solution as Israel will not have gone far enough to find a solution, their problem is that Israel remains. This problem only becomes worse as one would go further left, thus any replacement for Bibi is not to be found on the left.

 

This leaves a problem as Bibi has ruled the right for approaching a decade. His Likud Party has cemented the lion’s share in every election only a few times having anything approaching a problem from the left. This means that any real and viable threat to replace Bibi has to come from Likud or a surprise from another of the right leaning parties. As far as somebody rising from within Likud to challenge Bibi, such in the past has proven to be fateful and immediately followed by being placed far down the Likud list thereafter followed by their burial as a viable candidate. Some such people include Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett; both of whom have been relegated to the scrap heap of parties missing threshold. The best Naftali Bennett ever did was actually provide Bibi a challenge but as the election appeared as if it might slide to the left of Likud or Bennett’s party, Jewish Home at the time, received the lion’s share of the right wing votes so one of the two needed to fall on his sword, which Bennett did and that may have proven to be the last time he posed a threat to Bibi. Currently, there is no obvious threat to Bibi though there has been a development very recently which may provide insight of a potential challenger in the near future. The news of Bennett attempting to head a coalition of right wing-religious-Zionist parties was met with an interesting response from the current leader of the United Right and head of Jewish Home, MK Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who stated that joining their block by Naftali Bennett and the remains of his New Right Party would be welcomed but would not result in any alteration of the party hierarchy. Rafi Peretz made one thing clear, as he has come from a quiet retirement where he had no desires to enter politics or the public spotlight, his decision to lead the United Right was a casting of the dice and he will be putting forth the same efforts he has given to everything else he has undertaken. When an individual who was once a combat helicopter pilot, in and of itself an impressive challenge, and going further in the IDF to become a Brigadier General and to be the IDF Chief Rabbi and then becoming head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy in Yated, which was relocated from Bnei Atzmon after the Gaza disengagement, this is not somebody to take lightly. Once the Israeli public becomes introduced to this man of great talents, his straight talking and meaning what he says and saying what he means, there is a definitive possibility that Rafi Peretz could become the Prime Minister after Bibi and do so while Bibi is still in contention. There are two people currently who could either pose a direct challenge running against Bibi to lead the right of center coalition or becoming heir apparent. The heir apparent would be Ayelet Shaked providing she manages to rejoin Likud and Rafi Peretz under any circumstance as he gains in notoriety and thus popularity. The positive vibes we received from numerous fronts when Rafi Peretz was named as the new leader for Jewish Home was just the tip of the iceberg of the potential for him going forward. Israel would be well served having a man of such integrity and forceful character as Prime Minister and would gain even more due to his politics and love for his country. Time will tell who replaces Bibi and when, but that time is coming and who knows how much longer Bibi can retain his monopoly on the Prime Minister’s spot.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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