Likud Primary Shows Magician Netanyahu May Be Losing His Mojo

The current Knesset is more nationalist, so it's worse than any of its predecessors. It will be remembered for its religious twilight and for blurring its democratic senses.

Tuesday was a bad day for Benjamin Netanyahu; he suffered two losses in one blow. Florida betrayed him like Judea and Samaria, Miami like Jerusalem.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his Likud primaries win - Tomer Appelbaum - Jan 31, 2012
Tomer Appelbaum

Less than half the eligible voters bothered to leave home and vote in the Likud leadership primary. Their laziness could be excused by the bad weather or complacency, but it could also stem from general indifference. Bibi no longer does it for them. They're bored because all the magician's tricks have been revealed. He's having trouble freshening up his performances. The same sleight of mouth and hand all the time - and nothing up his sleeve.

Moshe Feiglin, whom Netanyahu invented to play the permanent boogeyman, scored an unprecedented achievement, as far as Feiglin is concerned. A quarter of Likud voters preferred Feiglin to a presiding prime minister, who has the benefit of the political anarchy and parliamentary wasteland. Feiglin's achievement is not enough to win, but it's certainly enough to dictate the list of Likud candidates for the next Knesset.

Netanyahu may have been elected to head the party - and he'll lead, he'll navigate. But many of those trailing behind will be little or big Feiglins.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar was quick to analyze the election results and suck up to his real party masters. "We'll expand the school trips to Hebron from all over the country," he announced, ensuring himself a high place on Likud's Knesset list.

The current Knesset is more nationalist, so it's worse than any of its predecessors. It will be remembered for its religious twilight and for blurring its democratic senses.

We ain't seen nothing yet

We'll miss it, though, because we ain't seen nothin' yet. The next Knesset will be even worse. Every Likud member who wants to drink from the trough will have to kowtow to the settlers, grovel at their feet. He'll have to pledge that the illegal Migron outpost will never be taken down and the illegal Ramat Gilad outpost will not be moved. There will be no shortage of legitimizers in judges' robes for these abominable acts.

The primary results make one wonder whether it was all a foregone conclusion. Maybe it would have been better to postpone it to a more suitable date. But Netanyahu, as is his infantile custom, always strives for immediate gratification. For him, it's enough to read the next day's headlines about his "brilliant trick," his "clever ploy" - how he surprised everyone and showed that Silvan Shalom. Only Natan Eshel knew what was going on, only he filmed the deal being concocted under the table, before the spokesman was called in.

Netanyahu didn't look happy on the night of the re-coronation, but he kept pinching his cheek. And he still couldn't add any color.

Bad news was coming in from the other side of the ocean as well. A friend of the extended family, Newt Gingrich, will make do for now with his victory in South Carolina, because Florida wouldn't succumb to his aggressive courtship. It didn't recognize the historic importance of the triangular coalition - Netanyahu, Gingrich and billionaire Sheldon Adelson. So $17 million from the joint coffers went down the drain, including daughter Sivan's contribution. Sheldon is used to better returns at his casinos. This time the gamble failed.

It's interesting to note that the Florida election stirred little excitement even among the Jews. Only one of every four Jews showed concern about Jerusalem. Are Bibi and Newt too similar, has their similarity been exposed?

Netanyahu's chances of remaining prime minister are still much better than Gingrich's chances of becoming president. But the indifference will now accompany them both. Reality will soon take the stage and announce its calamities with a large megaphone.

Read this article in Hebrew