It took just one press release about the establishment of a task force by the state comptroller – to examine the decision to set up a new broadcast corporation, then abort it – to deflate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s balloon of intimidation.
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The prime minister had threatened many times this week that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s insistence on vetoing (“for budgetary reasons”) coalition whip David Bitan’s bill to close the newly formed broadcast corporation would lead to elections.
He invited Minister of the Interior Arye Dery to his office on Monday and told him that if Kahlon continued to hold out, the government wouldn’t survive. Perhaps he hoped, or more than hoped, that the Shas chairman would pass on the message to the stubborn finance minister. (Dery says he was not asked to mediate). Kahlon listened – and laughed. That is consistent with his character. When others go at him hard, he digs in harder and cuts off contact with them.
Postponing the fate of the Israel Broadcasting Authority by three weeks, at the very least, does not remove the noose from its neck. It only postpones the end and extends its suffering. And it preserves the coalition so dear to the hearts of these two gentlemen.
There is a very good chance that in the end a formulation will be found that will not allow the new corporation to be set up in its originally planned form. From the moment that Kahlon drew the line in the sand, it was clear a solution would be engineered. Money never dismantled a coalition. It’s a question of control, of Netanyahu’s unquenchable thirst for a weak, submissive and needy media that would sing the praises of the leader.
As of now, Netanyahu will be forced, tragically for him, to practice postponing gratification. He sought a decision by this coming Sunday but Kahlon forced him to step on the brake. Coalition chairman Bitan, who had begun believing that he really was everything that was said and written about him, was thrown under the bus without blinking an eye. Like dozens of loyalists and “close associates” before him, he discovered that he was only a pawn on the chessboard.
Bitan can take his bill, in the words of Yitzhak Shamir 30 years ago, and hang it on his office wall to remind himself that he does not beg for his honor. Netanyahu identified the obstacle, and casually removed Bitan from the “loop.”
With great delight, government ministers last night revealed Netanyahu’s misfortune. It’s good that someone puts the brakes on him occasionally, even if only temporarily. They became fed up with his euphoria, his “I and another insignificant person” attitude, his zigzags and his backflips. They urged Kahlon not to blink, not to fold, not to believe Bibi. He would not dare go to elections, one of the ministers said, not when Gideon Saar, Moshe Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Barak are waiting in the wings.
The full column will be in Friday's edition of Haaretz.