Analysis

Netanyahu Has Lost Control, and Is Now in Survival Mode

Netanyahu's behavior in Israel's land-grab law saga shows that he no longer bothers to hide that he's a puppet whose strings are pulled by Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting in central London on February 6, 2017 with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu made dire warnings about the various incarnations of the bill to legalize the unauthorized West Bank settlements. In dozens of meetings, he told his ministers about how the move could land Israel in The Hague – at the International Criminal Court, not Dutch tourist sites.

Just two weeks ago, he told Likud Knesset members that approval of the bill in its preliminary stages was the final straw in Barack Obama’s decision not to veto the UN resolution against the settlements. And of course, Netanyahu also urgently warned his government colleagues about the international implications of advancing the legislation. And he mentioned how critical it was not to anger the new resident of the White House before they meet.

Netanyahu warned, threatened and painted frightening scenarios – then he voted in favor of the legislation, twice. Nor did he prevent the despicable law, the “theft bill” as Likud MK Benny Begin calls it, from entering the books Monday night. That was mere hours after he had his first-ever meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

While Netanyahu is busy crisscrossing Europe, seeking to establish an “anti-Iran front” and change the diplomatic agenda, not only is he planting mines in his own path, he’s stepping on them. As he himself might put it if he were honest about it, he’s shooting himself inside the armored vehicle he’s driving.

Netanyahu’s behavior in the outpost-legalization saga shows that he has completely lost his grip. He no longer bothers to hide that he’s a puppet whose strings are pulled by Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party.

On Sunday afternoon, before boarding his plane, Netanyahu stood there with his wife and declared to the nation that he wasn’t fazed by false ultimatums; he was busy running the country. Then he got on the plane and his words evaporated into thin air, just as he did.

Maybe he really doesn’t take Bennett’s threats seriously, but he certainly gives in to them, disgracefully, showing zero leadership. The criminal investigations into Netanyahu are weakening his immunity in the governing coalition. In his current delicate state, the most he can do is try to survive in the most humiliating conditions.

Netanyahu won the previous round of the boxing match between Netanyahu’s Likud and Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi the March 2015 election. But in this round Bennett put Bibi on the floor.