Analysis

The Forecast Upon Netanyahu's Return From China: Political Storm

The idea being discussed in the prime minister's circle regarding the broadcasting corporation is no less crazy than Netanyahu's 2014 efforts to recruit Elie Wiesel as Israel's president. Like that attempt, the current one is also doomed to fail.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, March 20, 2017.
Andy Wong/AP

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lands in Israel on Wednesday night, it won’t be an honor guard of 400 Chinese soldiers standing at attention and Oriental etiquette that will greet him, but an entire political system that cannot understand the demon that has taken hold of him. It’s talked about by his Likud colleagues, by his coalition partners, and, of course, by the opposition, and even by people in the defense establishment.

Around us a storm is brewing – political and military – yet Netanyahu seems like someone who has lost his mind over the identity of a newscaster on the evening news of the new broadcasting corporation. She is Geula Even-Sa’ar, married to his bitter foe, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar.

The idea that was discussed in the prime minister’s circle, according to which the corporation, named Kan, would start broadcasting on April 30 as planned, but restricting its broadcasting to radio, without TV, is no less crazy than Netanyahu’s 2014 efforts to recruit Elie Wiesel as Israel’s president an hour before the list of candidates was closed. Like that attempt, the current one is also doomed to fail.

On Monday we thought he was bent on blowing it all up, but a day later there was an all-clear signal from Beijing. Some people in his entourage are busy, between receptions and professional visits, trying to bring him out of the tight spot he put himself into. On Tuesday they reported that their efforts were bearing fruit. No promises, though. It doesn’t reflect on what may happen on Wednesday or Thursday or the day after that. Stability is not the name of this game.

On Tuesday, Israel time, it could be cautiously stated that Netanyahu was no longer eager to disperse his coalition. The messages he received from Israel, from his colleagues in Likud and from his coalition partners, mainly from the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which are furious with him, made it clear to him that March 2017 was not the same as December 2014. At that time there was some logic to his violent separation from Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni for the sake of renewing the alliance with the Haredi parties. Now they are the ones who might get badly hurt.

In any case, no one believes him when he says Kan is the genuine pretext for dispersing the coalition, since bringing the elections forward is what Kan’s heads aspire to. This will enable them to go on air on time, without any damage or constraining and emasculating legislation.

The prevailing thinking is that Netanyahu wants to make his move before police recommend that he be indicted in the case of receiving unlawful gifts. If he waits until after the police recommendation, any decision of his regarding the corporation will seem tainted by ulterior motives.

Meanwhile, until he lands here, contacts continue on a low burner to find a solution that will dissipate the crisis. It’s already clear that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will accept a law for broadcasting oversight. The question is how much oversight there will be. It’s also clear that he’s willing, without batting an eyelid, to sacrifice the heads of the corporation, general manager Eldad Koblenz and chairman Gil Omer. The person standing in the way of these beheadings and the promotion of this monstrous, anti-democratic bill is Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

Everything will be settled in a meeting between Netanyahu and Kahlon on Thursday or Friday, possibly on Sunday. A Likud source says Netanyahu’s return is good at least in one respect: In China he is tethered to his wife 24/7. In that environment, said the source, no rational decisions can be made.