Analysis |

Israel Election: For Bibi It's All About Getting a 'Stay Out of Jail' Card

Withholding immunity means betraying a large constituency that believes that only Netanyahu can run this country. This is the answer anyone aiming to join a unity government will get – Gantz too

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Benjamin Netanyahu voting in the general election of September 19, 2019.
Benjamin Netanyahu voting in the general election of September 19, 2019. Credit: AFP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

So now a trivial matter, forming a government. The early results don’t provide any reason to be joyful or depressed; there’s no certainty that Benjamin Netanyahu won’t continue to manage our lives, set the sociopolitical agenda, cultivate racism to become an inseparable part of Israel’s identity, fuse religion and state, and promise that what we’ve had so far has only been a promo for the next nightmare.

Whether Netanyahu forms a unity government with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, or whether he unites the entire right wing and the ultra-Orthodox, the result will be the same: an unbridled state that occupies another nation, with a hobbled judiciary, an inferior education system and dying health care.

The only hope is a courtroom where Netanyahu, maybe, will be held accountable for severely eroding the country’s basic tenets, for giving and taking bribes and picking the country’s pockets. In the meantime, Israel joins other countries where brave prosecutors and determined judges have become foot soldiers willing to take a bullet, as in Argentina, instead of succumbing to a political purge.

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“The trial” is the only reason April’s and Tuesday’s elections have taken place. No dispute over political or economic issues, no security crisis and no intellectual clash have set the agenda.

Anyone voting for Netanyahu did so not to strengthen the settlements, annex territory or express support for a war on Iran. Anyone voting for Likud wasn’t supporting principles or lofty ideals.

Bibi yes or no is the only code for understanding the pattern of voting. Before the election, opinion polls pointed to a tie between Likud and Kahol Lavan, ranging from 32 to 34 Knesset seats each. The same polls showed that about half the respondents believed that only Bibi can lead this country. In other words, there are even people who disagree with Likud but won’t give up on Bibi. In other words, you can dispute a Torah interpretation, you can have a war between the Gur Hasidim and the right-wing Yamina alliance, but you can’t dispute the existence of God.

God can’t be put on trial because he’s infallible. So it doesn’t matter who the next coalition partners are. The battle over Netanyahu’s political life, his evading the courts and remaining at the Balfour Street residence, will be the yardstick for forming the next government. The public will no longer be relevant. It ended its role by casting a vote, perhaps giving Netanyahu the mandate to form a government.

Everything will now be mobilized to fight the threat. Any deal, budget clause or covert or overt financing will depend on only one thing: immunity or not. It’s simple: Withholding immunity means betraying a constituency that believes that only Bibi can run this country. This is the answer anyone aiming to join a unity government will get, be it Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi, Yair Lapid or Amir Peretz.

As Netanyahu will put it: Friends, a secular or religious state, messianic or fascist, all this is trivia. First, sign the immunity agreement.

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