Netanyahu Is the Obstacle to a Right-wing Government

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister at the Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on December 5, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister at the Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on December 5, 2019. Credit: AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters on the right are making a double error, both moral-educational and political-utilitarian. Their main fear is that if he is no longer prime minister, the right will be defeated and the left will return to power. This is a total misunderstanding.

The truth is that only one person, Netanyahu, is preventing a different figure on the right from forming a government supported by 63 Knesset members – 67, if the lawmakers of Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem, part of Kahol Lavan, were to join. The center left (including Telem) has just 44 MKs today. That gives the right an astonishing lead of 19 Knesset seats.

Thus in the days remaining before the Knesset must dissolve, a stable right-wing government could be formed without Netanyahu. If political-security developments necessitated, Kahol Lavan — and even what remains of the Labor Party — would almost certainly eventually join it, creating the unity and reconciliation government Israel so badly needs.

Now to the moral-educational aspect. An important element of the support for Netanyahu on the right, including the ideological right, stems from his largely justified criticism of the judicial system. The right’s criticism of that system has grown due to the flood of leaks about Netanyahu’s cases, especially right before the election — crude political interference against Likud and its leader. The voting results proved they were quite effective.

The same goes for the right’s loathing of the media. In well-functioning states, where the press hasn’t lost its professionalism, the detailed investigations by Kalman Liebskind and others about the prosecution’s conduct would have generated follow-ups, like those in all media outlets after Carmela Menashe exposed the army’s false data on the Haredi draft.

Nevertheless, the moral expectation from the right, particularly the ideological right, is to rise above, to separate its crisis of confidence in the judiciary and the media from the findings regarding the prime minister’s moral conduct.

Bnei Akiva, perhaps the only one of the classic Jewish pioneer youth movements to have kept its sense of mission and of fulfillment, movements, holds its annual “Organization Shabbat” this weekend. Rabbi Haim Drukman has headed the movement’s institutions for many years. Yet last week, he sent an impassioned plea to his followers asking them to attend the pro-Netanyahu demonstration.

Many religious Zionists communities, including public intellectuals and well-known commentators, also argue that there was nothing criminal about Netanyahu’s behavior. Perhaps. But what about the moral aspect, the educational side? The personal example that a public servant has a duty to set?

Is the prime minister’s lifestyle, as disclosed in the investigation of Case 1000 (Netanyahu doesn’t deny having received valuable gifts from businessmen, he only claims there was nothing criminal about doing so), so proper, according to Rabbi Drukman’s system of educational norms, that it justifies calling on members of the youth movement to demonstrate in its behalf? Does the testimony of former Netanyahu aides Shlomo Filber and Ari Harow, both former Bnei Akiva members, not make him nauseous?

Instead, he and his supporters should have made an appeal that was the polar opposite: In the name of God, Benjamin Netanyahu, if you have a shred of a sense of responsibility left for the people, the state and the political bloc that you head, stop clinging to your job and let whoever will succeed you form a government, even if only at the last possible moment. This is what rabbis, political leaders, educators, intellectuals, public figures and media personalities on the right should all be demanding today.

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