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Israel Election: The Five Factors Determining Netanyahu's Fate

The Israeli Arab voting rate, Netanyahu's lies about leaked recordings taking aim at Benny Gantz, the judges in the cross-hairs and other things to consider as voting begins

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud emergency meeting in Airport City, March 1, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud emergency meeting in Airport City, March 1, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

* Three words, that might be considered clichés but unfortunately have never been more true, will determine the results of this election: Voter turnout and trends. If we are to believe Likud, the momentum that began two weeks ago is continuing, the force is increasing, and victory is within reach. On the other hand, Kahol Lavan is claiming that they stopped hemorrhaging seats toward the end of last week, and that enthusiasm in their camp is growing as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they say, as disgusting as he is, has lit up both voter bases, his and theirs.

Bibi went gunning for his only real rival

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There’s another voter base that’s disturbing Netanyahu, no less than the Kahol Lavan strongholds: the Israeli Arab community. On Monday, we will know if that deceitful horror video that Likud’s leader posted five years ago will come true. Will Israel’s Arab citizens, as he warned, flock to the polls in droves, by bus or on foot? Because if so, then the rule of the right (that is, the rule of the one man who’s permitted to define what and whom is “the right”) is indeed at risk.

* The final chord in the deluge of recordings that have been flooding the television studios this past week was supplied Sunday by Ilana Dayan on Channel 12: A rogues’ conversation in which the “recording rabbi,” another person, and the prime minister can be heard discussing the recording in which campaign strategist Yisrael Bachar expresses his opinion of his employer, Benny Gantz, and how to release it to the media.

Netanyahu’s remarks aren’t clear, but from the responses of the other two one can understand that he is pressuring them not to distort Bachar’s voice. In other words, to degrade, humiliate and destroy the man. On Saturday, in a series of interviews, Netanyahu denied having spoken with Rabbi Guy Habura about the recording, of which he claimed he’d been unaware. Another lie exposed.

An Arab man votes in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel, March 2, 2020. Credit: AFP

Again, there’s no nice way to say this, but in his efforts to avoid his fate, defendant Benjamin Netanyahu is acting like a mob boss. The lies are the least of the offenses that can be attributed to him. Let’s just say we wouldn’t be bowled over if it turns out that he engineered this whole plot from beginning to recording, dragging a man going through a personal crisis to a charlatan rabbi who'd put words in his mouth and extract a statement from him defaming his opponent. “Cosa Balfour,” the official residence of the national mafia, in all its glory.

* In this godly riot that has raged here it is worth listening to one politician: Avigdor Lieberman. He has promised voters to prevent a fourth election. Not in the prophetic or reassuring tone that he used when he promised the same thing before the September election; this time he is presenting it as an ironclad guarantee.

It could be that he’s missed the boat, and the right-wing, ultra-Orthodox block will get 61 seats. But if not, Lieberman has declared he will “take action,” as he said Sunday, to make sure there is no fourth round. “Last time, I promised that we’d only join a unity government, and I kept my word. Now I’m promising that to the degree it’s dependent on us, we will not have a fourth election campaign.” And when you hear him, morning and night, talking about how Netanyahu is finished and issuing a sweeping personal veto on joining a government led by him, one can assume in which direction he's headed.

* Natan Eshel is not to Netanyahu what Yisrael Bachar was to Gantz. The man who photographed under women’s skirts and who was ejected from public service in shame is not just any “close associate.” For nearly two decades he was the uber-loyalist, the top confidant, the No. 1 envoy and macher.

The Netanyahus’ aides and associates are replaced as regularly as the sterile laundry bags in the missus’ drawers. But not their Natan. He is always there. A member of the Netanyahu household in Balfour and in Caesarea. Feeding them information, running errands. He’s been a shoulder to rage on and served as a psychologist as needed. When he praises Likud’s campaign of hate and says it is aimed at “non-Ashkenazim who hate everything,” he is speaking on behalf of his master. And the master's wife, of course.

Netanyahu and Eshel at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, August 6, 2018Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

* Netanyahu’s most significant slips of the tongue occur on Saturday night, after quality family time, which is known as “the Caesarea pressure cooker.” Before the last election it was “What? Of course not!” when asked if he would seek parliamentary immunity. On Saturday night, on “Meet the Press,” he committed another faux pas, when he demanded that the judges who will be hearing his case prove they aren’t leftists.

What didn’t Netanyahu do to get his trial held in Jerusalem District Court, rather than in Tel Aviv? “In Jerusalem the judges go to synagogue; in Tel Aviv, to the Philharmonic,” Haaretz's Gidi Weitz quoted him as saying recently. And here, there are (three) judges in Jerusalem, and he’s still not satisfied. He has to incite against them as well – and that, too, is the result of spending Shabbat in the bosom of his family.

Netanyahu’s paranoia tank doesn’t need too much fuel. Two drops and the panic is racing at 100 kilometers an hour. His environment feeds it regularly, particularly the other two-thirds who fulfill the task of prime minister – his wife and son Yair. When he arrived to the studio tired and was asked about his upcoming trial, we got to hear the headline from the family’s Shabbat table.