Netanyahu's Election-night Double Whammy

The prime minister won’t soon forget the night of November 6. It started with the election of his ex-bureau chief and current bitter rival as head of Habayit Hayehudi, and continued with the defeat of his friend Mitt Romney.

Benjamin Netanyahu will long remember the night between November 6 and 7, 2012, as the nightmare evening on which he suffered a caustic and humiliating political double loss. It began with Naftali Bennett’s election as the new chairman of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party and ended with President Barack Obama’s reelection and the defeat of Netanyahu’s old friend Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

The reader may find it humorous that Bennett and Obama appear in the same article, in the same paragraph (way to go, Obama!). But it’s not exactly a cause for laughter by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. For them, Bennett is an object of hatred -- especially for her. The talented high-tech millionaire happens to have served as the bureau chief of opposition leader Netanyahu in 2006-07. But he demonstrated too much independence when he dared to undermine and defiantly challenge Sara’s interference in bureau affairs. It goes without saying that Bennett was thrown out and was marked in the Netanyahu household as a bitter enemy high up on the political hit list.

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While Bibi has no problem reconciling with rivals and turning over a new leaf, Sara most decidedly does. She may soon be compelled to swallow the insult. Bennett could conceivably emerge from the upcoming elections at the head of a faction comprising seven or eight Knesset seats, and maybe even more if he links up with the National Union party. It is highly doubtful that Netanyahu would be able to do without these seats in his next coalition. He would be compelled to iron out his difficulties with Bennett, at which point all of us, in a paraphrase of the famous Uri Dan quip about Ariel Sharon, would be saying: “He who did not want him as bureau chief, got him as senior minister.”

As for Obama, there’s no need to say anything. The chilly and murky relationship between the current and next president and the current prime minister – who is also very likely to be the next prime minister – is well-known. Netanyahu gambled on Romney. Netanyahu’s bet did not come in. Netanyahu will pay the price. How high will the cost be? How painful will it be? Obama will decide, at the time and place of his choosing. If he decides to meddle in our election campaign in some fashion, no one could blame him. Bibi started it.

In the meantime, prepare for tomorrow’s mourning edition of the free daily Israel Hayom. Sheldon Adelson, the joint patron of Netanyahu, Romney and Israel Hayom, also placed a bad bet. Actually, one might have expected more from a man who made his fortune from casinos.

Having gotten through the U.S. elections, we can only wait for the overdue decision of two mothballed politicians, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Will Obama’s election be the push they need to enter the ring? Olmert is now in the U.S. This evening, Israel time, he is scheduled to deliver a major address at an important Washington think tank. Perhaps he will offer a clue to his own decision. The time has come.