It was a rough nightmare that Avigdor Lieberman woke up from the morning after the election: He was defense minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government.
“Who needs that headache again?” he asked himself. “The generals despise me, they keep pulling out the argument that I’m only a private, that my word carries no weight, and that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, that guy I once threatened, will probably die of old age. That’s not for me. It’s even easier to be prime minister.”
So he made a fresh decision, turned over on his side and went back to sleep.
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When did Netanyahu realize that this was about to happen? We can assume that at first Lieberman’s behavior, which was typical of him, didn’t set off any warning lights. So Lieberman severed contact and flew to Vienna, big deal. Even the story that Kahol Lavan’s Yair Lapid had paid Lieberman a visit didn’t really disturb Netanyahu.
But slowly but surely the truth dawned on him, and then, suddenly, his blood froze and he started to tremble: Lieberman was about to bring him down. It wasn’t the bill to draft the ultra-Orthodox into the army, and it wasn’t the principles. Or as Likud spokesman Jonathan Orich put it later, “Lieberman wants to eliminate Netanyahu. All the rest is spin.”
Of course it’s not only Lieberman who wants that. Many people in the political world want to see Netanyahu bow out and disappear into the shadows. And maybe even Netanyahu himself is hoping for that, but at the moment it’s impossible. At the moment he has a personal mission: To extricate himself from his legal imbroglio that has put us at this inevitable moment.
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And when I say inevitable, I’m of course referring to the opposition, headed by the leaders of the Kahol Lavan party – the outfit that couldn’t win the election and couldn’t prevent the next one from coming, simply because it didn’t try.
In shock mingled with frustration, we observed this party’s nonexistence. Genuine political work in recent days required a team to conduct negotiations with everyone. It was a golden opportunity to apologize to the ultra-Orthodox to clear the air, to admit that Lapid was a political amateur and erred when he tried to build himself up by harassing this community, that the bill on the draft is of no importance, and that if the ultra-Orthodox join with Kahol Lavan, the party will meet their demands on this issue. Kahol Lavan should have signed agreements with as many parties as possible.
Instead of hearing several times a day how Kahol Lavan’s new legislators were being enticed to defect to Likud, we should have been flooded with pictures of the party’s Gabi Ashkenazi in secret meetings with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and of Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz sharing a sandwich with Likud star Gideon Sa’ar. Instead of hearing about Netanyahu’s promises to everyone, we should have been hearing what Kahol Lavan's people were offering Kulanu chief Moshe Kahlon.
On the night of the first of the three votes needed to dissolve the Knesset, they should have demanded, in accordance with the Basic Law on the Government, that the president give them the mandate to try to form a coalition. They should have even gone to the High Court of Justice if he refused. But that’s Kahol Lavan, and with all due respect to its generals, that party doesn’t have what it takes to fight real wars.
And still, a certain opportunity has been created and someone should exploit it. All of Netanyahu’s cards are on the table. His lies are an open secret, it’s clear he intends to save his skin via the so-called override bill that would prevent the High Court from overturning Knesset legislation. It would be less effective to invent again something like the Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone, but there’s no reason to assume that this round will be any saner.
On the contrary. The insanity level will only rise, and only a genuinely crazy person has a chance to achieve a Big Bang. So this is the opportunity for Ehud Barak, who has been warming up on the sidelines. He’s the only one capable of disturbing Netanyahu’s equanimity and handling the incomprehensible mission of defeating him. The center-left should invite him to join the fray – and the sooner the better.