Opinion

Netanyahu Is Only Focused on Survival. The Rest Is a Facade

The prime minister is performing his governmental duties as if they're incidental, and we are all paying for that

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a map of the Middle East during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, February 18, 2018.
LENNART PREISS/AFP

Supposedly everything is fine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing what’s expected of him at the Munich Security Conference. He attacked Iran for daring to act against us from Syria, and even criticized the Polish prime minister for trying to rewrite the history of the Holocaust. A day earlier the premier confirmed the Israel Air Force attack in Gaza, and this week he brought the 2019 budget for Knesset approval.

In other words, everything is fine, it’s business as usual and the prime minister is functioning as usual. The police recommendations to prosecute him for bribery aren’t affecting his work, nor are the latest arrests of his associates in the Bezeq-Walla affair, nor even the report that he himself is a suspect in this affair too.

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But the truth is just the opposite. Benjamin Netanyahu is really not functioning as usual. His associates say he is entirely focused on one subject: survival. All the rest is a facade. He is well aware that if he is indicted, not only will he be forced to resign but he’s liable to end up in prison. That’s why he is devoting most of his time and energy to investigations, testimony and his line of defense versus the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office. He is performing his governmental duties as if they’re incidental, and we are all paying for that.

Everyone can also see that Netanyahu is bleeding. And like sharks that smell blood and bite into their prey while it is still alive, the same is true of the politicians who exploit any weakness until it’s hard to decide who is crueler, they or the sharks. Donald Trump, for example, wouldn’t have spoken in such an insulting way, saying through a White House spokesman that Netanyahu simply lied in his remarks regarding annexation of the territories, if he didn’t sense the extent of Netanyahu’s weakness.

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have condemned him for invading Syrian air space, without even mentioning the invasion by the Iranian drone, were he not aware that the prime minister is in trouble. And even his new friend Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, wouldn’t have rushed to visit the Palestinian Authority, placed a wreath on Yasser Arafat’s grave and called him “one of the greatest world leaders” if he didn’t know the countdown on Netanyahu’s tenure has begun.

The same is true of the local sharks. Education Minister Naftali Bennett wouldn’t have dared say of Netanyahu that “receiving gifts on such a large scale for so long does not meet the expectations of the citizens of Israel” if the prime minister’s position was strong. He also intends soon to submit a law for the imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank’s Area C, despite Netanyahu’s opposition.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon wouldn’t have dared submit a budget with such great deviations, such a dangerous deficit, without genuine reforms, without addressing productivity, without a battle against the large unions and without privatization – if Netanyahu were still strong. But Kahlon knows Netanyahu is afraid of him, that’s why he isn’t even bothering to keep him informed of his economic initiatives. Let him hear about the new large-scale reduction of taxes and customs charges in the media. Even in the battle for the reform of the Israel Electric Corporation Kahlon is about to beat Netanyahu, and we will get fleeced with a bad, expensive reform, which is another part of the price.

The Haredim are also lying in wait for Netanyahu. Although MK Moshe Gafni and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman hastened to express support for him immediately after the police recommendations were publicized, they are already planning how to continue their extortion. The billions they received in the budget, the torpedoing of the Western Wall plan and the so-called minimarket law aren’t enough for them. Soon they will submit the draft law, which will exempt every Haredi draft-dodger, and Netanyahu will be forced to swallow that too.

This week, when he was asked in Munich about the investigations against him, he replied that he had come there to handle diplomatic issues, not investigations. Come on. After all, when Ehud Olmert was investigated by the police, Netanyahu said “a prime minister who is up to his neck in investigations has no moral or public mandate to make such fateful decisions for the State of Israel.” Harsh words. All that’s left to add is that it’s no less important for us to have a prime minister who devotes all his time and energy to those same “fateful decisions,” and is not busy all day long with survival.