Let’s begin by saying loud and clear: Likud, including its subordinates, activists and voters, is still wholeheartedly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They still see him as the most glorious prime minister in Israel’s history, one who gets treated like royalty throughout the world, Israel’s measure of gold. Because of all this they believe he should be forgiven for his hedonistic, to understate it, way of life, even if it comes at the expense of others.
At the same time they also see him as their shield against the wicked elites, as the greatest social-change agent that ever arose in Israeli politics and the one who generated a historic cultural revolution.
After we’ve said that, and paid tribute to the demoralizing power of the Bibi-ist movement, which rules Likud and hence Israel as well, it’s important to point out another component in the Likud’s DNA, one that’s as strong as the mandatory attendance at the faithfuls’ bar mitzvahs and shivas. The Likudniks’ basic, healthy common sense says simply: We’ll go through fire and water for the man who brings us power.
This may be taking place only in private conversations for the time being, not in public Whatsapp groups yet, certainly not spoken of by senior party figures, a few of whom are preoccupied with flattery and most of whom are silent. But on the ground, a new direction is secretly emerging. For the first time in years, the intensity of the support for Netanyahu is declining.
For now Netanyahu is still seen as such a man, so divisions are ready to go to battle for him. But this assumption, which has survived for three consecutive terms, countless embarrassing family stories, investigations, state’s witness agreements and other ills, is now being put to the test for the first time.
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The main reason for this is the thick corruption allegations surrounding the Netanyahu government, which became much thicker after his mover and shaker, MK David Bitan, became embroiled in investigations into grave allegations. The avalanche of legislation intended to assault and weaken the law-enforcement system – the “French bill” banning the investigation of a price minister; and the “recommendations law,” intended to prevent publication of a juicy document detailing the evidence against Netanyahu – also strengthened the aura of corruption enveloping Netanyahu’s fourth government.
Apart from the feeling that he has something to hide, the mounting investigations have already shifted Netanyahu from the victim’s position – his electoral gold mine – to that of the hunter. This is a stance that weakens him among those who don’t automatically number among either his blind haters or supporters. According to the same Likud common sense, this could gnaw at his market value among the party’s constituents.
Another fundamental reason is the Roni Alsheikh malfunction, as reflected in the interview on “Uvda” (“Fact”). Even Likud voters, including the most devout, who are now cursing the police commissioner out loud, cannot escape the dissonance his figure poses. Alsheikh, who was appointed by Netanyahu, cannot be subjected to the same delegitimization as “the Petah Tikva loonies.” Alsheikh, who wears a broad kippa, grew up in Kiryat Arba and made a successful career in the Shin Bet from putting all sorts of Arabs out of commission, cannot fit the mold of the left-wing elitist hounding Netanyahu. No matter how much Dudi Amsalem tries, Alsheikh cannot be treated like journalists Amnon Abramovich or Ilana Dayan.
Publishing the police’s recommendations in the Netanyahu cases, more precisely the evidence behind them, is a crucial element that could tip the balance in Likud from blind support for Netanyahu to rejection of him.
Recommendations featuring details seen as gossip, that is, matters of cigars and Champagne, even if the high priced kind, will strengthen the old tendency and probably give Netanyahu another term in office. However, recommendations including graphic, documented details like the Talansky envelopes in the Olmert case will sway, for the first time in years, the Likud ship’s fixed course. Then, after they receive the right indications from the field, the Likud higher-ups will emerge from the trenches and start the battle for succession.