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Naftali Bennett Can Be Israel’s Answer

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Defense Minister Naftali Bennett speaks on the phone at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 16, 2020
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett speaks on the phone at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 16, 2020Credit: Emil Salman
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

All the signs are there: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to hold an election. A (budget) trick here, a delay there, and an election is at the door – though now not in November, maybe in March. The goal: to prevent a rotation of the premiership.

How Trump demolished dishonest Netanyahu's non-denial denialCredit: Haaretz Weekly

If Benny Gantz becomes prime minister as the rotation agreement stipulates, Netanyahu’s corruption trial will continue. And so even if Kahol Lavan gets down on its knees regarding the budget, there will be an election. Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will be stripped of what’s left of their dignity, Kahol Lavan will crumble and Netanyahu can return with renewed vigor – that’s his plan and vision – to exclusive rule in a right-wing government.

Only in Israel. Even during an unprecedented economic crisis, and even though he’s the main person responsible for Israel’s high place on the list of countries with the worst coronavirus rates, in the opinion polls, all of them, the people prefer him by a large margin over the head of any other party. People can stamp their feet and let out their anger at protests on Jerusalem’s Paris Square. It won’t help. Netanyahu remains king of Israel.

Likud surveys show a slight decline, but the “camp,” the work of the devil, is actually gaining strength. Netanyahu is therefore certain that with a coalition of 62 to 64 Knesset members, he can keep maneuvering the political and legal system for his personal benefit.

He’s got the ultra-Orthodox in his pocket, as in the old days. On the right, Yamina leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are showing signs of disharmony, as always, but they’ll join a rescue government for the right price. The rescue of Netanyahu. As in the past, Bennett’s party will only win half the Knesset seats the polls predict for it, and the Likudniks who streamed toward him will return, also as in the past, to Netanyahu.

But even if Bennett only wins eight to 10 seats, Netanyahu is sure he can establish a right-wing government with him; that is, a Netanyahu government. The price he plans to pay: Bennett will return to the Defense Ministry, Shaked to the Justice Ministry (on condition that she overturns the evil corruption trial against him) and Bezalel Smotrich receives a key ministry such as finance, education or transportation. (At any of these posts, if I may add, he will function as he did when he was transportation minister, with impressive efficiency and statesmanship.)

But the small (for now) Yamina party isn’t only a political power that can crown Netanyahu once again, it’s also the only party on the right that can smash Netanyahu’s dreams and plans and remove him – as he deserves – from the premiership. And thus Yamina can restore basic political integrity and sanity to Israel. I have good reason to believe that these thoughts have constantly been going through the minds of Yamina’s three key figures.

However, the die probably hasn’t been cast. These three probably can’t release themselves from Netanyahu’s weight. They’re tied to him with bonds that only a psychologist can explain. This is also the case, and even more so, for many on the ideological right. Even though Netanyahu ceaselessly toys with them and misleads them in the ideological issues that are most important to them, so far they’ve always come back to him.

Bennett is a true patriot. He must stop wavering and raise the banner of revolt. The first step: Declare that if Netanyahu forces an election, no matter what the outcome, Yamina won’t join the government. And to show his determination, he must also declare himself a candidate for prime minister.

If he has the courage and wisdom to finally disengage from Netanyahu, it can’t be ruled out that in the not too distant future he will head a government that heals the wounds of division in the people. He can do it.

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