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Chaos, Not Netanyahu, Returns to Israel's Leadership

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Former Israeli prime minister and current leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Former Israeli prime minister and current leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.Credit: Menahem KAHANA / AFP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The governing coalition is in terrible shape. The Yamina party is crumbling into dust, and its partners, who dedicated their lives to ousting former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, see Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as increasingly unable to control his own party.

One Yamina Knesset member fled with her husband in the dead of night. A second has issued ultimatums on every possible issue. Soon, a third will condition his support for the party’s leader on getting rid of the August heat wave.

When people are in love, they don’t see anything but beauty and splendor. When they aren’t, they see nothing but flaws and failures. What can you do? This is the embarrassing truth: The prime minister’s party doesn’t want to be a member of his government. It’s a problem.

His success in getting lawmaker Idit Silman to switch sides, a stunning betrayal, filled Netanyahu’s limp sails. Instead of being relegated to the courtroom’s hard wooden benches and listening to his once submissive employees describing the royal family’s caprices, Netanyahu has returned overnight to his status as the evil sorcerer his fans so adore. This was Bibi at his best – inciting, dividing, crossing boundaries, sabotaging, exploiting and, above all, beating up his rivals with gleeful brutality.

After long months of loud but meaningless yowling, sparsely attended demonstrations and a despondent mood, his fans’ pride has been restored. They have also recovered hope that even sooner than they expected, they are going to regain power.

The mirror image among the camp that hates Netanyahu is, of course, one of gloom, grief and above all, terrible fear. Gray with dread, people are sending each other yellow emojis asking, “He’s back???”

But both sides ought to realize that it isn’t Netanyahu who’s back, it’s political chaos. Bibi’s fans, like intoxicated fish or carefree doves, forget that while this government will have trouble functioning and lasting out its term, Netanyahu also couldn’t manage to form a government for three years (aside from the unity government with Benny Gantz, which would be very hard to call functional).

Assuming that at some point, the Joint List intends to curtail its tacit assistance to a prime minister responsible for the worst incitement against Arabs in Israel’s history, Netanyahu needs no fewer than seven additional deserters from the governing coalition to form a government in the current Knesset. If, regrettably, he manages to topple the government and dissolve the Knesset, the people who absconded to him from Yamina will bring him, maybe, the votes of their own families (they may not understand this, but Silman, Amichai Chikli and Nir Orbach are currently at the height of their political power).

There’s no sign that when the next election takes place, the balance between the blocs will be substantially different than it was before. After even the most radical of solutions – having the Islamic Movement join forces with the Kahanists – failed, what novel idea can Netanyahu offer now? Appointing Labor Party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli as queen of the night? Sending Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz into space?

Israel has been sentenced to repeated elections devoid of breakthroughs, an unprecedented crisis of politics and governability whose harm is hard to overstate. This is the reality that both blocs refuse to recognize. And it will continue to be the case until Netanyahu departs from our lives.

Netanyahu is celebrating now not because he’s about to return to the Prime Minister’s Office – though of course he believes that office is registered under his name in the Land Registry – but because if the country degenerates into a routine of serial elections, he’ll be in a better position to negotiate a plea bargain. If his fans want to celebrate that together with him, we won’t stand in their way. But effectively, that’s all this is about.

Somewhere beyond the mountains of blunders, there’s a small, miserable, crazy place where all the idiots who have eulogized Netanyahu over the years are wandering about. I was always afraid of going there, but I’m ready to take the risk now: He won’t return to the Prime Minister’s Office.

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