Liquidation Sale

Activists protest Netanyahu's indictment in front of the Attorney General's office, October 29, 2019
Motti Milrod

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, entrenched within the right-wing bloc, has refused to recognize defeat and is firing in all directions. After failing to rally the public behind the idea of a direct election for the prime minister as an alternative to a third general election, he has pulled a new rabbit out of his tattered magician’s hat.

Reports of the meetings between Hayamin Hehadash Chairman Naftali Bennett and the heads of Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, combined with the talks on forming a government comprised of Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Labor Party, bolstered Netanyahu’s fear of cracks in his fortified political wall. To thwart the possibility that Kahol Lavan would woo Hayamin Hehadash, with its three sought-after Knesset seats, into its camp, Netanyahu was left with no option but to offer a man he has long loathed an upgraded political alliance.

Thus on Friday, we learned that the prime minister plans to make Bennett defense minister in his transitional government while merging Bennett’s party with his own Likud. The appointment is a clear sign of the pressure Netanyahu is under and his panicked modus operandi in situations like this. The same Netanyahu who previously diagnosed Bennett as “childish and irresponsible” is now giving him responsibility for Israel’s security.

It’s hard to believe that a man who was thrown out of the Knesset in April together with his political partner, Ayelet Shaked, when Hayamin Hehadash failed to cross the electoral threshold, resulting in both of them being fired in disgrace from their respective posts as education minister and justice minister, has now managed, with a three-seat party, to extort one of the most important cabinet positions from Netanyahu.

Earlier last week, Bennett rejected Netanyahu’s offer of the agriculture, labor or Diaspora affairs portfolio and a seat in the inner cabinet. “There’s no need for that,” Bennett said. But 13 days before Gantz’s mandate to form a government expires, the liquidation sale of Israel’s assets is at its height and prices have gone through the floor. Why settle for a junior cabinet position when the jewel in the crown – the Defense Ministry – can be bought for a song?

Netanyahu is making cynical and unfair use of government assets that he holds in trust as a transitional prime minister and treating them as his personal property. This is indeed a shining hour for political opportunists like Bennett. Gantz and other members of his bloc must reach out to anyone who understands the gravity of the situation and the severe damage being caused by Netanyahu’s desperate attempts to remain in power at any price. Anyone who understands this would be a worthy coalition partner — members of the predominantly Arab Joint List, Yisrael Beiteinu, the ultra-Orthodox parties or anyone who fears that the state’s future is being crushed beneath the heel of the man with no red lines who occupies the Prime Minister’s Office.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.