Netanyahu loses control

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Netanyahu loses control

Mesaj Scris de ion_pribeagu la data de Mar Oct 06, 2015 8:39 am

The political agenda of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the days prior to the opening of the Knesset winter session, was supposed to focus on debates over the state budget before it is put before the Knesset for approval.Prevailing political assessments from just before the current Jewish holiday season were that the coalition would get past the budget hurdle and the prime minister would benefit from at least a year of political tranquility, while the Zionist Camp would be left treading in place in the opposition. And so, with Netanyahu at a rather comfortable position, and while the opposition is losing its effectiveness, it seems that Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog is increasingly interested in joining the coalition. Indeed, this explains why, despite denials by Herzog, secret talks to form a unity government after the holidays have been underway. In such a scenario, Netanyahu would have to present a plan to relaunch negotiations with the Palestinians, and this could result in the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi Party leaving the coalition. At this point, it is still unclear how much Netanyahu really plans on doing that, but the fact that top Likud ministers have been dwelling on this scenario proves that it really is under consideration.
But when it comes to politics, plans have nothing to do with circumstances. The wave of terrorism sweeping across Judea, Samaria and especially Jerusalem over the past few days poses a challenge to Netanyahu’s government. In fact, it looks like the current coalition is facing its first major crisis. In other words, the budget isn’t the first hurdle that Netanyahu has to get over. It is seething pressure from the coalition’s right flank, led by HaBayit HaYehudi’s ministers and by Likud supporters on the ground, and prodded by criticism from the opposition, led by the chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
While in New York to deliver his speech before the UN General Assembly, and since Naama and Eitam Henkin were murdered on Oct. 1, Netanyahu has focused his efforts not only on containing the current wave of terrorism. He has also been contending with a political uprising on the right. He promised that the murders will not be ignored and placed the onus of responsibility on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, which he claims are involved in a campaign of incitement against Israel. But terrorism kept striking, and disturbing reports made their way to the United States one after the other. On Oct. 3, two more Israelis were killed by a Palestinian terrorist in the Old City of Jerusalem. A few hours later, a 15-year-old boy was stabbed.
At the same time, Netanyahu has been subjected to a harsh and well-orchestrated assault since Oct. 2 by his coalition partners from HaBayit HaYehudi. In interviews they gave one after the other, ministers Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel attacked Netanyahu’s policies. They renounced Netanyahu's commitment to the two-state vision (expressed in his 2009 Bar Ilan speech) — the same commitment that Netanyahu reiterated during his speech to the General Assembly just the day before.
HaBayit HaYehudi’s ministers have also come under political pressure recently. Their base is demanding a harsh response against terrorism, including more construction in the West Bank. This pressure on Bennett, Shaked and Ariel is being translated into criticism of the prime minister. On Oct. 2, Netanyahu watched as Shaked pummeled him in an interview on Channel 2, saying, “Right now, HaBayit HaYehudi isn’t leading the country. The prime minister is. He believes in a two-state solution, and we think that it would be a mistake. … We must keep building, without being ashamed. That was how Zionism established itself.” Netanyahu was incensed when he received reports that Bennett and Ariel had made similar comments — ministers he brought unwillingly into his government.
Just hours before he got on his flight back to Israel, Netanyahu was doing everything he could to restore calm in the political system. His inner circle has launched a counteroffensive against Bennett and Shaked (without naming them), unlike anything seen before in this current government. Remarks issued to the press by unnamed associates of Netanyahu included the following: “We are fed up with the cynical exploitation of the horrific attack by government ministers, just so that they can score political points from it and raise suggestions for actions that are already being implemented by the security forces. Some ministers are acting like a bunch of hotheaded teens [on their short-term military preparatory program, "Gadna"], posting their opinions on Facebook. They still don’t grasp the significance of being part of the government or the responsibility that comes along with it. You can’t be in the government and the opposition at one and the same time.”
While this was happening, there was a growing flood of reports that Netanyahu planned to hold security discussions with the director of the Shin Bet and the chief of staff even before the final holiday began on the evening of Oct. 4, and to convene his security Cabinet on the evening of Oct. 5, as soon as the holiday was over, so that they could discuss potential responses. Meanwhile, he has instructed Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz to begin constructing new roads to circumvent those areas most subject to attacks. These instructions, about which Katz himself informed the media, were intended to restore calm among the Israeli public, as were an announcement on progress being made in the investigation into the murder of the Henkin parents and a much-published wave of arrests in Nablus.
Netanyahu’s political strength derives from his image as “Mr. Security.” He thrives on his reputation as the mature adult in an inexperienced and childish political environment. He is, therefore, the first to realize that every terrorist attack makes him more vulnerable, publicly and politically. He is the first to realize that in times like this, right-wing voters could abandon him for the fringes, i.e., Bennett and Liberman. Furthermore, he has lost the fight over the Iranian nuclear threat, the foremost item on his security agenda over the past few years, and has nowhere to go to recruit the support of the masses.
Meanwhile, the growing feeling among the media and the public at large is that despite all the security forces’ denials, we are in the midst of a third intifada. With this mood prevailing, Netanyahu will quickly find himself fighting against a loss of support. In all the other election campaigns that he orchestrated, Netanyahu always stayed close to his political base on the right. This has become his political battle doctrine. Netanyahu believed that if he broke toward the center, he would lose power.
While Netanyahu isn’t in the midst of an election campaign, he is caught up against his will in his government’s first important political crisis. Now more than ever, the question is whether Netanyahu will go against his political instincts, throw HaBayit HaYehudi out of his government and replace them with the Zionist Camp. Both Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri are very interested in him doing just that. Netanyahu has another chance to change course and break center. For now, at least, there is no indication that he is anywhere near doing that.

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