Bibi is one of the few politicians who has enemies on the right, left and in the center. And yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly finds ways to revive his political career. This time around pundits are convinced the much-hated politician is done for good. But will he really be ousted?
Netanyahu’s Likud party has barely stayed in office over the past four elections. But now a coalition of far right, centralist and Islamist party officials has reached a compromise that, pending a confidence vote in Parliament later this month, could see all three unite in a government not led by Netanyahu. The compromise is still all very fragile and could easily fall apart.
“The left is celebrating but it is a very sad day for the State of Israel,” Miki Zohar, a Likud member tweeted, saying the right-wing parties in the coalition “should be ashamed.”
The differing factions in Israel, all at odds with each other, thought a deal would never happen. Though Netanyahu had failed to win an overall majority himself, he held on to power by inflaming divisions within Israel’s scattered opposition. He essentially insured other factions would fail to build a majority coalition to oust him.
Yet, Naftali Bennett, leader of a hard-right political party, agreed to share power with Yair Lapid, a centrist, and Mansour Abbas, an Islamist, which would finally send Netanyahu packing. These main players in the latest twist in Israeli politics have very different agendas, but one common goal: to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
To secure Bennett’s involvement, Lapid even gave him first go at the premiership, though Lapid’s party won 10 more seats than Bennett’s. “Lapid gets the most credit here out of everyone,” said Mitchell Barak, a political analyst and pollster, told the told The New York Times. “He’s really pulling all the strings here, and he’s the one who’s compromised, personally, many times.”
So what changed since a fourth inconclusive election in March? A combination of things. Netanyahu himself played a crucial role in his own demise, driving apart former far-right allies and causing angst with his refusal to step down while facing trial on corruption charges. Also, after a long period of polarizing politics and Israeli government paralysis, the architects of the coalition have pledged to get Israel back on track.
Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist with a long history of reporting on Israeli politics, wrote that to understand the political drama going on in Israel one needs only to understand one thing: Netanyahu makes his enemies even angrier than Donald Trump makes his.
Just like Trump, Friedman wrote, Netanyahu’s main political strategy for winning elections has been to foster an intense personality cult and try to gain and hold power with slim majorities by dividing Israel along as many lines as possible — in his case, primarily Jews versus Arabs, left versus right, religious versus secular and patriots versus traitors.
And just like Trump, Friedman added, Bibi did not stop at red lights. He was perfectly happy to undermine Israel’s democratic institutions, the press and the rule of law — anything that could restrain his quest to retain power after 12 years in office.
Netanyahu continues to be, wrote Friedman, “ready to take Israeli society to the edge of civil war to hold on to power, which is why Israel is at a delicate moment and the process of forming a post-Netanyahu government is far from over. Before the fragile, incredibly ideologically diverse ‘change coalition’ that has come together to oust Netanyahu is sworn in, which may not be until June 14, Bibi and his political cult followers will ruthlessly use every trick in the book — and out of the book — to stop this transition of power.”