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PM Netanyahu on the road to self-destruction

Op-ed: The prime minister’s sudden concern for the Israel Broadcasting Authority workers is completely false. The only rational explanation for his conduct can be found elsewhere—in the police investigations. But even if he does decide to resign and call elections, the Knesset doesn’t have to be dissolved, and the president can task a different MK with establishing a new government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo Gil Yohanan)

It happened to Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and other prime ministers: The fourth-term curse (It happened to David Ben-Gurion twice, in two separate rounds). The prime minister’s hold on the government is stronger than ever; he has gotten rid of his rivals in the party; he has emasculated the opposition; he assembled the government he wanted; the voters look to him and only him. He doesn’t know any other prime minister.

At this point, in children’s fairytales, the following sentence arrives: “And he lived happily ever after.” Not in politics. In politics, this point marks the beginning of a self-destruction process.

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Benjamin Netanyahu has many reasons to be satisfied. The economic situation in Israel is good right now, mainly thanks to the gas discoveries and the high-tech industry. There is growth and no unemployment. The economic prosperity and security calm have a positive effect on the state of mind on the street. Netanyahu is greeted respectfully in most of the world’s capitals.

On Sunday morning, he left for Beijing for his second visit this term. Last week he was in Moscow, and after he returns from China, he is expected to fly to Washington again. It’s true that the Chinese are a problematic partner, that the Russians are connected to our worst enemies and that the Trump administration is not as friendly as Netanyahu thought. The dreams about a crisis with Iran have vanished, and so have the dreams about a settlement on every hill. But the fact that he is travelling between these three world powers is an accomplishment in itself.

Moreover, the Likud is not just the ruling party—it is the river most competing political forces wish to flow into. Moshe Kahlon and his party; Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Naftali Bennett, Moshe Ya’alon—they are all Likudniks using other names. For better or for worse, the current government is the most solid government Netanyahu has ever had. It contains no ideological differences—the Haredim are having a ball with the unprecedented funds and exemptions they have received, and the others share the same value system. Occasionally, they fake a crisis. Such crises are born on WhatsApp and die on WhatsApp. All it takes is for the prime minister to intervene.

The most fallacious crisis is Netanyahu’s sudden concern for the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) workers. For years, the IBA was run as a corrupt, inflated and unnecessary institution under Netanyahu’s wings. He was in favor of shutting it down and establishing the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC) instead. He passed the law in the government and in the Knesset. Then he changed his mind, then he changed it again, and then again. Kahlon stood up against him not because he cares about the IPBC or because it affects his pocket, but because there is a limit to his willingness to be a doormat.

All this has nothing to do with the state’s real agenda. The IBA’s influence is small and insignificant, amounting to two hours of morning broadcasts on the radio, and the IPBC’s influence won’t be any bigger. The only rational explanation for his move can be found elsewhere—in the police investigations against him.

The acts of corruption Netanyahu is being questioned about will likely lead to a police recommendation to indict him. The investigation isn’t over yet. The attorney general is demanding more information. A decision on new elections will freeze and maybe even dissolve the investigation. Netanyahu will argue that the investigation is nothing but a left-wing plot. He will drag the right-wing voters, his party, his coalition members and the Israeli society into a new round, only two years after the previous elections. If he survives, he will argue that the investigation is unnecessary, as the people have already cleared him from any suspicion. And then he will put together the same coalition he is fed up with today.

Is this a predestination? Not necessarily. A prime minister’s resignation doesn’t have to lead to new elections. The lawmakers don’t have to decide to disband the Knesset. They can go to the president for consultations. The president can choose a different Knesset member and task him with establishing a new government. There are enough candidates, both from the Likud and from other parties. That’s the good thing about democracy: Even when the prime minister acts like the only player, he is not the only player.

By Ynet News



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