Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz Is Backing Down. There’s a 99% Certainty Israel Is Going to Election
The most frustrating week for the heads of Kahol Lavan – the four in the comfort of the so-called cockpit, and also the rest, stuck in the passenger section – followed the attorney general’s decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases. They’d expected drama, inflamed passions, an earthquake. But instead of the masses beating a path to their door and bearing them on their shoulders to the government compound as victors entering the gates of the city, they encountered a chilling reality.
For example, after MK Gideon Sa’ar urged that a primary be held for Likud leader, Kahol Lavan was deluged with pleas: sign with him, help him, Sa’ar will be able to form a government in two days. And after it was reported that fellow Likudnik Yuli Edelstein, the Knesset Speaker, was contemplating the possibility of recruiting 61 MKs to support him as prime minister, the wave surged again: Go with Yuli, he’s all right, too.
It was then that the Kahol Lavan leaders came to the dispiriting realization that for many of their supporters, they are only the “messiah’s donkey,” those who will do the dirty work for others – by providing the most effective means, indeed the only means, to be rid of Netanyahu – but not necessary to supplant him. They play offense but are not necessarily the ones who score the goal. Kahol Lavan’s voters, some of them at least, are not willing to lay down their lives to see party leader Benny Gantz take the oath as prime minister. As far as they’re concerned, it’s perfectly fine for Gantz to be foreign minister or defense minister in a Likud-led government – so long as Netanyahu goes.
But the hopes, or the apprehensions – depending on the person – were all dashed forever Thursday. MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), founder of the higher academy of trolling, practitioner of sleight of hand, buried the narrow-government option (in an interview with the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth). It never really was in the cards, but Lieberman, in his charming way, had threatened to deal such a hand during the past week. Suddenly we heard about members of his Knesset faction “demanding” that he renege on his promise and enter a rightist-ultra-Orthodox, delusional-messianic government.
This was the first time we had heard about independent positions being taken by members of Yisrael Beiteinu that didn’t end with expulsion from the party. Afterward, it was “learned” that deputy heads of local authorities from Yisrael Beiteinu had approached their party leader with an identical “demand.” These transparent tricks were marketed to the public in all seriousness, as though an insurgency was about to occur in a party whose insularity is second only to the ruling party of North Korea or to Yesh Atid. To inject a little credibility into this play, Lieberman himself wondered “which is worse, an election or a narrow government?”
So we’re headed for an election. It’s a 99-percent certainty. Unity is passé. Gantz will not back down. Netanyahu will not back down. The regime in the Balfour Street residence has been pushing for an election for a long time. They believe in playing for time. A third election could even spawn a fourth election. Throughout this whole period, the prime minister has been the prime minister of a transition government. He’s blocked, but is also blocking. He will not be budged.
In April-May we thought that a second election was madness, simply ungraspable – but it was grasped. In September-October we said, and also wrote, that there’s no possible scenario, no way there will be a third election. Well, the lights in the hall have gone down, the trailers are whizzing by on the screen, the cellphones are muted and eyes are wide shut. Wait for it.