Struggles in Israel’s coalition return Netanyahu to the public eye

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decided last week to host a party for coalition deputies and their spouses to reward them for their work in the Knesset ahead of the upcoming state budget marathon vote. week.

They will enjoy a good meal on Friday at Modi’in’s Ha’ahuza wedding hall and some Netanyahu jokes from comedian Adir Miller, who was once a regular guest on Lapid’s TV show.

But the many fights that have escalated in the coalition since the rally began planning are no laughing matter.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli can no longer hide her animosity for Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Lapid, neither of whom she believes understands the depth of the damage done to Israel among American progressives by the construction of settlements and the designation of organizations. Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist groups.

Michaeli lived among these American progressives during the month she left to be with her new baby and got to know them better, further infuriating her at Gantz’s decisions and Lapid’s acquiescence. For her, it is more personal now than before.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post’s annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem on October 12, 2021 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI / MAARIV).

Like Michaeli, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is much more outspoken in her criticism of her coalition colleagues in private conversations, when she does not realize that it has been recorded. The tape released by Channel 12 of its criticism of Lapid and Gantz on Wednesday night is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Bennett made an effort to downplay the fighting within his faction on Wednesday. But there, too, the reality is much worse than it has appeared. Deputy Minister Abir Kara, who fell out with deaf MP Shirley Pinto, is despised by Yamina’s colleagues, whom he called a “party of idiots,” in part because of his refusal to resign from the Knesset as part of Norwegian law. .

Will the salmon they eat together in the wedding hall restore love between the coalition ministers and deputies?

It’s unlikely, but again, good food has had that effect before.

POLITICIANS KNOW how to use food to improve their image. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was caught eating at Nobu, an extremely expensive fish restaurant on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, with Oracle founder Larry Ellison who is a witness in their corruption cases.

What better way to balance that hedonism and make him look like a man of the people than by sending him to Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda Market on Tuesday to buy a falafel?

Netanyahu’s visit to the Levy Brothers falafel stand at the entrance to the market lasted just five minutes. Unlike previous visits, he did not go to the market, examine the products, or speak with the vendors or customers. There are no witnesses that he even tasted the falafel he bought, although his associates said he liked that particular falafel stand before entering politics.

But he smiled at his adoring fans, who chanted “Bibi, King of Israel” and “Bennett, go home,” and made his presence felt.

It was important for Netanyahu to make up for a report the night before that he had mistakenly bragged about being mugged by sympathizers when he went to get a haircut in Jerusalem. A video of him in front of Yaniv Malka’s hair salon on Bethlehem Road showed that they were actually just a couple of people.

Netanyahu’s associates said the swarm occurred moments later, when he approached his car, and the opposition leader was upset that it was not caught on video.

“When he doesn’t go out to the public, they say he disappeared, and when he comes out, he also faces criticism,” complained a Netanyahu associate. “Enjoy the contact with the public. Now that the threat from the coronavirus is less, we can let people touch it again. “

More public events are planned, starting with an event that was held on Thursday to inaugurate the new hippodrome amphitheater in Beit She’an. But Netanyahu remains cautious. He canceled plans to take the train from Haifa to Beit She’an with ordinary citizens.

Both the racecourse and the Haifa-Beit She’an train line were planned and built during his tenure, which could make local residents appreciate it. But there is always the risk of being disturbed when it is made public.

These events are meant to show that at 72, Bibi still has it. They also send a message that Netanyahu is not going anywhere, at least for now.

Netanyahu has met in recent weeks with future Likud leadership candidates Nir Barkat, Israel Katz and Miri Regev, denying rumors they helped spread that he intends to resign after the budget is approved. state.

The meeting with Barkat was intentionally on the porch of the Knesset cafeteria to make sure they were seen together. Katz’s meeting was quickly reported with pictures on Netanyahu and Katz’s social media accounts.

“We want people to know that we are focusing on replacing Bennett, not Bibi,” Katz said.

BUT MKS at the Likud still said this week that Netanyahu has one foot out the door. They said that since returning from Hawaii, he has missed key Knesset votes and allowed Likud deputies to pair up to miss out on plenary votes rather than remain a militant opposition.

They continued to push the theory that Netanyahu will surprise by announcing his immediate departure shortly after the budget is approved.

“Until the last day, Bibi won’t say he’s leaving, because he doesn’t want to be a lame jerk,” said a Likud critic of Netanyahu. “He knows the second he hints he’s leaving, they’ll eat him alive.”

Sources close to Netanyahu said that as far as they know, that couldn’t be further from the truth. They stressed that the opposition leader’s return to the public was due to the absence of COVID-19 and not to any of the future Likud leadership candidates, not even Yuli Edelstein, the only MP willing to run for the leader. of the Likud before post-Netanyahu. the era begins.

“It hasn’t happened so far because of the crown, not because of Yuli or any other non-crown adversary,” said a Netanyahu associate.

The other reason for Netanyahu’s return was to show that he has support precisely when the coalition is going through tough times. Ironically, if Netanyahu had some secret plan to leave, it is the divisions in the coalition that could persuade him to stay.

Ra’am (United Arab List) chief Mansour Abbas revealed to the Knesset how close he was to reaching an agreement to join a Netanyahu-led government. Likud MP Yoav Kisch wrote a speech that Netanyahu was to deliver justifying the association, and it was possible that Abbas had partnered with Netanyahu, allowing him to remain in power.

Abbas is now aligned with the anti-Netanyahu camp. But it could roll back if the price is right and the current coalition crumbles.

“The Americans will try to open a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem soon, which will only further divide the coalition,” said a Netanyahu associate. “After the budget passes, the ideological tension will come out more and more. The only question is how intense it will be. ”

The cliché has been that Netanyahu is the glue that holds the coalition together and prevents it from breaking apart. Now it could be the cracks in the coalition that are holding the glue together. •

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