Is Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career over? – opinion

The trip was memorable for several reasons. At the time, the Israeli government warned its citizens not to fly abroad due to the start of the fourth corona wave.

Netanyahu ignored the warning and boarded a flight to San Francisco, the first time in 12 years that he flew a commercial flight. There were no charter planes or private jets. Yes, I had security with him, but he flew like a normal citizen.

One photo in particular told the whole story. It showed Netanyahu waiting in line at what looked like a check-in counter sitting in one of those Smart Carte baggage cars that you pay for at American airports. He didn’t seem happy.

Within the Likud, some members like Nir Barkat had a sense of what would happen when the Netanyahus arrived in Hawaii. A tech entrepreneur who made hundreds of millions before entering politics, Barkat had been to Hawaii twice with his family. He told some close associates at the time that there was no way Netanyahu was going back so quickly.

Israel’s opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing in the Knesset on July 26, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

He was correct. First, Netanyahu extended his trip. Then when he returned, his wife and son decided to stay a little longer. When the time came for Sarah to return to Israel, Yair still hadn’t had enough. I wanted a little more time in paradise.

It was, as Likud members later called it, the “Hawaii Effect.”

According to some, it has not yet completely disappeared. Netanyahu, these MPs say, is not the same as he was when Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid established the current government in June.

In those first few weeks, Netanyahu promised anyone who would listen that the new government would fall in a matter of weeks. When that didn’t happen, it became a matter of months. As recently as last week, he was still telling party members that there was a possibility that the government would fall before the state budget was passed.

This column is being written after the 2021 budget was approved this week and before the vote on the 2022 budget. Netanyahu and his associates have been trying for weeks to recruit a defector from the ranks of the so-called “coalition of change.” “to vote against the budget, but so far they have only failed. Netanyahu even had an embarrassing moment early Thursday morning when he, one of the three longest-serving MPs in the House, accidentally voted with the coalition in favor of one of the budget amendments.

But even without the budget, many in the Likud believe that Netanyahu has walked away from the parliamentary job expected of the Opposition leader.

Yes, he does give the occasional fiery speech against Bennett, but he has been known to skip voting and important faction meetings, and does not meet with foreign dignitaries visiting Israel. Now this could be his way of protesting the new government: By not meeting visiting dignitaries and heads of state, he is showing his contempt for the government that he and his supporters claim is illegitimate.

On the other hand, he is missing the opportunity to prove that he is still a statesman wanted by foreign officials. As head of the opposition, it is your right and according to protocol to request such meetings.

Whatever the reason, there are several senior members within the Likud who are hoping and praying that after the budget is approved, Netanyahu will finally step down. Besides the “Hawaii effect,” they are looking for other signs of this happening.

In two months, for example, the security equipment that Sara and her sons Yair and Avner have become accustomed to for the past 12 years will suddenly disappear. There will no longer be a car and security guards accompanying the Netanyahus on their trips abroad and on their travels through Israel.

And then there’s Netanyahu’s ongoing trial. On November 16, Nir Hefetz, a former senior Netanyahu aide and star state witness, will begin testifying in Case 4000, the bribery portion of the trial related to the Bezeq-Walla case. Despite Netanyahu’s protests, the trial is moving full steam ahead and the image of how he allegedly tried to manipulate coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits is coming together.

So if you wanted to try to make a deal, this might be the best time, because Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will step down in February.

The search for his replacement has already begun, and while the next attorney general will need to continue to monitor the trial, whoever gets the job will not be as interested in the outcome. Mandelblit, on the other hand, (even outside the Justice Ministry) knows that his legacy hinges on Netanyahu’s trial ending in a conviction.

It was his decision to impeach the former prime minister, and whatever happens in the case will determine his legacy. But your replacement will be less dedicated; He won’t care as much if Netanyahu is acquitted as Mandelblit.

Netanyahu knows this, and as a result, he might be inclined to work out a deal with Mandelblit now before he resigns in three months. Will? The option cannot be ruled out.

And this is where it could get really interesting. If Netanyahu suddenly resigns, the Likud will have to hold primaries in a couple of months to elect a new president.

Party insiders are expecting a long list of candidates, some have already announced that they will run, while others are still waiting behind the scenes. The main candidates are Nir Barkat, Israel Katz, Gilad Erdan, Miri Regev and Yuli Edelstein. Others, including Danny Danon, Tzachi Hanegbi and Avi Dichter, are expected to run, but their chances are considered slim.

The three hardest working right now are Barkat, Katz, and Edelstein. Barkat is using the vast sums of money he has and the loopholes in the electoral laws (as long as the primaries have not been called, there are no limits on the amount of private money a potential candidate can spend) and has hired a team of seniors. advisers and pollsters. .

Edelstein is also spending a lot of money, giving him an edge over other candidates. He has intensified activity within the party since he made his dramatic announcement a few weeks ago that he will run against Netanyahu and will not wait for him to resign as the rest of the candidates have said.

Erdan, who is leaving his post in Washington this month as Israel’s ambassador, will remain at the United Nations but is expected to return to Israel immediately if a primary race is called within the party. The past year has polished his diplomatic credentials, but has also distanced him from party members, with no weddings, bar mitzvahs or central committee barbecues, and he will have an uphill battle to take first place. However, Erdan is expected to run to secure a high position and reestablish his position within the group.

Katz is well connected within the party institutions, as well as when it comes to the “shetach”, the field of regular party members where he is popular and well received. This will give you a step forward in a future battle.

Many hope there won’t be a winner after a round of voting; Due to the crowded field of candidates, it is unlikely that someone will receive the necessary 40% of the vote. If so, there will be a second round between the two who win.

When a new president is elected, that will likely spell the end of the current government. There will not even be a need for elections. Under Israeli law, a constructive no-confidence motion, if passed, overthrows the current government and immediately installs a new one.

The breakdown will look like this: The religious Zionist bloc Likud-Shas-UTJ currently has 53 MPs. New Hope President Gideon Sa’ar has already said that the moment there is a new Likud leader, everything will be open again; and Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked has long been praying for a right-wing government. There will also be little need to convince Defense Minister Benny Gantz to leave the current coalition – he will not want to crown his nemesis, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, as prime minister, so he too will likely join a new coalition. led by Likud. .

Last but not least is Bennett, who would have to go back to being the leader of a group of six with all that goes with it, or not.

Will any of this happen? Nobody knows. But here’s what’s clear: Netanyahu’s trial continues, with each passing day reducing the chances that he will ever return. He knows this, as do his fellow party members and members of the Bennett-Lapid coalition. Passing the budget will help keep his government together, but they are still far from being revealed.

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