A Year Of Political Gridlock And Legal Troubles Finally Damage PM Netanyahu’s Aura Of Political Invincibility

Like Julius Caesar, Netanyahu belongs to that rare class of transcendent political leaders who can only be defeated by being stabbed in the back

The ruins of Masada, the place of the last armed Jewish resistance before the modern Zionist movement reminds us of the consequences of internal disloyalty and strife
Copyright: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia

As Israel is entering the last 48-hour stretch before the current Knesset automatically dissolves on Wednesday and a new election is called, the leaders of Blue and White and the Likud are engaging in yet another round of useless political posturing whose only objective it would seem is the desire to place the blame for the political gridlock squarely on the other party’s shoulders.

Blue and White second in command made the meaningless gesture of “agreeing” to not seek the Prime Minister post, a post he would never have gotten anyway, while the leader of the party, Gantz yet again invited Netanyahu to shed his political bloc of right and religious parties, a bloc to which he owes his entire political career. Netanyahu responded by trying once more to shame the leader of the secularist Israel Beitenu party, Avigdor Lieberman to return home to the religious right bloc and form a religious right government before the clock runs out.

The only meaningful decision that emerged from the Israeli political scene in the last few days was a unanimous agreement between the two largest factions in the current Knesset, Blue and White and the Likud, to hold the new third in a row election on March 2nd, 2020. Since together the two parties have more than enough votes for a majority vote, this date seems to be all but written in stone.

A more interesting development seems to be taking place in the religious-Zionist movement. Traditionally, this highly ideological movement, committed as it is to keeping the entirety of Judea and Samaria, where most of their voters reside, firmly under Israeli control was the most natural and loyal partner in Netanyahu’s religious-right coalition. Recent events as reported by the site www.srugim.co.il, a site dedicated to covering the religious-Zionist community, show that major fissures are opening in the loyalty that members of this community feel towards the longest serving right-wing prime minister of all time, Mr. Netanyahu.

In a recent event hosted by the newspaper Makor Rishon, which is also affiliated with the religious-Zionist movement, Blue and White leader Mr. Gantz was warmly received, while a lone protester was removed from the audience. A lively online debate followed between diehard Netanyahu’s supporters and those in the religious-Zionist community who seem to have had it with the incumbent PM’s leadership. Such a debate would have been unthinkable only short ten months ago when Mr. Netanyahu was about to form a stable majority government with the religious, religious-Zionist, and right wing secularist parties. Avigdor Lieberman’s last minute refusal to participate in such a coalition thrust the country into the purgatory of political gridlock, gridlock that according to all the polling will not be resolved by the March 2nd election.

While ten months ago Mr. Netanyahu’s political career seemed to be at its apogee and his holding on to the highest leadership position in the Jewish state all but inevitable, today his twin auras of political invincibility and inevitability as the prime minister are all but gone. In head to head polling between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz when asked who Israelis would prefer as their prime minister, the two men are tied within the margin of error and it would seem that the country is getting used to the idea of a change at the top.

Still, one is left questioning the wisdom, moral, and ethical attributes of those in the religious-Zionist movement who are so quick to abandon Mr. Netanyahu in his hour of need. There can be little question that among all those who have the slightest chance of occupying the prime minster’s office, Mr. Netanyahu has by far the strongest track record of defending and developing the Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem and based on this record alone he should be able to command the loyalty of those who pledge their lives to the idea that these ancestral crucibles of our nation must never again be ceded to our enemies.

It would seem though that this point of view is eroding within the religious-Zionist community in Israel. Should those members of that critical segment of the Israeli voting public who choose expediency and self-promotion over ideological conviction and sense of duty prevail, Mr. Netanyahu may well be forced to surrender his position at the helm of the Jewish state. If that is indeed the case, one must wonder what those who betrayed Mr. Netanyahu will say when their very homes are in danger of being surrendered forever to their sworn enemies, the Palestinian Arabs, by the new government they helped elect.

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