Is the Netanyahu era over? As new election is officially called, poll after poll show that the Israeli right cannot with with him at the helm.
Yet another Israeli parliament dissolved itself Wednesday night, no single member having been able to gather the support of 61 members to form a government. The only law that this Knesset has passed was its own dissolution and the date for the next general election: March 2nd, 2020.
In the second largest Likud party, the date of December 26th was set for the primary challenge to its head and incumbent PM Netanyahu by former minister Gideon Sa’ar. This challenge, only days ago thought of as quixotic at best and spurious at worst, is being buoyed by a slew of recent public polls that predict historic defeats for the Likud party and the Israeli right in general if it runs again under Mr. Netanyahu’s banner.
The latest among these polls out just this morning is also the worst from Mr. Netanyahu’s perspective, giving the left-center-Arab coalition for the first time ever a 61 seat majority even without the swing faction of Avigdor Lieberman. In this poll, Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White is by far the biggest faction with 37 seats, while the Likud comes in a distant second with 31. Lieberman is rock-steady with his usual eight and so are the ultra-Orthodox parties, but the religious Zionist right loses seats and together the religious right bloc has its worst-ever showing with 51 seats, while the left-center-Arab coalition can form a government with best-ever 61 seats.
Should this poll hold, the ruling coalition would likely be Jewish left-center with 47 combined with Mr. Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu eight for 55 and one or both ultra-Orthodox parties. While Mr. Lieberman is an ultra-secularist as are many elements in Blue and While, the clarity of the popular mandate given to Mr. Gantz, the impossibility of a religious right government and the ridiculousness of a fourth election will combine to force the ultra-Orthodox into a secularist coalition where they will get much less than what they are used to, but much more than they would by moving to the opposition.
This poll results are particularly unkind to Mr. Netanyahu because they join other recent polls in showing his inability to lead the right to victory and maintain its hold on the centers of power in Israel. While Mr. Netanyahu is still favored to defeat the challenge to his leadership, it is likely to be much closer than could have been predicted just a few days earlier.
In other not unrelated news, the indictments against Mr. Netanyahu are being slowly exposed as just another political hit job by the recently retired overtly politicized Solicitor General Shai Nitzan. The political nature of the indictments is exposed by the suggestion, floated in the leftist circles in Israel, that should Mr. Netanyahu step away from politics, president Rivlin should grant him a full pardon. Since bribe taking and breach of public trust are serious crimes, why would anyone call for the virtual dismissal of the charges, had not these particular indictments been anything but the use of the judicial system for a political “regicide”?
What is clear is that the political wizard Netanyahu will need all his tricks as well as some new ones to get out of the political pickle in which he finds himself due to his enemies and his allies alike.
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