Netanyahu’s conditional indictments barely moved the needle and center-right bloc is still clinging to a narrow lead in the polls
Latest polling data published by walla.co.il shows that if anything Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party not only kept their electoral strength, but even increased it somewhat. That being said, Blue and White, the newly cobbled together party of the center-left is still projected to be the biggest faction in the Knesset with 36 seats out of 120 total, with the Likud coming in second with 31 seats.
The coalition bloc picture is stable, with the center-right bloc maintaining a slim majority with 61 seats, while the center-left bloc, completes the picture with 59 seats. The difference, however, is more start than these number suggest, because the center-left bloc of 59 seats includes nine that are held by the union of Arab parties, all of which reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
While it is undoubtedly true that the Arab party will recommend to President Rivlin to task Benny Gantz as the head of Blue and White, the biggest faction in the Knesset, to form the government, they can only support it from the outside. The reason for that is simple: Arab members of Knesset are self-avowed terrorist sympathizers and thus a security risk. As such, they cannot be part of government at any level.
Netanyahu’s position is further strengthened by the pronouncements by his coalition partners with respect to his conditional indictments for bribery and breach of public trust. In their responses to the indictments, Likud’s coalition partners have expressed no qualms in recommending to the president tasking Netanyahu with forming the government until such time as he is actually indicted. Since the hearing that will determine whether the indictments are finalized and Netanyahu’s case proceeds to trial will not be held until several months after the election, there is no reason why the president of Israel should not be able to task him with forming the government if the majority of the Knesset members recommend that he do so.
Netanyahu, on his part, acted to reassure his partners in the Likud and outside of it that should he fail to quash the indictments and be headed for trial, he will be able to resign and allow another Likud leader to take the reigns of government. He did so by publicly shaking the hand of Gideon Sa’ar, Number 3 in the Likud’s list for the Knesset and an ex-government minister with whom Netanyahu has had a long and nasty feud. With this very public handshake, performed as it was at the official kickoff of the Likud’s election campaign, Netanyahu signaled that if he has to step down to await his trial, he will not stand in Sa’ar’s way to assuming the mantle of the Prime Minister, should the Likud Knesset faction so desire. This gesture allows those who think that Netanyahu can lead the Likud and the center-right coalition to election victory, but have concerns as to what may happen later if he has to resign vote with confidence, knowing that there will be a smooth transition of power from Netanyahu to another Likud member of the Knesset, whoever that may be.
In summary, Netanyahu’s catchy election slogan “It’s Bibi or Tibi”, still holds. Bibi, of course, is Netanyahu’s own nickname, while Ahmad Tibi is one of the leaders of the Arab faction and a known anti-Semite, anti-Zionist, and anti-Israeli terrorist sympathizer. The slogan is effective, because it is true; in the upcoming election, Israelis, be they Jews or Arabs, get to decide if the country will be governed by a coalition that is made possible by 100% Jewish and Zionist votes or a coalition that cannot survive a single vote on any subject without the massive support of Arab members of the Knesset, many of whom routinely spew the most vile anti-Semitic rhetoric and glorify every Arab terrorist be they dead or alive. The choice is clear, the judicial distraction is over, let the games begin.