The humbling of Binyamin Netanyahu

Israel

Avigdor Lieberman, who leads Yisrael Beiteinu, which seems to have won more seats in Israel’s Knesset in the country’s re-run election, briefly seemed not quite to have the advantage the Associated Press earlier suggested[1] as it was suggested that Likud, in a bloc with the small right-wing religious parties that secularists despise, could combine with the secularist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz, to form a unity government. The stumbling blocks to such a government were that 1) Likud would have to ditch Binyamin Netanyahu, who depends on a position as prime minister to avoid prosecution on corruption charges; and 2) that whole issue of the small right wing religious parties[2] who have used their position “to restrict public transport on the Sabbath, set marital laws and avoid military service.”[3] Likud and these small parties have agreed to a pact forming a unified bloc.[4]

Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, has said he wouldn’t sit with any religious parties. Mr. Gantz has said he wouldn’t sit in a government with Mr. Netanyahu while he is under investigation for alleged corruption.[5]

As it turned out, the stumbling blocks were fatal.[6]

Gantz, not mentioning Netanyahu by name, said Thursday that he will lead a “liberal” coalition without Netanyahu’s haredi Orthodox allies. Moshe Yaalon, a Blue and White leader and former Israeli defense minister, said plainly that the party will “not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu,” echoing what the party had stated throughout the election campaign.[7]

Lieberman’s leverage seems to lie in that rejection of a unity government, as either Likud or Blue and White could combine with his party to form a majority.[8] Likud and the religious parties remained loyal to Netanyahu and Gantz rejected a coalition with those parties.[9] (It had earlier appeared as if the knives were out for Netanyahu even within Likud.[10]) The curious part of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency story[11] is that it does not mention the possibility of Lieberman’s party helping to form the coalition,[12] focusing instead on the possibility of so-called “Arab” (meaning Palestinian) parties taking part.[13]

Finally, while I’m inclined to view Netanyahu’s defeat (assuming it actually transpires) as a positive step towards unpacking the mess of Israeli politics, Diana Buttu pours cold water on the idea of any immediate or even near-term progress for the Palestinians.[14]

Diana Buttu, “The Israeli Elections Are a Referendum on Who Can Treat Palestinians Most Harshly,” Nation, September 16, 2019, https://www.thenation.com/article/israel-election-2019/

Ruth Eglash and Steve Hendrix, “Election setback has Netanyahu now seeking to share power in a unity government,” Washington Post, September 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/election-setback-has-netanyahu-now-seeking-to-share-power-in-a-unity-government/2019/09/19/2449d634-dac1-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead

Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009


  1. [1]Aron Heller, “Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmaker,” Associated Press, September 17, 2019, https://apnews.com/192335a30dca44e59fb1534974de5891
  2. [2]Ruth Eglash and Steve Hendrix, “Election setback has Netanyahu now seeking to share power in a unity government,” Washington Post, September 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/election-setback-has-netanyahu-now-seeking-to-share-power-in-a-unity-government/2019/09/19/2449d634-dac1-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html; Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead; Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009
  3. [3]Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009
  4. [4]Ruth Eglash and Steve Hendrix, “Election setback has Netanyahu now seeking to share power in a unity government,” Washington Post, September 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/election-setback-has-netanyahu-now-seeking-to-share-power-in-a-unity-government/2019/09/19/2449d634-dac1-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html; Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009
  5. [5]Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009
  6. [6]Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead
  7. [7]Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead
  8. [8]Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber, “Gantz Declares Win, Rejects Netanyahu’s Call for Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/netanyahu-calls-for-unity-government-after-election-deadlock-11568881009
  9. [9]Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead
  10. [10]Bernard Avishai, “A Climax to the Saga of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman,” New Yorker, June 1, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/a-climax-to-the-saga-of-benjamin-netanyahu-and-avigdor-lieberman; Times of Israel, “Ehud Barak says Netanyahu is ‘finished,’ predicts Likud will turn on him,” May 31, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/ehud-barak-says-netanyahu-is-finished-predicts-likud-will-turn-on-him/
  11. [11]Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead
  12. [12]Aron Heller, “Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmaker,” Associated Press, September 17, 2019, https://apnews.com/192335a30dca44e59fb1534974de5891; Aron Heller, “Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmaker,” Associated Press, September 17, 2019, https://apnews.com/192335a30dca44e59fb1534974de5891
  13. [13]Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Netanyahu reaches out to form a government with his rival — and gets rejected,” September 19, 2019, https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/with-final-votes-counted-gantzs-blue-and-white-takes-2-seat-lead
  14. [14]Diana Buttu, “The Israeli Elections Are a Referendum on Who Can Treat Palestinians Most Harshly,” Nation, September 16, 2019, https://www.thenation.com/article/israel-election-2019/

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