Will Netanyahu Err Again?

Following the recent announcement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to run for the president of the Likud Convention, the future of the current Likud has suddenly been thrown in the air. For in spite of its somewhat colorful history, this is the first time that a current Likud Prime Minister has attempted to grab control of this key decision-making institution, a move which in effect further neutralizes the influence of the Likud Central Committee members.

The reason given by the Prime Minister for this unprecedented move is to thwart the alleged intention of the newly elected Central Committee to cancel Likud primaries and in doing so restore the task of selecting MKs to the Central Committee itself.

The problem with this assumption is that it’s hard to believe that this is actually the plan of the Central Committee. Its members clearly understand that any move aimed at allowing internal party hacks to once again have the power to choose MKs is akin to political suicide: rival parties will portray the Likud as going back to its corrupt old ways; Likud rank and file members will feel bitter for being pushed aside and losing their recently acquired power to decide; the Israeli media will have a field day ripping apart the Likud.

Thus it’s far more likely that the real reason for the unorthodox move by the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the Likud primaries and in reality has everything to do with the highly unpopular Ehud Barak. More specifically, it appears that the Prime Minister wants to use the convention to pass a resolution which will allow him to have a few reserved slots for the people of his choice in the next party list. This way, should the Likud win the next national election, Netanyahu can bring these people – assumed by nearly everyone to be either Ehud Barak and his small Independence Party or Ehud Barak and some anticipated Kadima defectors – unimpeded into the Likud.

Such a plan, however, is certain to backfire since outside of the Prime Minister himself, most of the members in the current right-wing nationalist coalition, including the majority of Netanyahu’s own Likud Party, are not exactly fans of Ehud Barak. His Oslo ideology and harsh stance against Jews living in Judea and Samaria perpetually irks nearly every Likud MK and, by extension, most Likud voters. Hence, for many people it is both perplexing and irritating that Netanyahu not only continues to support Barak but even gives him free reign to do as he pleases, rather than simply ousting him as Defense Minister and giving the position to someone like former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon.

In a similar vein albeit in the opposite direction, three years ago many potential Likud voters were turned off by Netanyahu’s incessant attacks on Moshe Feiglin and the apparent monkey business in having Feiglin knocked down from the 20th to 36th slot following the 2009 primaries. This in turn was one of the reasons that led to the Likud plummeting in the polls prior to the last elections since the average Likud voter unabashedly prefers a party that is full of genuine right-wing candidates to one that is constantly trying to improve its image by moving leftward.

Will Netanyahu make the same mistake again, in this case by doing everything possible to magically transform Ehud Barak into a Likudnik and in the process ostracize many potential voters? If so, it’s doubtful that this time around he will be rewarded with a second chance in the same manner as he was in 2009 when he was asked to form a coalition only after Tzipi Livni and the victorious Kadima Party failed in their own attempt.

In the final analysis, it’s only Bibi, and not Tzipi or Yair or anyone else, who can stop the Likud and the rest of the right from winning the next election and forming another right-wing nationalist coalition. Which way will he go?

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6 Responses to Will Netanyahu Err Again?

  1. Fred says:

    Hi Yoel,
    First of all, I do not believe that Netanyahu himself played any tricks to get Feiglin out of the 20th slot. There were valid reasons for it playing out that way. I also do not believe that the reason for the Likud getting only 12 seats had anything to do with Feiglin. Giving Feiglin any credit for these issues is incorrect. The Likud only got 12 seats because what Sharon did as a Likud PM was unforgivable, and people made the Likud pay the price. Finally, regardless of how many seats the Likud receives in the next general election, Netanyahu will not for an all-right coalition because that is not what he believes is best for the country and for his ability to lead the country. He believes he needs support from the western world, and that they will not be supportive (even less than today) if the government is made up of “fanatics and extremists”. He needs Barak there as a fig leaf. Is that a high price to pay for the country? Yes, but the alternative is no fig leaf – Kadima or worse!
    Netanyahu also has no problem ostracizing potential Likud voters. After all, they will just run to the right. And as the right is strengthened, it makes it just that much easier to get the votes to be the party that forms the next coalition, even if Kadima gets more seats than the Likud (as this past election showed). It’s win-win for Netanyahu as long as he makes no big blunders.

    • Yoel Meltzer says:

      Hi Fred,

      Thanks for the reply. First all I was talking about the last elections (2009) when Likud received 27 seats and not the 2006 elections when they received 12. Also, I believe that Feiglin being dropped from the 20th to the 36th position was clearly monkey business and that Bibi’s obsession w/keeping Feiglin away clearly hurt the party and was in fact one of the reasons that caused them to only receive 27 seats (when a few months before the elections it appeared they would receive at least 35). So it appears that we disagree on this issue, which of course is fine.

      Regarding Barak, I hear what you’re saying but nevertheless I think he must be kept away since he’s more harmful than helpful (and I’m not so sure the Americans like him). I think if Bibi brings in Barak and in the process alienates a lot of voters (which in turn will cost Likud several seats), I’m not so sure he’ll be able to form a government to his liking (assuming that Likud wins the elections). Thus for me he should focus on building a big Likud which is undeniably right-wing and nationalistic (and there’s nothing “extreme” about this) since this is clearly the mindset of the majority of Jews in Israel. Enough with trying to be liked or trying to appear more leftist. We shoudl just be ourselves.

      Yoel

      • Fred says:

        I do not think Feiglin had anything to do with a plummeting of the seats in the Likud. This is Feiglin’s ego that makes this claim.
        Netanyahu simply wanted to weaken his party in order to make it easier for Kadima and or Labor to join his coalition. Had the Likud received 35 seats, it would have been hard for either to join. It was another win-win situation for Netanyahu. Make statements that appear as if you are leaning left, and lose some Likud votes to the right (especially all of Feiglin’s people) and all the time you know that even if you end up with less than Kadima, you will still be asked to form the coalition government.

        Netanyahu is well aware of the fact that the majority of the country leans to the right. That is why he has nothing to fear.
        That is also why there is a good chance that Likud will stay in power for some years to come. Netanyahu understands that the pressure from outside Israel is tremendous and having a right wing government just gives the goyim all the excuse they need to label Netanyahu and the Likud as extremists and make Netanyahu’s life miserable. As it is, they make it miserable.
        Am I happy with his policies? No. But until there is a legitimate challenger to Bibi who can win (in the Likud), he is what we are stuck with. And I will take him over Livni any day, any time, any place. And be forewarned, any challenger to Bibi within the Likud may prove to be just as bad – be it a Danon, a Boogey, a Feiglin etc.

        • Yoel Meltzer says:

          Fred,

          Whether or not Feiglin had anything to do with the plummeting is, for me, irrelevant.

          Much more important (and the point of the article) to keep Bibi from turning left, to keep Barak away, and to keep the power of choosing MKs in the hands of the voters and not in the hands of Bibi or the Central Committee. I certainly understand your analysis of the situation and there’s definitely something to it. However, I think the time has come to simply stop worrying about all these calculations, especially how the world will view us.

          Regarding any future challenger/leader, believe me I don’t have any false illusions.

          Yoel

  2. Ruth says:

    What happened to this guy from 1978? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lixYEZ9M_dU

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