“nobody should bet against the shrewd, wily Netanyahu sailing onward” to winning Round 4 on March 23, 2021.
It’s not like I told you so, but I told you so.
Remember back to March 2020, when Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu of the Likud/’right-wing’ coalition struck a power-sharing deal with former Defense Minister Benny Gantz of the Blue-and-White party? It was an effort to avoid a fourth round of elections, with the prior two rounds having resulted in a stalemate, with no one able to put together a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset.
Part of the deal was that Netanyahu was going to relinquish the Prime Ministership to Gantz in September 2021.
And I suggested only someone totally naive thought that would ever happen?
So will Netanyahu actually step aside in September 2021?
If you said Yes, you must be new around here.
And so it has come to pass, the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition has collapsed. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Knesset dissolved automatically at midnight Tuesday night, setting a March 23 date for elections amid mutual recriminations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu and Gantz blamed each other for not finding a way to keep their government going. Likud and Blue and White had reached an agreement to extend the deadline for passing the state budget and preventing early elections. But Gantz issued new demands, and then rebels in both parties prevented the bill from passing in dramatic fashion.
“It is no secret that the Likud and I did not want to go to elections,” Netanyahu said in a Knesset press conference. “Israel is going to elections due to internal fights in Blue and White.”
Netanyahu said he had agreed to the rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office before Blue and White reneged on their deal.
Blue and White responded by shifting the blame to Netanyahu, saying: “A man under three indictments is dragging Israel to elections for a fourth time. If there was no trial, there would be a budget and no elections.”
David Horovitz, Editor-in-Chief of The Times of Israel, basically says “there he goes again” as to Netanyahu:
Benny Gantz jettisoned most of his Blue and White alliance — horrifying Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem factions, and sending them fuming into the opposition — when he agreed to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an “emergency” coalition after March 2020’s inconclusive vote. Blue and White, which won 33 seats in that election, has hemorrhaged support ever since, as Netanyahu maneuvered to ensure that Gantz would never get his hands on the premiership, despite their “rotation” agreement, humiliated Gantz by repeatedly keeping him in the dark as the Trump administration brokered a series of Israel-Arab normalization agreements, and reduced Gantz to frustrated observer status in the ongoing battle against COVID-19….
But if Gantz is all but finished, what of Netanyahu, who outwitted him every step of the way and clung on at the Prime Minister’s Office after those last three elections, at times by the skin of his teeth?
On the face of it, his position is much improved. The main threat to his continued rule, the Blue and White alliance that came so close to prising him from power, has collapsed. The Israel right, his part of the political spectrum, is ascendant; the next Knesset looks set to be the most right-wing in Israeli history. And his two most reliable political partners, the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, stuck with him through thick and thin, and insist that they will continue to do so…
But if his rival-ally-rival Gantz now looks doomed — in what is a simply astounding fall, barely nine months after he was recommended as prime minister by most of the Knesset — nobody should bet against the shrewd, wily Netanyahu sailing onward.
Some more on what’s to come from veteran Israeli correspondent Barak Ravid, writing for Axios:
The big picture: The government collapse comes amid a dramatic deterioration in Gantz’s political standing and a decline in Netanyahu’s favorability. It also follows the establishment of a new right-wing party headed by a Netanyahu critic, Gideon Saar, which could change Israel’s political map.
What’s next: The elections will take place on Mar. 23.
- The latest polls show Gantz’s party barely above the electoral threshold, with five seats. If that trend continues Gantz might drop out of the race.
- Netanyahu will try to regain public support by focusing his campaign on the COVID-19 vaccine, Israel’s recent normalization agreements with the Arab world, and his opposition to any new deal with Iran.
- Saar is the political star of the moment. He will try to establish himself as the only alternative to Netanyahu in hopes of rallying a broad swathe of voters who want to see Netanyahu removed from office.
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