So, who won? Depends who you ask. While the right is projecting an aura of victory and beginning to look for defectors, the leftist camp is recovering from the results of the exit polls and insisting on continuing a needless battle. Meanwhile, the State of Israel and its citizens are suffering and only Ivet Liberman continues to concoct his schemes.
hese lines were written before dawn on Wednesday. The figures from the Knesset Committee indicate that the right wing bloc is 58 mandates, but even without being pollster Kamil Fuchs or Mano Geva, it can be assumed that the soldiers’ votes and double envelopes will likely improve the result for Netanyahu and the right. They will probably get within one or two mandates of the magic number – but not to that number.
Still, it is hard not to be impressed by the man’s remarkable ability to control the narrative in every situation he finds himself in. After persuading us during his campaign that if the right wing bloc falls just one mandate short, Gantz will establish a government with Ahmed Tibi and the Arab list, now, after the results indicate that indeed, there is a shortfall of one or two seats for the right, he persuades us that the bloc he leads has won. In other words: It is clear to him that Gantz will not establish a minority government with the Arabs.
Now listen to this amazing figure: While Netanyahu focused his campaign on bringing out the complacent Likudniks to the polls, it turns out that they did not go vote – or voted for other parties, and the ones who brought the Likud to their dramatic achievement of 36 mandates are 100,000 voters largely from Blue and White. The dramatic spike that the party saw came from those tens of thousands of voters who voted for Blue and White in September and in March decided to cast their vote for Likud.
You don’t have to be a major genius to guess that a significant number of them did so because Netanyahu persuaded them that Gantz will establish a minority government that relies on the Arabs. But now, after on paper, the Blue and White chairman has the backing that would allow him to do this, it is clear to Netanyahu and his people that it will not happen. Fact: they explain to us that they won a resounding victory even if they are lacking one or two mandates to form a government.
So what will actually happen? At this point there are a number of scenarios being examined by Blue and White, which you can read about at length in all the news reports. The common denominator among them all is that if and when the right wing does not cross the 59-mandate threshold (which can happen, and in such a case the rift in Blue and White might break apart the whole partnership) they will take every step possible to prevent Binyamin Netanyahu from forming a government.
Politically, they have what to lean on. It’s happened in the past that Zionistic parties cooperated with the Arab parties to topple governments. For example, in 1995, the Chadash and Mada parties filed a no-confidence motion in the Rabin government after the expropriation of land in East Jerusalem for Jewish construction, and the Likud and Binyamin Netanyahu joined them and voted in favor of toppling the government.
Aviv Bushinksy, who was then the media advisor for the chairman of the opposition, later related that he had expressed surprise about the move, and Netanyahu had replied that the role of the opposition is to take advantage of every opportunity to topple the government. “Even when it means cooperating with Arab MKs?” Bushinsky asked.
“Yes, every opportunity,” the boss repeated.
Be Like Saar
n paper, the “Anything but Bibi” camp holds the keys to resolving the biggest political crisis in Israel’s history. As of now, it looks like it is digging in with its refusals. Even the unbelievable rise of the right wing camp in general, and the significant gap in the numbers between Likud and Blue and White, have not persuaded them that the right thing to do now is to come to national reconciliation.
It’s a shame. By focusing on victory over doing the right thing, Netanyahu’s opponents are, with their purism, trampling everything good in this country. Taking cover behind the number, and completely ignoring the desperate need to heal the rifts in Israeli society, raise significant questions about the integrity of their intentions.
The three generals, Gantz, Yaalon and Ashkenazi should please explain to us: Does Netanyahu’s legal standing – with a trial that has not yet begun and a verdict that has not yet been handed down – come before the citizens of the country? Is the clear statement by the Jewish majority, many of whom were your soldiers and underlings in the army, not enough for you to proffer your hand in a show of unity?
Whether the number remains 58, or climbs to 60, the time has come for unity.
True, Netanyahu has gone very far in the way he treated his rivals; he went down to the lowest places, slandering and attacking, recording and inciting; he stopped at nothing to demonize Benny Gantz. You can say a lot of things about Gantz, but you can’t take away his honesty, and his longtime contributions to Israeli society.
So true, Netanyahu crossed some red lines in his battle for survival and he didn’t exactly win – based on his own worldview. Nevertheless, it is not Netanyahu who is in the balance here, but rather the benefit and future of the nation. Is it right, in the name of the war on justice, to sanctify the political paralysis and to withhold a functioning government from the public? Are personal affronts more important than the plight of the needy?!
The results of the election are a wake-up call to the “Anyone but Bibi” camp. The political price has already been extracted from him. Some of the voters left it because its leaders were not wise enough to capitalize on the mania at the right moment. But beyond that, they obligate us to do some introspection, about the path, the style, the lack of integrity and the preference of political and personal interests over national considerations.
The results also behoove this camp to take an example from its colleagues on the right. Bennet, Shaked, Edelstein, Sa’ar, Katz, Rivlin, Erdan and any others. They were also there. Some are still there. The methods are the same: repulsive and corrupt. But in contrast to Gantz, Lapid and Ashkenazi, they know that the political field is not a membership club. Entry also brings with it some unpleasant things. But they chose to put aside their feelings of personal injury for the benefit of advancing their ideology. Gideon Sa’ar is the perfect example. What didn’t they say about him? What didn’t they accuse him of? Still, in the last two weeks, we saw him going from one media outlet to another defending Netanyahu and his party. The same is true with Naftali Bennet. How many insults and slander did this man endure – and is still going through? Did that bring him to cross the red line and renege of his pledge to his voters? No.
Benny Gantz should listen to what the senior Likudniks think about Netanyahu in closed rooms, and then understand that in politics, personal disqualification is not a plan of action. Certainly not when the Israeli public made its wishes known very clearly this week.
Fixation and Victory
etanyahu’s advisor, Yonatan Orich, began Tuesday morning with a blitz of media interviews. The goal: to ingrain the impression of victory. The means: disseminating rumors about potential defectors from the opposition camp. As usual, the media gave itself over to the spin. Even a professional interviewer like Ilana Dayan did not realize that she was being used as a tool by Orich, who told her in a secretive voice that as they were speaking, there were secret negotiations going on with a number of MKs to join the right wing coalition.
Dayan also spoke to him about the victory: How did Netanyahu react when he saw the exit polls; how did Benny Gantz and his family react, and to what extent were they surprised. Orich, generous as always, bared his soul and revealed “secrets from inside.” In situations where there is a tie, part of the way to actually decide the win is through public sentiment – whoever succeeds in persuading the public that he has the slightest advantage will manage to overcome the obstacles.
In the September elections, Binyamin Netanyahu’s difficulties were manifested politically. The numbers then were 65 for the “Anyone but Bibi” camp and the goal was first and foremost to delegitimize any ideas of a government that relied on – even with just abstentions – the Arab parties. The prime target was Avigdor Lieberman, the right wing element of that camp, who dithered until he had to declare that he would not cooperate with such a move. Then it was the right wing MKs in Blue and White – Hauser and Hendel – and the result was that, in real time, they did not dream of establishing a government that could only be sworn in because the Arab parties abstained from voting. Again – not support, an abstention.
When the days passed and third elections loomed, it was hard to miss Netanyahu’s sigh of relief. Suddenly in the last week, the color returned to his face and he even scolded MKs in his bloc who continued to attack Avigdor Liberman.
Now, after a spike in the Likud representation and the power of the bloc in general, the job will be much easier. At the same time, from what we understand, if the numbers remain the way they are, during the first week of the Knesset, the Center-Left camp plans to submit a bill that would ban tasking someone under criminal indictment with forming a government.
When Lieberman repeated during the election that he had a plan that guaranteed that we would not go to yet another election, this is what he meant. He would not support a minority government, but would definitely support such a law. After it passes, he is sure that the game will open again as the Likud will need to put an alternative candidate at the top, which will likely also get his support to form a government.
Netanyahu’s rapid victory run was intentional, with the understanding that the marketing was more important than the product. The Netanyahu coterie capitalized on the weakness of the other side, that like this past year, has been enveloped by a spirit of defeat, of submission, of resignation to its losses – without justification, or at least too early, by the generals of Blue and White.
The bottom line is it turns out that the anti-Bibi pact overpowered Bibi. 59 lost to 61. If the numbers stay this way, Binyamin Netanyahu is unlikely to be the next prime minister. His people are already preparing for appeals to court, and in the meantime the Knesset will advance this law that prevents him from serving as prime minister.
And still, despite these numbers, it would be better for the victors to set aside their endless reserves of hatred – some of it justified – and listen to the masses calling for both sides to form a national unity government where every sector or community has a place.
All the Campaign People
onatan Orich, 31, is the face of the group of advisors that has surrounded Netanyahu in recent years. The group also includes Topaz Lok, the new-media advisor, Shir Cohen, head of the hasbarah unit, and Ofer Golan, the family media advisor.
They have been with him for the past five years, the longest for a Netanyahu group of advisors. Perhaps it is their youth; maybe it is the views they share with the big boss. But there is no doubt that, unlike predecessors, who left with slamming doors, this group has earned the prime minister’s trust.
Even if ultimately Netanyahu will not be able to form a government because of legal or political obstacles, there is no question about the decisive role this young group played in doing the unbelievable – at a moment when everything appeared to be lost: moving a significant number of mandates over from the left bloc to the right.
The young age of the two dominant members of the group – Lok and Orich – explains their modus operandi. Almost anyone who was in their path or their boss’s path, found themselves being slandered viciously – even though in most cases the slander was replete with lies and crossed every red line.
Benny Gantz, the national stutterer, is not the first, He was preceded by Knesset Chairman Edelstein, President Rivlin, MK Sa’ar and many others. I still remember when I first heard that a rising star named Yonatan Orich had joined the Prime Minister’s office. It was a number of years ago, when a senior Likud minister told me that the former member of Galei Tzahal radio and “friend of Yair Netanyahu” was slandering him because he was suspected of undermining Netanyahu. Today, that senior minister has been promoted even higher, but he learned the lesson the hard way. When you hear him on the media you would think he is one of the prime minister’s biggest admirers. It is far from being the case. He has just been treated by Team Bibi.
A Law or Defectors
ver the next few days, we will be under the shadow of a proposed bill that would preclude someone under criminal indictment form serving as prime minister. Already now, those on the right and left are taking a stance. Both Blue and White, and especially Avigdor Liberman, prefer to focus on a personal law to block Netanyahu from forming a government, than taking a political risk of establishing a minority government relying on the United Arab List.
During the time it will take for the law to come up for a third vote, Netanyahu will make desperate efforts to locate defectors from the left to oppose the law. With a number like 58, it will be impossible for him, unless the unbelievable happens and the right climbs again to 59 mandates – when Balfour is convinced that at least one or two defectors can be found to oppose the law.
Elements in Blue and White confirm that passing the law now is a top priority for them, and as far as they are concerned, after it is approved, they would be ready to even forego a full term of the premiership for any other candidate that the Likud would present.
This is with the understanding that Lieberman will support a Likud candidate for prime minister after the law disqualifying Netanyahu passes in the plenum. In order to prevent a situation where a right wing government is formed without Blue and White inside, Gantz’s people are trying to coordinate with Yisrael Beitenu to include passing the law, on the one hand, and the concession of the demand for a rotation on the other.
To pass the law, the proposers will need to get through the Knesset Committee and a few more bureaucratic hurdles. Time will play a significant role for Netanyahu, who will wage psychological warfare on those MKs targeted as potential defectors.
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