I am slightly amused by the many voices who celebrate what is perceived as the end of the Netanyahu era. Of course, I am not a Netanyahu supporter, far from it, but I will give Netanyahu credit where he deserves it. ‘King Bibi,’ as his Jewish supporters often refer to him, was actually a crucial factor in the rise of Palestinian resistance and Palestinian unity. Bibi was a pragmatist who managed to pull his nation, the region and even the entire world into a chain of disasters in a desperate but relentless attempt to save himself. Bibi is not a conspirator. He did it all in the open, and despite this, he is still the most popular politician in Israel.
As I have pointed out many times before, Israel is not politically divided. The vast majority of Israeli Knesset Members (MKs) are to the right of Netanyahu. Israel’s political establishment is divided over Netanyahu, but primarily due to personal rifts.
Israel is now governed by a very weak coalition unlikely to hold together for very long. One minor border clash in Gaza or a Jewish right-wing march in Jerusalem could topple the government and bring to an end to the ‘spirit of change’ in Israel. Since the current government enjoys a majority of just one Knesset member, every member in the coalition possesses the power to topple the government, or alternatively to mount significant pressure on the leader. The Government is practically paralyzed.
But the issue is far deeper. Netanyahu’s potential disappearance (be it through retirement from politics or shelter from his legal issues in a friendly country) will see the immediate collapse of the current coalition in favour of an ultra-right government. Such a government would enjoy the support of at least 80 Knesset members. It would include whatever is left out of the Likud party, the rabbinical Orthodox parties and of course around 20-25 of Netanyahu’s right-wing rivals who happened to end up (momentarily) in the so called ‘change coalition’.
In the complicated political stalemate that emerged due to the unresolved tension between Netanyahu and his rivals within the Right (such as Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar and Avigdor Lieberman), the Islamist party and its leader Mansur Abbas became kingmakers. On the face of it, the success of Abbas could bring many more Israeli Arabs to the polls. If Arabs in Israel see a benefit in their political participation and decide to go to the polls at a similar rate to their Jewish counterparts, they could almost double their representation in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs could easily become the most significant political bloc in the Jewish State. Yet Netanyahu’s disappearance would lead a shift in the complete opposite direction. With a right-wing Jewish coalition comprised of 80 MKs, no one would be dependent on the support of Ra’am or any Arab party.
What are the chances of Netanyahu disappearing? It depends how his trial evolves. But despite some calls to replace him within the Likud party, every grassroots Likud activist knows that Likud’s future and its electoral survival are totally dependent on Netanyahu and his charisma. Not only did he fail to prepare a successor, he worked tirelessly to undermine every gifted politician around him. He turned every rising right-wing alternative into his bitter enemy, and to a certain extent owes himself his own demise.
Unlike the naïve voices who speak for Palestine in the West but hardly understand the region and are too scared to ask what is it that drives the Jewish State, Hamas’ strategists see it all. They helped Bibi stay in power: he let them win, they let him paralyze Israel and let it spiral down. I also believe that Mansour Abbas can read the map. He knows that the Israeli Left is a comical compromised act. He knows that Meretz and the Labour party have removed themselves from the conflict and are solely concerned with climate issues and Identitarian matters (LGBTQ in particular). Mansour Abbas made a strategic effort to bond with the Jewish right wing, to form a coalition with the Orthodox parties. Bibi was happy to take Abbas into his coalition but Abbas failed to achieve his goal because the ultra-right Jewish parties identified his strategy and worked hard to undermine it.
I would have thought that in light of the above, those who wish for one state between the River and the Sea should consider accepting that Bibi may be the safest and fastest route towards such a goal.