By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
By all accounts, power breeds insecurity, at times even paranoia. The longer a person holds on to power the more fearful does s/he become of suspected machinations by ostensibly loyal colleagues and, to an even greater extent, criticism in the media.
Though we hear very little about attempts within the Likud party to replace Prime Minister Netanyahu – apart from his former colleagues who, for one reason or another, now find themselves outside – there’s much criticism within the media. There are a number of journalists in Israel today who, judging by his reactions on Facebook and elsewhere, are regarded as Netanyahu’s sworn enemies.
In order to promote and protect him, his friend Sheldon Adelson, the American casino magnate, and his Israeli wife have established a daily freebee newspaper, Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) which by now is said to have cost its sponsor untold millions of dollars. Part of its campaign is to discredit its rival Israeli tabloid Yediot Achronot (Latest News), which is often critical of the prime minister.
It now appears that Netanyahu has been in negotiation with the publisher of Yediot Achronot in the hope of reducing that paper’s level of criticism of him. As a reward he’s said to have undertaken to reduce the attacks on it by Yisrael Hayom and to find more financial backing for Yediot Achronot.
As a result, the major players, including the prime minister, are now all under police investigation. As only selected facts are being leaked to the public, Netanyahu tries to assure us that it’s all a media plot against him. The reaction of the parliamentary opposition has been muted whereas the passionate endorsement of members of Likud has been very vocal. At a party meeting the other day they all sang Bibi Mlech Yisrael, a variant of David Melech Yisrael (David king of Israel).
This isn’t the only police investigation to which Netanyahu and his family are being subjected. He is also being investigated for taking bribes. His wife is under investigation for a variety of issues in connection with running the prime minister’s official and private residences. Even his younger son Yair has now also been questioned by police.
Experts tell us, however, that nothing of all this is likely to topple Binyamin Netanyahu. If there’s going to be a change, it’ll only come about after a general election which isn’t likely to take place for another couple of years. And even then, it’s by no means clear that the incumbent will be defeated. The official opposition is weak, even though some new potential stars now vie for leadership, due to be determined later this year. Though Yair Lapid’s party Yesh Atid (There is a future) is currently ahead in the polls, few pundits believe that he’ll ever become prime minister.
One reason for this may be Donald Trump. Netanyahu hints repeatedly that the new US president will help him to strengthen his position vis-à-vis his opponents from within and foes from without. The current status quo with systematic inroads into the territories, which seems to be the Israeli government’s preferred option, may become the norm and its proponent the longest serving prime minister in the history of Israel, media criticism notwithstanding.
For right-wing Israelis and their many supporters in the Diaspora this is very good news. For others it’s a most alarming prospect that potentially endangers the very future of the Jewish state.