Israelis are getting tired of Binyamin Netanyahu. The continued saga of his possible indictment for bribery and related matters reflect his less than healthy relationship to money. The reported antics of his wife have become lore. And now also the dicta of his son Yair – for example telling us on Facebook that he hopes for a Muslim-rein Israel – seem to be troubling even the prime minister’s supporters. Especially the liberal members of his party – like Benny Begin, the late prime minister’s son, President Reuven Rivlin and others – seem to be deeply concerned.
These right-of-centre liberals may also be uncomfortable with Netanyahu’s alarmingly warm relations with rabid anti-Semites around the world, like the prime minister of Hungary and others of that ilk. These political leaders are deemed by Netanyahu to be great supporters of the Jewish state – never mind what they think of the Jewish people – and, therefore he has declared them to be kosher.
Judging by media speculations, the Netanyahu cabinet isn’t exactly a team that works together for the good of the country and its people. For example, many cabinet ministers demonstrated the other day outside the prime minister’s residence with the excuse that they weren’t really against him but “only” supporting the settlers who want even more than they’re now getting from the state.
Netanyahu’s Likud party doesn’t seem to find an acceptable alternative within its own ranks. There has been talk about the former minister Gideon Saar being brought back, but Netanyahu is now trying to push through a law that would make it de facto impossible for Saar to become prime minister.
And the opposition is in no state to challenge Netanyahu. Its leader Tzipi Livni, gifted though she is said to be, doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be prime minister. Her predecessor as opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, has left the field to become the chair of the Jewish Agency. Neither the leader of Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) nor the leader of Labour (Avi Gabbay), even if they’ll do well in the next general election, seem to be potential prime ministers. As a result, even opponents within his own ranks and outside may still find Netanyahu the best of a bad bunch, even when they speculate to replace him.
The public, probably stimulated/manipulated by the media, is looking outside the current political set-up for a figure who has defense credentials and can command respect. Ehud Barak has the credentials as a former chief of staff and defense minister but not the respect: he had been a less than successful prime minister and his comings and goings since then haven’t earnt him many points. Another former chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, is popular, but rumour has it that he doesn’t want the job.
Which leaves those who speculate about such matters with one other candidate: former chief of staff Benny Gantz. Polls suggest that he’d do well if he formed his own political party and even better if he joined an existing one other than Likud. He’s said to talk to politicians and rumoured to prepare himself for the challenge. Whether he has the political qualifications isn’t clear, but the public seems to be so hungry for change, and so frustrated at not knowing how to bring it about, that a general who is not tainted by previous political involvement may qualify by default.
Israel is currently facing many pressing security challenges. This gives Netanyahu an opportunity to tell us that only he is capable of defending the State of Israel against its enemies on its borders as well as internationally. Even his critics may come to believe him, at least for now. Alas.
Jerusalem 18.12.18 Dow Marmur