Benjamin Netanyahu has long been called a political magician for his ability to form and hold together governments under nearly impossible conditions.
We saw Bibi stumble after the last election earlier this year when he was unable to capitalize on his Likud Party again emerging as the largest Knesset faction. He just couldn’t get enough other parties to join him in a stable majority coalition, and so we got the current “government of change.”
Now Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman is saying Netanyahu’s “magic” has faded altogether after he failed to block the new state budget.
Israel hasn’t had an official state budget in over three years due to the fractious nature of the Knesset and repeated national elections. Last week’s vote on the proposed 2021-2022 budget was a prime opportunity for Bibi to make good on his promise to quickly topple the government of Naftali Bennett and return himself to the prime minister’s chair.
But he just couldn’t pull that particular rabbit out of his hat.
“In my opinion, his magic is finished,” said Liberman in a weekend interview with Channel 12 News.
Following his failure to block the budget, there were rumors of Likud members demanding that Netanyahu finally step down as party leader, and at the same time of the ultra-Orthodox parties abandoning Bibi and joining the coalition.
The current government is perhaps the most diverse in the history of the State of Israel. It includes right-wing nationalists, pragmatic centrists, far-left progressive liberals and even a handful of Islamists. That means there are a lot of internal disagreements, and therefore cracks for Netanyahu to exploit. Will he succeed, or has Israel’s political magician truly lost his touch?
Time will tell, and it will probably tell quite quickly.
Either those cracks in the new government will widen and its razor-thin majority will disappear, or, as Bennett stated last week, the passing of the new budget will significantly weaken Netanyahu’s opposition and bolster the coalition’s position.