Likud Non-Governance

Bibi’s party is not governing and the prime minister may pay the price

Likud rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Gideon Sa'ar
Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White) has managed to appoint 61 new judges, marking the latest failure of Netanyahu’s Likud party to implement its ideology. Though due process required Likud consent to nominate these new judges, Nissenkorn nevertheless pushed through his agenda despite loud protests, including from the Prime Minister, who insisted that “a long chain of malfunctions in the law enforcement system [shows the need for] fundamental reforms.”

Many right-wingers now ask why during his 14-years as prime minister, Netanyahu has done nothing to introduce the fundamental reforms of which he now speaks. And why, they wonder, has he given the Justice Ministry over to his ideological rivals knowing full well that his constituency is furious with the judicial system. To this day, Netanyahu has failed to provide an adequate answer.

Will his failure to reform the judicial system cause Likud members to migrate to other parties? This is a growing possibility given the recent decision by Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s former rival for Likud leadership, to form a new party that will further fracture the right-wing bloc. Saar announced that he is leaving because “the Likud became a tool for the personal interests of the person in charge, including matters relating to his criminal trial.” Sa’ar lost faith in the Likud party because its members became little more than flatterers sucking up to their leader, Bibi.

Rather than join existing parties, Sa’ar opted for a new “national and social party” (not socialist, mind you) that he believes will lead Israel to a better future. Sa’ar is presenting himself as the most seasoned candidate to become Israel’s next prime minister. And he’s on the war path. Two “Blue and White” MKs have already joined him, and others from the Likud are sure to follow.

Will that be enough to topple Netanyahu? Journalist Amit Segal shared on Telegram a poll taken right after Sa’ar’s showing that his new party would win 17 seats, three of those at the expense of Likud, if elections were held today. Premature as this poll is, it shows that at least on paper the Likud is losing seats to the “just not Bibi” bloc that now also includes the right-wing Yemina party.

Will Likud’s perceived impotency weaken Netanyahu’s party and his hold on the premiership? Consider what popular social media persona known by the pseudonym “Adam Gold” wrote in light of Nissenkorn’s appointment of 61 new judges:

“This is a microcosm revealing the difference between the Left and the Right concerning governance and exploitation of opportunities. The Right camp does not move a paper clip without approval (of its political rivals) … and the fact that the Right, though having governed for the last 700 years (as the Left jeers), fails to nominate judges without consideration of the majority is a disgrace. Unimaginable failure. Horrific impotency of a bunch of no-good Knesset members who fear their own shadows.”

True as this may be, Netanyahu’s supporters will not go down without a fight. As far as they are concerned, Sa’ar’s departure from the party was long overdue. While it might be too late for such a move, a growing number of right-wingers have now reached the same conclusion as Adam Gold, that it is time for the old guard to go. They now charge these politicians with having sat idly by for years while watching the media, judicial system, and academia put Israel in the grips of a progressive utopian pipe dream.

Of the many comments in social media applauding Sa’ar’s departure, one in particular stood out for me:

“Gideon Sa’ar has gone. And not only do I not care, but I can understand him. He (among others) belongs to a bygone generation of people with oversized egos who got elected by climbing on top of each other, making empty promises, submitting to pressure groups, and by election tricks and shticks that no longer work. And after so many years of hopes and disappointments comes a new generation … serious, militant, and with convictions along with the ability to implement them, people like [Internal Security Minister Amir] Ohana, [MK Shlomo] Karai [Speaker of Knesset Yariv] Levin, [Transportation Minister Miri] Regev and others. People who do not collapse under pressure are the ones who will supplant Sa’ar’s generation once Netanyahu is gone.”

Will these sentiments be enough to keep right-wingers from drifting to other parties? If recent polls are any indication, it looks as if in the next election the “just not Bibi” camp will succeed in its relentless efforts to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu, along with everything he stands for.

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