Netanyahu Rivals Inch Closer to Removing Him as PM

Major drama as opposition parties poised to snatch victory from Netanyahu’s hands

Netanyahu rivals are so determined to oust him, they might pay any price.
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

His Likud Party won the most seats in last week’s Israeli election, but Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals might’ve found a way to oust him as prime minister, regardless.

On Sunday, Avigdor Liberman posted to Facebook a list of five demands that must be met for his Yisrael Beiteinu party to join the next government. Liberman emerged as a “kingmaker” in the last two elections, and hopes to again play such a role.

Benny Gantz, head of the opposition “Blue and White” party, immediately responded to Liberman on Twitter with: “Agreed. We need to move forward.”

Liberman’s demands included:

  1. A boost in monthly pension payments;
  2. Local governments will have authority over whether or not public transportation and shops can operate on Shabbat;
  3. Push forward legislation requiring ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to also serve in the IDF;
  4. Legislation approving civil marriage in Israel;
  5. Any municipal rabbi should have the right to establish a religious court and perform conversions to Judaism.

Given that “Blue and White” is a secular party, Gantz had no issue with accepting Liberman’s conditions, most of which are aimed at loosening the grip of the Chief Rabbinate over all religious affairs in Israel.

 

Minority government

So, what does Gantz’s acceptance of Liberman’s conditions mean in regards to forming Israel’s next government?

At present, both Netanyahu and Gantz would have to form a minority coalition if given the task by Israel President Reuven Rivlin.

Likud and its religious right-wing allies command 58 seats, three short of an absolute majority. “Blue and White,” the left-wing Labor-Meretz alliance and Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu can boast just 47 seats.

But, Gantz, Liberman and the Left might be able to count on the external support of the Joint Arab List, if for no other reason than to bring the Netanyahu era to an end.

While Netanyahu’s minority government would have more seats, it would be at constant risk of falling to a vote of no-confidence, while Gantz’s even more minority coalition could probably count on Arab support, at least for a time, in order to keep the Right at bay.

According to such logic, Gantz’s minority government would actually be more stable, and as such many are calling President Rivlin to use his power of discretion to tap the “Blue and White” chief as the next prime minister.

 

At what cost?

While the aforementioned scheme could work, at least temporarily, there is the question of what it will cost.

Gantz and Liberman, to say nothing of the heads of Labor-Meretz, want so badly to oust Netanyahu, that they’ll give just about anything to accomplish that goal.

And the leaders of the Joint Arab List know it.

Many fear the Joint List will make far-reaching demands that will diminish the Jewish character of the State of Israel. The Joint List has long been accused, even by its own Arab constituency, of representing the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli Knesset, and the party could also take advantage of this situation to strengthen the Palestinians’ hand in their conflict with Israel.

The question now is how far Gantz and Liberman are willing to go to realize their dream of sending Benjamin Netanyahu home.

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