March 05, 2018

Will Bibi Go For Broke ?

As PM Netanyahu heads to Washington for the AIPAC conference and a meeting with President Trump, his government partners are again threatening to bolt the coalition.
Kulanu’s Moshe Kachlon says he will force elections if the budget is not passed, whilst the Haredi parties are stalling the budget until they get their draft dodgers a free pass.
Such showdowns are all too common in Israel, and always end with one side blinking at the loss of power and privilege they risk with any election. A bird in the chauffeured Volvo is worth two in the ballot box.

Nobody knows this better than Netanyahu who has survived innumerable coalition crises in his four prime-ministerial terms, and he would almost certainly be able to resolve this one too.
But, should he?
I am thinking this may be the opportunity for a masterstroke for him and the Likud party.
Recent opinion polls have shown a surge in support for Likud, suggesting that it might gain up to 6 more seats than presently. More significantly, Netanyahu’s own support as prime minister has surged to 37% in a March 1st poll, 17 points clear of his nearest rival, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid.
As I have often written, the knives out for Bibi have always been rooted in personal grudges and jealousy of his success in almost equalling Ben Gurion’s term as leader of the Jewish state. But these polls aren’t about the political elites and media chiefs, but are the voice of the ordinary people who will be going to the ballot box. They are unhappy with the hounding of their prime minister in a trial by media and incessant police leaks. Israel’s taxi drivers are clearly standing by their man.
I am thinking that Bibi, boosted by his latest Washington barnstorm, should capitalize on this by allowing his squabbling coalition partners to go to the brink and force an election as soon as possible. Not yet indicted and with a trial unlikely for a year at least, Netanyahu is entitled to fight an election without hindrance and to let the ordinary people speak. Let them choose who is best placed to negotiate with Trump and the US congress on removing Iran from Syria and Lebanon or whether cigars and champagne are more important.
Rather than taint the political process, one would expect the attorney general to defer any decision to press charges until the election is over. If Likud is returned as the ruling party it will have four more years to work with the Trump administration, keep a PLO state at bay, and arrange its own succession after Netanyahu decides or finds it appropriate to retire.
Sweetest of all will be to thank Yediot, Channel 10 and their all their ‘anonymous' police sources for helping re-elect Bibi and Likud to a record fifth term.
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