Netanyahu's options

Loyalty to the people comes first, before loyalty to any one person.

David Rubin

OpEds Empty Knesset plenum
Empty Knesset plenum
David Rubin

There are four basic facts to face in analyzing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's situation at the present time:

Fact: The media is biased against Netanyahu.

Fact: The judiciary is biased against the Right.

Fact: The Left is celebrating the indictment.

Fact: Likudniks are loyal to their leaders.

Because of the above, it is understandable, even admirable, that many thousands turned out to demonstrate, in a show of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, it is absolutely critical that Israelis not lose sight of the long-term goals that most right-of-center Israelis agree with:

  • Declaring Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
  • Determination that the Iranian nuclear-military threat be ended.
  • Determination that the next war or wars (finally) lead to absolute and indisputable victories for Israel.

These are national goals that will only be accomplished by a narrow right-wing coalition led by Likud that would include the religious parties and Liberman, not an impossible task if the two sides show flexibility for the sake of true unity. One of the problems is that, at this point, Liberman would not join a narrow right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu under indictment. Furthermore, whether justified or not, Netanyahu’s electability has been tainted by the indictment and polls are already indicating a [possibly short-lived] sharp loss in support, especially for the Likud, but also for the right-wing bloc.

Loyalty is admirable, but national goals come before individuals. If the Right continues to lose elections and fails to achieve majority coalitions, the above goals may not be attainable in the coming years, despite the enormous opportunities created by the extremely sympathetic Trump administration in Washington.

The latest Likud unity offer to Benny Gantz – that Netanyahu would have just the first six months as PM in a unity rotation, with the inexperienced left-of-center Gantz getting the next two years as PM, would be a disaster for the national camp.

A better option would be the recent suggestion in a letter signed by four well-known rabbis – a full pardon for Netanyahu from President Rivlin, in honor of his great service to the nation, for the purpose of healing the nation, in exchange for a graceful retirement by Netanyahu, who already has been the longest-serving prime minister in modern Israeli history. 

Before the next election, primaries would be held in the Likud to select a worthy successor, who would then seek to increase the right-of-center voter base. As opposed to Netanyahu, who at election time has aggressively and consistently sought to take votes away from his more right-wing coalition partners, thereby stealing votes from the same right-of-center pie, a new Likud successor would have a better chance of pulling votes from the center of the political map. These independent or centrist voters may be genuinely looking for a new slightly right-of-center image to accompany genuine right-of-center policies, without the legal baggage. This could increase the voter base of the right-wing bloc, thereby breaking the recent deadlock. It would also likely bring Liberman back on board, thus putting the Right back into its natural majority position, which rightly reflects the views of non-Arab Israelis.

Netanyahu has much to his credit and legacy – a roaring free-market economy, diplomatic accomplishments second to none, and a remarkable common touch that he has gradually developed over the years. But the country comes first, and the need for a stable right-of-center coalition is critical to meet the current challenges facing our nation. Arranging an honorable retirement for Netanyahu would be a better option than keeping him as PM for six months followed by two years of Gantz. 

The last, and highly intriguing possibility that has been proposed is a bill in the Knesset that would break any future deadlock by providing for the direct election of Prime Minister. The winner would receive an additional twelve seats, to be proportionately divided among the member parties of his coalition. This option would provide for a stable majority coalition, and if Netanyahu remains Likud chairman after primaries and wins the direct election, but eventually has to leave office due to a trial, an internal Likud vote can determine a replacement. This may be the best option of all, leading to a stable right-of-center coalition. Of course, there is the possibility that Gantz could win in a direct election, but in either event, the people will have spoken