Blue and White’s Bibi trap
Opinion: The centrist party’s rush to defend the judiciary’s side over the indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu, while ignoring the justly earned public criticism, could drive their moderate right-wing voters away
Like many of my fellow colleagues, yours truly is being asked about five times a day what’s going to happen next in the world of Israeli politics. Not only don’t I have a clue, I always say, but none of my peers seem to either.
We journalists are also trying to understand what’s going on behind the scenes, but apparently, we simply don’t know.
Every small maneuver – like canvassing recommendations from MKs or a new statement from Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman’s brain – makes the headlines – even when they are grandiose in comparison to their true importance or influence.
If one may offer an assessment (not a prophecy!), Blue and White is making one of its biggest mistakes at the moment and is playing right into the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It should seem that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to indict Netanyahu would be a great political asset to the heads of that party, but it seems like what has happened over the last 10 days proves the complete opposite to be true.
The controversy over Netanyahu serves Netanyahu and Netanyahu only. He is not a victim, this is all a charade, but while many can sense it, there are others, who are not part of the prime minister’s usual base, right into his corner.
There are so many pressing issues on Israel’s agenda – from Gaza to the collapsing health system, from West Bank annexation to Iran.
The real argument should have been between a right-wing, religious Netanyahu-Litzman-Smotrich government, whose effect on Israel’s long-term national interests would be calamitous, and a centrist government, i.e. a unity government, that could serve the national interests much better.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s legal fate overshadows it all. The judicial elite is considered to be the executive authority of Netanyahu’s opponents, but it’s not entirely far-fetched.
In any case, figures such as former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan – who have both allegedly taken on governmental powers that no one granted them – have rightly earned the judiciary this criticism.
The moderate right-wing electorate, who doesn’t want to see a Litzman-Smotrich government happen, feel more sympathetic towards Netanyahu rather than Nitzan and Barak.
This is where Blue and White make their biggest mistake – they completely identify with the “law enforcement authorities.”
They don’t make a peep about the criticism. They are excited over the indictment like a child with a new toy and they struggle to understand that this toy is poisoned, bringing more harm than benefit.
To add insult to injury, there are those on the left who are trying to put pressure on Mandelblit to make a decision that would prevent a person under criminal indictment from forming a government.
The law explicitly says that a prime minister must only step down after a court ruling, but this does not interest them.
They try, as is their way, to make trumped up interpretations that reach their desired political outcome. What foolishness. This exactly proves Netanyahu’s claim that the judicial system conspired to attempt a coup.
Well, he is wrong – there are political diversions and incentives, but there is no collusion, and there’s certainly no systematic decision – but they insist on proving him right.
One can assume, and mostly hope, that the judges and the attorney general in Jerusalem will not get dragged into this provocation, with the juristic oligarchy putting pressure on them to make a decision that would trample the written law.
If that happens, God forbid, I will also go out to protest the judicial system, although I wish for true national government and not an extremist ultra-Orthodox-far-right one.
The public who voted for this political stalemate in the last election is essentially moderate right, and done with the current government’s radicalization has decided to move to the center.
Blue and White has managed to present itself as a sane national Zionist alternative – it consists of both moderate left and moderate right, which is not a disadvantage under the current circumstances.
The behavior of the party leadership in recent weeks could make it lose this asset. The uncompromising sympathy towards Netanyahu’s prosecutors is not only a mistake, but it also makes them seem like a branch of the left-wing Meretz party.
The more it is affiliated with the campaign against Netanyahu, the more Blur and White distances itself from the moderate right that delivered its electoral boost.
The Blue and White leadership still has enough time to come to its senses. But if not, the blame for the next Litzman-Smotrich government will rest on their shoulders.