Opinion: After Likud’s failure to win control of all-important Knesset Arrangements Committee, which would have provided Netanyahu with power to advance legislation to ensure his political survival, the indicted PM may finally be running out of tricks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset last year(Photo: Reuters)
Nearly all political red lines were crossed long ago in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quest for survival.
Netanyahu demeaned and marginalized both Blue & White leader Benny Gantz and the Basic Laws that are the building blocks of the state when he needed a viable coalition after the March 2020 elections.
This disregard for Israel’s institutions continues today when the prime minister who is on trial for corruption refuses to appoint a justice minister or allow other critical positions to be filled for the benefit of all Israelis.
Now Netanyahu seems to have his sights set on controlling the presidency. He planned to prevent the election of a new president when Reuven Rivlin’s term ends in June, intending to see the role filled by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, who would become acting president under Israeli law.
Should that position indeed be filled by Levin, a loyal ally to and enabler of Netanyahu, he would be able to grant clemency to the prime minister and others that the Netanyahu family deems worthy.
His hand-picked attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, a religious right-winger whose father was a member of the pre-state Irgun underground paramilitary, is under constant attack from Netanyahu and his cronies because he dared to indict the prime minister for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
After four round of elections in two years, Netanyahu still cannot cobble together a coalition despite his party winning more votes than any other. And so his latest ploy was to try to change Israel’s election laws.
The Likud party and other members of the outgoing government came up with a plan to hold elections just for the premiership, hoping a Knesset majority would fast-track this legislation, which is solely to benefit one man who is now standing trial.
But that ploy failed as well. On Monday, the Knesset thwarted Likud’s bid to head the all-important Knesset Arrangements Committee, which controls the legislative agenda in parliament until the formation of a new government, including determining who sits on the rest of the parliamentary committees.
The prime minister’s desperate attempts to do anything to form a new coalition, including courting both the extreme-right Religious Zionist party and the Islamist Ra’am party, led to his defeat.
Netanyahu, who vowed ahead of the March 23 elections to never rely on Arab votes to build a government, began negotiations with Ra’am soon after the polls closed. After all, his aim was to remain prime minister at all costs.
Netanyahu mistakenly believed that he had Ra’am’s support in the bag.
But it turned out that Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas used his newfound power as coalition kingmaker to deny Likud control over the Arrangements Committee. His message was clear: I will not be taken for granted.
Likud’s defeat Monday is proof that one can only fool some of the people some of the time and it is unwise to underestimate purported political partners.
The prime minister it seems has no rabbits left in his hat.