While certain pundits, including Jerusalem Post columnist Isi Leibler tend to assume that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support is as strong as ever, we at OneJerusalem have a somewhat different angle on the situation. While what Leibler writes may be true in the eyes of the public, the truth is that, within his governing coalition, Bibi is being triangulated from three directions into a practical political prison.
In this two part analysis, we will show you exactly how the crunch on Bibi is taking shape, and that, in the end, he will probably be able to do absolutely nothing in the final calculation, save stay in his spot without testing any side of the triangle. If Bibi pushes too far, which at some point he will most certainly have to do he may be toppled at any minute.
Direction 1 from the Left – The Labor Party and Daniel Ben-Simon
Though the Labor Party emerged from this year’s general elections more crushed and defeated than it has ever been in its entire history, Labor continues to be a huge factor in Netanyahu’s policy decisions. Labor is pressing hard for the removal of 23 unauthorized outposts throughout Judea and Samaria, and they’re getting pushy about it. Labor faction chairman Daniel Ben-Simon was quoted as saying this yesterday: “If the outposts are not taken down, I will tell [Labor Party Chariman Ehud] Barak that that we aren’t expressing the will of the voters and [that] I demand that the party’s institutions meet to reconsider remaining in the coalition. If the institutions say no, I would have to decide my future and take a different path than I have taken until now.”
Is that a threat? Certainly. If Ben-Simon joins the four current Labor rebels, that would constitute enough to create a legal split in the faction, reducing Netanyahu’s coalition by at least 5 seats, if not all of Labor’s 13 if Barak goes with them. According to Ben-Simon, Barak has until October, when the Knesset reconvenes, to evacuate the outposts. Otherwise, Ben-Simon will take action. This is just the beginning. In the other direction, we have…
Direction 2 from the Right – A Polarized Likud Party
There are two serious things happening here. First, Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), just last night had the guts to organize a conference inside the Knesset for the heads of the Judea and Samaria settler communities with the objective of forming a united front against Bibi’s plan to order a settlement freeze. 20 leaders attended the high level conference, where it was agreed that over the next month more pressure should be placed on Netanyahu to ditch a plan to freeze construction.
Hotoveli is not the only one behind this, however. Together with her and of like mind are Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and world Likud head Danny Danon, among others. A much more dangerous prospect than the Labor party getting all hot and bothered is having the right flank of his own party turn its back on him. Even Bibi’s close associate, MK Ofir Akunis, said that “There will be no freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria and we will not disrupt the lives of people there.”
Labor will certainly not be happy with any negotiations with the PA going on while settlement construction continues, so who knows where they’ll go once they begin complaining that negotiations have no import without a settlement freeze, which is what they will most definitely cry out if and when Bibi and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas get together and talk.
With Vice PM Bogey Ya’alon recently taking a turn to the Right and openly advocating a return to the evacuated town of Homesh, destroyed during the Disengagement of 2005, Bibi’s room for maneuvering here is small indeed.
The second, and arguably even more important phenomenon going on here is Likud’s right flank openly calling for nationalists to join the Likud and strengthen them. These include, along with the above mentioned Hotoveli and Danon, Deputy Minister of Negev Development Ayoub Kara, and MK Yariv Levine. With the objective of enlisting hundreds, if not thousands of supporters from the otherwise politically unaffiliated Nationalist Camp, they are looking for the necessary backing to be able to counter Bibi’s shifts to the left in order to appease the Labor Party.
If they succeed, Bibi’s hold on the party loses much of its potency, that is if he doesn’t entirely lose it altogether just as Ariel Sharon did, forcing him to take a swift exit from the Likud and form Kadima only a few years ago. Word has it that the coalition, calling itself the “Movement for the Strengthening of the National Camp” has already succeeded in bringing aboard several hundred new Likud members just in the past few days. Members who, most likely, are not all that interested in a settlement freeze.
(And let’s not forget Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s likely imminent indictment for corruption and money laundering, which could have untold effects on Bibi’s coalition agreement with Lieberman’s Party, Yisrael Beiteinu.)