Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must be kicking himself as the Knesset enters
the final days of its summer session this week.
Had he not buckled at the
very last minute and cancelled his plans for calling early elections, he would
now be only a couple of months away from an easy victory and his third term in
the Prime Minister’s Office.
Instead, as polls in a weekend paper showed,
his decision to bind his fate to the haredim and scuttle negotiations with
Kadima over the issue of IDF conscription for all Jewish males has severely
weakened his standing among the Israeli public, bringing the Likud down to only
25 projected mandates and Labor up to 21.
Actually, the question as to
whether Netanyahu can kick himself is debatable, given the torn ligament in his
left leg he suffered last month while playing football with Jewish and Arab
children as part of a tourism promotion campaign.
Due to his injury (with
which I do sympathize, having recently torn my calf muscle playing cricket,
showing that Netanyahu and I have at least one thing in common – the idiocy of
middle- aged men thinking they can recapture their youth), Netanyahu needs to
wear a cast.
Disappointingly, Netanyahu and his media advisers are doing
their utmost to ensure there is no official footage showing the prime minister
turning up for work on crutches. Instead, as if this temporary disability is
something to be ashamed of, Netanyahu is only photographed once he’s seated at
the cabinet table and not while he is making his way to his office.
one can understand the prime minister’s reluctance to give newspapers the chance
to run headlines such as “Bibi limps along,” a true leader would rise above this
and use this temporary discomfort as a means to highlight the challenges faced
daily by people with a permanent disability.
Netanyahu is not known for
his sensitivity towards society’s less fortunate; this sporting accident gave
him the opportunity to rectify this. He could have parlayed his injury to prove
that no one is invulnerable to the whims of fate and shown that the disabled
need to be treated with the respect and consideration the able-bodied
Instead, he chose to hide.
Of course, the truth is that
the prime minister is limping along. His failure to utilize a 94-member
governing coalition and introduce the far-reaching changes this country needs is
a complete failure of leadership and a sign of utter political ineptitude. If
Netanyahu had no intention of introducing some form of universal conscription
for all Jewish males, then why did he invite Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz to join
his government and postpone the early elections that were on the verge of being
declared? For the sake of a few more months of power, in which he will do no
more than tread water, Netanyahu has hampered his own reelection campaign. It is
now clearer than ever that a vote for the Likud is also a vote for the veto
power of the haredi parties, who are determined to foist their immoral and
economically unsustainable way of life on the backs of Israel’s diminishing
In an attempt to deflect criticism away from the haredim,
Shas leader Eli Yishai recently made the malicious argument that “first we have
to check the number of conscripts from north Tel Aviv before we make problems
for the haredim.”
And so Haaretz economic commentator Nehemia Shtrasler
did just that.
Examining the secular high schools of north Tel Aviv,
Shtrasler found that “the conscription rate among graduates of Ironi Yud Daled
is 99 percent, at Lady Davis, Alliance and Tichon Hadash it’s 96%, at Ironi
Daled it’s 94%, at Gymnasia Herzliya it’s 90%, at Ironi Heh it’s 88%, and at
Ironi Alef [where those lefties and arty types study] it’s 95%... On the other
hand, evasion by the haredim stands at 90%.”
But it's not just
Netanyahu’s his failure to seize the moment and change the unjust haredi
exemption from the IDF that will harm him at the polls. The social protest
movement will continue to chip away at the prime minister’s standing while a
slowing economy hardly provides an encouraging backdrop for an incumbent prime
If, as likely, the next elections are scheduled for February,
this government will avoid introducing a state budget for 2013, given that next
year’s budget will have to include both spending cuts and tax hikes in order to
control Israel’s budget deficit and protect the country’s international credit
rating. This means government spending for 2013 will remain at its 2012 levels
until a new government passes a budget, so all the goodies recommended by the
Trajtenberg Committee, such as free preschool education, won’t go into
And all this, combined with a weakening shekel, due to both a
general strengthening of the dollar on international markets and foreign
investors’ fears concerning the possibilities of an Israeli strike against Iran,
leads to an inevitable conclusion: Netanyahu’s stock on the electoral market is
deservedly falling.The writer is a former editor-in-chief of
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