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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours south Tel Aviv.(Photo by: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Is Netanyahu already on the campaign trail?
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
09/01/2017
With every clap of the crowd, his rivals on the Right and Center hear his possible demise.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked more like a rock star than a head of government earlier this week when the Government Press Office put out its official photograph from a Samaria event celebrating 50 years of settlement activity.

If a photograph could talk, then this one said, “We love you Netanyahu, we really do.”

The GPO didn’t waste digital space on the traditional style images of Netanyahu looking like a serious orator behind a podium. Instead it showed him playing to an adoring crowd, pushing to reach past the metal barrier to shake his hand.

In his 15-minute speech he underscored his persistent message that he is the best person to lead the Right when he stated: “No government has done more for the settlements than my government.”

And he threw diplomatic caution to the wind when he ignored the presence of the UN secretary-general by delivering the lines his right-wing base wants to hear pledging not to uproot settlements.

His speech joined the list of a number of others this week in which he sounded like a man on the campaign trail. This included his populist anti-media toast for Rosh Hashana at Airport City on Wednesday night and his walk in south Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who is a powerful force within the Likud, publicly told Netanyahu that he expected him to remain in power for many years to come.

Underlining the love fest, however, is the worry of the police investigations.

It’s expected that the police could recommend to indict him on corruption offenses in two separate cases.

In perpetually dismissing the charges, Netanyahu has borrowed a page from US President Donald Trump by lashing out at the media and its “fake news.”

At Airport City he accused the press of trying to topple him without elections.

“But the support for us is only growing,” Netanyahu said.

But in treating the police investigation as if it’s an election campaign, Netanyahu has weakened his own standing as a veteran prime minister who has withstood three elections in a row to remain in power for eight years.

With every clap of the crowd, his rivals on the Right and Center hear his possible demise.

Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman sat down with settlement reporters this week, explaining how his policies are the ones that have strengthened and will strengthen the settlement movement and will bring it safely into the future.

He made it seem as if handling the dispute with the US over settlement construction was simply a matter of standing strong behind one’s convictions.

Other politicians like to speak in slogans, he said, while he is focused on the facts.

Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett didn’t hesitate to attack Netanyahu for not doing enough for the settlements and spoke of the need to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.

On Thursday, Channel 2 asked Bennett the question that has been on everyone’s mind: “Are we going to elections?”

Deadpanned, Bennett answered, “If we have to go to elections, then we’ll go to elections.”
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