Think about it: The goals and means of Netanyahu’s election

In order to attain his first goal Netanyahu must attain the support of at least 61 MKs. Currently, none of the opinion polls indicate that this is achievable, though this does not stop Netanyahu.

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September 9, 2019 11:36
Think about it: The goals and means of Netanyahu’s election

WHAT ARE his thoughts in the last days of the campaign?. (photo credit: REUTERS)

There are two goals to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign. The first is to be able to form another right-religious government, preferably without any center-left partners. The second is to avoid being indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of confidence.

In the previous round of elections back in April, Netanyahu denied (in an impromptu interview on Channel 12) the latter motive, though his actions indicate otherwise. He also proved that he is willing to compromise on a purely right-religious government, if absolutely necessary, as indicated by his willingness to offer the then-leader of the Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, a handful of attractive positions in his government, if Gabbay would bring his six Knesset seats into the coalition.

In order to attain his first goal Netanyahu must attain the support of at least 61 MKs. To the present, none of the opinion polls indicate that this is achievable, though this does not stop Netanyahu from trying.

The first direction of his efforts is to stop right-wing lists that have no or little chance of passing the 3.25% qualifying threshold from running in the elections. He managed to get Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut to withdraw in return for a promise for a ministerial position for Feiglin, a promise to promote the legalization of cannabis for medical patients who require it, and whole row of subjects related to the free economy and media and other issues close to Feiglin’s heart. Though not all of Zehut’s voters will now switch over to the Likud, this move will undoubtedly prevent the Right losing some votes.

Netanyahu’s second target is Otzma Yehudit, which Yamina refused to bring into its fold. It is not clear how far Netanyahu is willing to go in this case. It is especially doubtful whether he will offer Itamar Ben-Gvir a ministerial post. Though Ben-Gvir was not denied participation in the elections by the Supreme Court, he is undoubtedly a hard-core Kahanist.

At the moment it looks as if Netanyahu has opted for wooing Otzma Yehudit voters, inter alia by means of a visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron – his first in 21 years, which Ben-Gvir considered disappointing.

Incidentally, should Otzma Yehudit withdraw from the elections, most of its voters are more likely to vote for Yamina or Noam than for the Likud. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, Noam (an extreme haredi party) itself is apparently “beyond the pale” or too insignificant to bother with.

What else is Netanyahu doing to attain a 61-mandate majority? “Drinking” votes from Yamina doesn’t make much sense, but Netanyahu’s detestation of Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, his ambivalence regarding Bezalel Smotrich, and his belief that ensuring that the Likud will be the largest parliamentary group after the elections is no less important than the size of his political bloc are driving him in this direction. All his promises regarding the annexation of all the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria – legal and illegal alike – are so motivated.

WHAT IS Netanyahu doing about those who are not part of the right-religious bloc?

Since Liberman appears to have left this bloc, Netanyahu is doing everything in his power to draw Russian voters away from Liberman. So far he doesn’t appear to be doing too well. Besides, Liberman also draws right-wing voters who are fed up with Netanyahu, of whom there are growing numbers.

I think Netanyahu gets it all wrong when he reminds potential Liberman voters that the latter reneged on his promise to support him as prime minister. Indeed, Liberman did, but not unconditionally. He also promised to do everything in his power to prevent a Halacha/messianic state in Israel.

While in the 2015 elections Netanyahu spoke about “the Arabs rushing to the polling stations,” this time he is warning that they are threatening to “steal” the elections by means of fraud in the polling stations.

His remedy? Sending Likud observers with cameras to all the Arab polling stations.

The problem with this? At the moment the law declares this illegal, and the Likud is trying to change the law before the elections, contrary to the opinion of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. In addition, of over 100 Arab polling stations in which the Likud had asked the Central Elections Committee to examine fraud in the April elections, only in one were suspicions of fraud found requiring a criminal investigation. In five additional stations minor fraud was found but not necessarily in favor of the Arab parties.

What is especially worrying in this situation is not only Netanyahu’s anti-Arab bias – minor fraud is also known to exist in haredi polling stations – but the fact that there is a real possibility that if he loses the elections, Netanyahu will refuse to accept the results, with the argument that the elections were rigged.

ANOTHER ASPECT of Netanyahu’s campaign which is very disturbing on the one hand, and an indication of how panicky he is on the other, concerns his use of foreign policy and defense, designed to demonstrate his “greatness” and “irreplaceability” in these spheres. Though most of the security events of the last few weeks are not directly connected to the elections, they are certainly being used to make political hay, and contrary to instructions that he received in the April elections to avoid publishing photographs taken of himself with IDF personnel in the course of the campaign, he is currently ignoring these instructions. Thus the IDF finds itself willy-nilly featuring in the Likud’s campaign.

Netanyahu’s overnight visit to London is a distinct case of abusing Israel’s foreign relations for Likud propaganda purposes. There was really no earthly reason for such a visit at this juncture, unless Netanyahu wished to demonstrate support for Johnson’s policy of getting the UK out of the European Union even without an agreement, and his willingness to try to castrate parliament to achieve this goal. What on earth does Israel gain from all of this? Needless to say, this bit of foreign policy shown off by Netanyahu was paid for by the state (the Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office?) and not by Likud election funds.

Fortunately Netanyahu’s planned visit to India was canceled, reportedly due to timetable problems. What reason is there for such a visit, right after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unilaterally changed the international status of Kashmir and canceled the Indian citizenship of close to two million Muslims in the state of Assam?

And what about Netanyahu’s planned “quickie” with Vladimir Putin in Sochi – a repetition of a similar visit before the April elections? Besides trying to demonstrate his pretensions as a top-caliber wheeler-dealer, this move, it is said, is also part of the effort to woo some of Liberman’s Russian voters – again at the expense of the state rather than the Likud.

All this for the purpose of trying to establish yet another extremist, dividing, unstable 61-mandate government, riddled by incompetence, corruption and cynicism, and headed by a prime minister seeking to escape justice.... And, yes, there is a NIS 50 billion budget deficit to deal with.


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