ANALYSIS: Netanyahu’s rapid return highlights refusal to appoint a deputy

Every time Netanyahu leaves the country, he appoints someone to take his place. Of late, Regev has been his usual choice, based on her loyalty to Netanyahu.

November 12, 2018 12:49
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he arrives at the Elysee Palace after the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War One, in Paris, France, November 11, 2018. (photo credit: REINHARD KRAUSE/REUTERS)


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When reports of explosions in Gaza came in, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Paris.

Who was in charge while the premier was away? Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev assumed the position, while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had the authority to call together the security cabinet.
Every time Netanyahu leaves the country, he appoints someone to take his place. Of late, Regev has been his usual choice, based on her loyalty to Netanyahu.

The premier cut his trip short on Sunday night, and headed back to Israel, rather than leaving Regev with the reigns.

Netanyahu probably would have returned to Israel even if he had a permanent deputy, but the fact that a first-time minister was at the helm when a security incident broke out called attention to the lack of a vice premier.

In the past, there have been Deputy Prime Ministers, selected based on their seniority and experience – or in some cases, political expedience.

However, in the past two governments, Netanyahu chose not to appoint one.

According to a Channel 10 report Sunday night, aired about an hour before the incident in Gaza, Netanyahu does not think that there is anyone who can replace him.

“I’m prepared to leave my job as prime minister tomorrow, but there is no one to give the keys to,” Channel 10 News quoted him as saying, citing an anonymous former senior member of the judiciary.
This quote, which fits in with things Netanyahu has said before, including in a briefing with Jerusalem Post reporters two years ago, is the key to why Netanyahu has not appointed a deputy.

It has long been said that he believes that choosing a deputy would be akin to choosing an heir who would try to undermine him. It’s a political statement.

Netanyahu has long lashed out against those who say they can one day replace him, such as former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, to whom the coalition is unofficially writing a law based on the theory that Sa’ar is in cahoots with President Reuven Rivlin to usurp Netanyahu’s throne.

It’s that political attitude that led an anonymous Likud source in Monday’s Maariv to say: “Netanyahu decided that if he falls, the Likud will fall with him...He wants to be the eternal leader. The megalomania and desire to be the prime minister who served the longest in Israel’s history is leading him to leave scorched earth behind.”

But it’s more than just politics. Netanyahu truly believes he is doing this for the good of Israel. He thinks choosing an heir would undermine the entire country – because he doesn’t think that there is anyone who can do as well as he has in the Prime Minister’s Office and on the world stage.

If the polls are any indication, his support from the public is as strong as ever, and we won’t know if he’s right or wrong anytime soon.

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