PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu. Is he a victim of unfair press?.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his scheduled speech at a conference for the National Library and other items on his Tuesday itinerary, because he was suffering from a case of the flu.
Chances are the flu will remain on Wednesday, when the Knesset is set to vote on the controversial outpost and muezzin bills. But it is doubtful he will be able to use his illness to get out of those votes.
Barring a last-minute political deal, Netanyahu will have to choose between upsetting his traditional right-wing political base and infuriating the administration of outgoing US President Barack Obama.
When he had to make the same decision last time, at the preliminary reading of the bill, he voted for legislation that would enable the legalization of outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The vote was reportedly seen by the Obama administration as “spitting in its face,” even though the preliminary reading of a bill is usually irrelevant within the perspective of the lengthy Israeli legislative process.
Wednesday’s vote on the bill’s first reading is also symbolic, not final. No Palestinian will lose any land on Wednesday, and no settler will come any closer to keeping any.
Netanyahu paid lip service to the settlers by voting for the bill the first time, and it would be more of the same if he votes for it again. When it comes to decisions that are actually practical, like the final reading of any bill which then passes into law, that is when he tends to make decisions that they prefer to see in the outgoing administration in Washington.
Netanyahu reportedly even warned ministers on Sunday that he could end up on trial in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. But that won’t stop him from voting for the bill in Wednesday’s irrelevant vote.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu can afford to score points with his base, which wants to see the outposts legalized and a solution for the people of the Amona outpost, which is set to be destroyed on December 25.
Netanyahu has been pandering to that base more and more lately by attacking the media. Polls show right-wing voters resent and dislike the press. Netanyahu has been impressing them by responding to press reports with increasing ferocity.
He wrote on Facebook on Monday that the Channel 10 journalist who reported about his family’s ties with an Australian millionaire was a desperate pathetic gossip columnist with a political agenda.
So Netanyahu will likely continue to reach out to that base for one more day. But he will eventually have to make key decisions.
Unless he catches another conveniently timed flu.