Did Netanyahu fire himself? - Analysis

By ruling out a unity government, which current polls suggest is the only government he can form, Netanyahu’s article may be seen in retrospect as the prime minister firing himself.

By
August 8, 2019 04:18
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

It’s hardly news that an article by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the cover of the pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom, published on Wednesday, fits in the journalistic category of “dog bites man,” due to the newspaper’s reputation.

However, the newspaper’s “man bites dog” cover came on Tuesday when the daily featured a massive headline by political analyst Mati Tuchfeld calling on the prime minister to “promise to build a right-wing government.”

That article angered Netanyahu and his family. The prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu tweeted a picture of the cover and blasted it.


“With not news but political spin and talking points of the campaign of [United Right leader Ayelet] Shaked and [candidate Naftali] Bennett against the Likud spread across its cover, maybe the time has come to finally stop with the nonsense that ‘Bibi has a newspaper,’” the younger Netanyahu tweeted.

Wednesday’s cover was Netanyahu’s rebuttal – not to Tuchfeld, but to Shaked and Bennett. From the prime minister’s perspective, the article had a few different purposes.

First of all, the article formally launched his campaign to seize votes away from the United Right. Netanyahu’s successful effort at what has become known in Hebrew as “drinking votes” began only a week before the last election on April 9. This time, he is starting six weeks in advance of the September 17 vote.

Last election, Netanyahu’s “drinking” was limited, because he made a firm commitment not to attack the Union of Right-Wing Parties that he helped build and because he knew correctly that knocking the Likud’s satellite parties below the threshold could prevent him from being able to form a government.

This time, there is no such commitment and no such concern. Netanyahu told Likud MKs at the Likud’s Tel Aviv headquarters on Tuesday that the United Right should welcome Likud taking away their votes, because they should prefer having seven seats in the coalition than having 12 in the opposition.

The second purpose of Netanyahu writing the article was to allay genuine fears among right-wing voters, who do not want Blue and White in his coalition government. A Walla poll taken this week found that a majority of respondents oppose a unity government, and the opposition is strongest on the Right.

The final reason for the article was for Netanyahu to warn right-wingers that if they do not vote for him, they are firing him from the premiership. His right-wing religious bloc is currently a few seats short of the 61 mandates he needs to form a right-wing government without Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.

By ruling out a unity government, which current polls suggest is the only government he can form, Netanyahu’s article may be seen in retrospect as the prime minister firing himself.


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