Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emraces his wife Sara after elections results, April 9th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud ministers in a hastily called meeting on Sunday that the small parties must realize that if another election is held now, the two largest parties will take away even more of their votes.
He vowed that in such a scenario, he would want Likud to run together with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party and against Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu. After the Likud ran no Russian-language campaign ahead of the April 9 election to avoid harming Liberman, Netanyahu said he would triple any past budget for the Likud in Russian.
Netanyahu already drowned the New Right and Zehut in the April 9 election, while Blue and White devoured three fourths of Labor voters. So if another election would be held, would Israel really continue toward a two-party system, and is it a foregone conclusion that Netanyahu would win a sixth time?
The most likely scenario, of course, is that Netanyahu would win. He certainly has proven his unprecedented staying power.
But there is no guarantee, for many reasons. First of all, while Netanyahu would blame Liberman for initiating another costly election, much of the public could blame Netanyahu instead and decide the time has come for him to go.
Since the election, Netanyahu broke his promise to not seek immunity from prosecution in the Knesset, and his party openly endorsed controversial bills that it shunned – or at least avoided talking about – before voters cast their ballots.
The criminal cases against Netanyahu could intensify ahead of the election. It would be held before Rosh Hashanah and his October 2 hearing, in which Netanyahu will tell his side of the story. There would be undoubtedly be many conveniently timed leaks before that, with more potentially embarrassing details.
Liberman did not appear particularly impressed by the threat and called Netanyahu’s bluff by rejecting another invitation to meet with him. He said such threats were not what would bring him back to the coalition negotiating table.
Yisrael Beytenu proved that it has a loyal base in the April 9 election after many predicted its doom. Its voters did not need signs in Russian to know that the Likud’s No. 2, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, was born in Chernivtsi, then the Soviet Union and now Ukraine. They voted for Liberman regardless.
There is also no guarantee that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would be the main candidate against Netanyahu. The leaders of the party who swallowed their pride to run together last time might not be able to give up their egos again.
And who knows who will head Labor? Perhaps with an untarnished fresh leader, the party that only elderly people voted for in April could have new life.
After Avi Gabbay led the party from 24 to six seats, Labor’s future is in doubt. So Blue and White could win more seats than last time.
And what about Gideon Sa’ar? Could he lead a rebellion inside the Likud? Could anyone else?
With so many unknowns, an election would be a gamble, even for a prime minister who has forgotten how to lose.
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