After ten days of confrontation with Gaza, there are voices in the Likud Party that are casting doubt on the direction in which the party's chairman Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading them.
A senior political adviser who is a member of the party said yesterday: "Netanyahu is playing on the operation in Gaza to use up the days given to Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid for the mandate to form a government, without any real plan. Nor does he seem to have a real desire to eradicate Hamas. He is leaving the relations between Arab Israelis and the Jews in ruins. Netanyahu is galloping toward a fifth election and taking the country hostage. The collapse of Yamina head Naftali Bennett is giving him a boost, but support for him within the Likud is weakening."
Other elements in the right-wing bloc say that Netanyahu is aiming for further elections, in which, he believes, he will enjoy an improved image following the current confrontation with Hamas. "He is building on the fact that Yamina will be erased," said party officials. "Anyone who thought that the right would wake up from Netanyahu is wrong. The prime minister has a firm grip on the right-wing bloc."
Another source said, however, that "the current situation embarrasses Netanyahu. Even if he did not plan the confrontation, as is being attributed to him, large sections of the public feel that all tools are kosher in his eyes – even if the price is high. They say that 'the duration of the operation will be as long as the mandate.' "The Likud movement is strong and rooted, but cracks are beginning to form in it," the source said. "Today's Bibi [a nickname for Netanyahu] is not the Bibi we knew before. The obsession with the operation is in its infancy, and the equation he set – 'quiet for quiet' – is accompanied by the Qatari money transferred to Hamas, and will not last."
Meanwhile, in Blue and White, they continue to strongly reject claims that Defense Minister Benny Gantz intends to hold talks with Netanyahu on joining the government, after the expiration in less than two weeks of the mandate that Lapid received.
YESTERDAY, it was the turn of Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster to deny the reports. Schuster declared: "Blue and White led by Gantz will not join a government in which Netanyahu will function as prime minister, not even as a second in rotation."
Despite the denials, the Labor Party fears such a possibility. The party's chairman, MK Merav Michaeli, said in an interview with 103FM radio on Wednesday: "Why are they talking to Netanyahu again? All the people who promised us they would replace Netanyahu - why are they not taking the 61 seats we had the day after the election to replace the prime minister?"
At the Labor faction meeting on Wednesday, Michaeli said: "I warned throughout the campaign of such a possibility. I want to believe Gantz's denials. I just remember that Gantz is cooperating with Netanyahu while we are sitting here. He is still part of his government; I hope he will not give him a new government. We are committed to replacing Netanyahu and restoring personal security to the public. This is the most basic thing the state should give to its citizens."
Michaeli added: "Even now, there are all kinds of options on the table for the formation of a change government, the first of which, of course, is 61 seats from New Hope to Ra'am. I call on all possible partners to stand up and take action and save the State of Israel from Benjamin Netanyahu. The sooner the better."
The chairman of the Yesh Atid faction, MK Meir Cohen, referred yesterday to the possibility of a fifth election if Lapid does not succeed in forming a government, saying that: "we will turn every stone. We must form a government that will bring the State of Israel back to sanity – but if we have to get to elections, we will do so with our heads held high. "We insist on the principle that we do not sit with Netanyahu."