Analysis: Revenge and Israel's coalition crisis

Throughout Netanyahu's political career, there have been those who served under him and felt wronged by him.

Benjamin Netanyahu
In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock passionately defends his desire to take revenge against those who wronged him.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” he asks.
“If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not take revenge?” In politics, just as there are moments for collegiality, self-sacrifice and restraint, there are times when taking revenge can be completely justified.
Take Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for example.
Throughout his political career, there are those who served under him and felt wronged by him.
Former foreign minister David Levy, former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, former finance minister Dan Meridor, former communications minister Moshe Kahlon and former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar all come to mind immediately, but there are more.
All of them except Sa’ar took revenge against Netanyahu by forming a political party that challenged the Likud. Some were more effective than others.
There are those who eventually made amends with Netanyahu and returned to the Likud.
The latest two party leaders and former Likudniks eager to take revenge against Netanyahu are Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. Both have been treated poorly by Netanyahu for years, with Bennett suffering blow after blow over the last two months.
Liberman could not hide his seething anger at Netanyahu during his press conference Monday. He accused the prime minister of zigzagging, latent dovishness, political conspiracies and all sorts of other ills in his lengthy diatribe.
So how did Liberman take revenge? By refusing to join Netanyahu’s coalition, rejecting the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and relinquishing the Immigration and Absorption portfolio that is the lifeblood of his constituency.
In doing so, Liberman harmed Netanyahu politically and made the prime minister’s life more difficult. But the Yisrael Beytenu leader unquestionably harmed himself more.
It is no wonder political analysts went as far as to call Liberman’s move a “suicide bombing” targeting Netanyahu.
Bennett’s behavior by press time Tuesday indicated that he is taking the opposite approach.
Instead of allowing his anger to boil over publicly, he isolated himself away from the cameras and kept his mouth shut.
By turning off his phone or reportedly putting it on “airplane mode” so he could not receive calls, Bennett smartly waited for closer to the deadline, when Netanyahu will have no choice but to cave into his coalition demands.
If Netanyahu cannot form a government by midnight Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin will be obligated by law to entrust one of the other 119 MKs to form the next government, or initiate another election.
Bennett knows the law well, and he is exploiting it to the fullest.
That attempt at revenge by the Bayit Yehudi leader appears to be an approach that will result not only in Netanyahu being harmed personally and politically, but also in Bennett’s constituency potentially being helped tremendously.
Some seeking revenge ultimately fail, just as Shylock did not end up receiving the pound of flesh he sought.
Bennett is a hi-tech millionaire who prides himself on success.
By midnight Wednesday, it will be clear whether he succeeded yet again.