Wednesday's events demonstrated how National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's political power has weakened in recent weeks, as he continues to draw broad criticism over the growing number of homicides in the Israeli-Arab sector and is performing poorly in polls.
On March 27, Ben-Gvir threatened to quit the government if Netanyahu chose to freeze the judicial reform legislation. Netanyahu took the threat seriously, and Ben-Gvir managed to receive a signed commitment to the formation of a National Guard in exchange for him staying on.
Fast forward approximately five weeks.
On Wednesday, in response to Ben-Gvir's decision to skip the Knesset votes and hold a faction meeting in Sderot, the Likud put out a statement that if Ben-Gvir is unhappy with the government's security policy, he is welcome to resign.
Netanyahu would not have agreed to put out such a statement if there was an actual threat of Ben-Gvir resigning – since this would likely lead to the government's fall. Netanyahu was so confident that Ben-Gvir would not leave the government, that he dared the latter to do so.
Ben-Gvir loses in a game of chicken with Netanyahu
The prime minister was correct. Ben-Gvir in response shifted to a lower-grade threat: To continue to boycott the Knesset plenum.
This shows that Ben-Gvir's poor performance as reflected in the polls has led to a weakening of the leverage he wields over the prime minister. The national security minister no longer has a credible threat to resign from the government in order to position himself as an opposition to the right of the prime minister, since he has not been able to convince Israelis that he represents a better alternative.
If Otzma Yehudit does follow up on its threat and continues to boycott the Knesset plenum, the coalition will have a narrow 58-56 majority and a major headache. This is not sustainable in the long-term, and Netanyahu will eventually need to appease Ben-Gvir – but the prime minister can take some time, and offer less than he did in March.