Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful stalling strategy – analysis

Once Gantz is at the end of his mandate, he will have no leverage left, and he will have to make more concessions to Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech at his Jerusalem office, regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus, March 14, 2020 (photo credit: GALI TIBBON POOL/REUTERS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech at his Jerusalem office, regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus, March 14, 2020
(photo credit: GALI TIBBON POOL/REUTERS)
The agreement between Blue and White and Likud on a national unity government had been printed in four copies, ready to be signed.
There was even kosher for Passover wine on the table at the Prime Minister’s Office.
But then the head of the Likud negotiating team, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, called Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence where the prime minister will remain quarantined until Wednesday, thanks to Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman who tested positive for the virus.
Whether it was Netanyahu who pushed Levin or vice versa, following the call, the Likud backtracked from its compromises on the judicial selection committee. Blue and White left the Prime Minister’s Office in protest, and talks have not been held since.
One reason for the Likud’s behavior could be pressure from the Right to not compromise. Netanyahu has been speaking to Yamina leader Naftali Bennett every day and Likud sources said Bennett has been getting on Netanyahu’s nerves.
The other possibility is that Netanyahu purposely stalled until the Knesset’s final day of voting before the parliament adjourned for its Passover recess. Gantz’s mandate to form a government ends next Monday night, and even though Gantz is Knesset speaker, he is unlikely to convene the Knesset before then.
It will be very easy for Netanyahu to continue to stall after that, even if – as expected – President Reuven Rivlin extends Gantz’s mandate by two more weeks.
Once Gantz is at the end of his mandate, he will have no leverage left, and he will have to make more concessions to Netanyahu.
Even if the crisis over the coronavirus ended sooner than expected and elections were technically possible, Gantz no longer has a bloc of parties to run with after Blue and White split in three.
Netanyahu, by contrast, is at the peak of his popularity, according to Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post poll that found that if elections would be held now, his Likud would win 42 seats and his Right bloc 64.
The prime minister constantly takes his own polls and uses the same pollster who took the poll for The Post. That very well may have influenced his decision to play hard-to-get when the deal was ready to be signed.
Going to another election is not a realistic possibility, but threatening going to an election can help Netanyahu take advantage of his leverage. If his numbers remain that high, the prime minister will continue to have an interest in stalling, and the toast over that wine may end up taking place long after Passover ends.


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