Can ‘kamikaze’ drive to elections be stopped? - analysis

Even Likud MKs who do not believe he is bringing Israel closer to elections because of his trial are concerned that he might do it to avoid the changeover in the Prime Minister’s Office.

People vote in Jerusalem on election day, March 2, 2020. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
People vote in Jerusalem on election day, March 2, 2020.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Likud MKs listened with disbelief to party leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tell them at Monday’s faction meeting that “No one wants there to be elections and there is no reason for an election.”
None of them mustered the courage to say it to his face, especially after they faced sanctions for violating coalition discipline last week. This is not the time for them to rock the boat. But in closed conversations afterward, they expressed their frustration and deep mistrust of their own leader... who they think would like nothing better than new elections.
The MKs worked hard in primaries to win their Knesset seats, followed by three grueling general elections, and they just started working on keeping their promises to their voters. The last thing they want now is to start all over, if Netanyahu decides to go to another election in November, because his criminal trial is set to intensify in January.
Even Likud MKs who do not believe he is bringing Israel closer to elections because of his trial, are concerned that he might do it to avoid the changeover in the Prime Minister’s Office that is set for November 2021 or because he believes it is better to go to an election now before the economic situation gets even worse due to the coronavirus.
The grants Netanyahu allocated to every citizen made the MKs even more worried, because they saw how he did the opposite when he was finance minister. Cutting entitlements ended up helping the economy then, but it hurt the Likud, which won only 12 seats under Netanyahu in the next election in 2009.
The Likud MKs heard Netanyahu’s arguments about why a budget needs to be passed immediately to cover the rest of 2020 before working on a budget for 2021, instead of passing a two-year budget as Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz wants, and they agreed with him.
But the MKs would have been able to rest easier had Netanyahu instead used the faction meeting to concede to Gantz, let him win a fight for once and admit that it is already too close to 2021 to focus on passing a budget for a year that is almost over.
There is similar disbelief when talking to Blue and White MKs about their party leader, Gantz. They hear his persuasive arguments for why a two-year budget must be passed, and they are convinced.
But they have told him that it is not worth fighting a battle against Netanyahu that they could so easily lose, especially if the consequences are an election and the end of Blue and White. They suspect that Gantz is tired of fighting and ready to sacrifice them if he cannot end up becoming prime minister in 15 months.
Unlike Blue and White, the Likud’s future is not in doubt, but after three elections, the party’s financial situation is grim. That is why staff members at the Likud’s Tel Aviv headquarters, Metzudat Ze’ev, are jumping to other jobs if they are able to.
The Likud has fallen by as many as 10 seats in the polls, losing mandates to opposition parties. The underclass the party represents in the periphery and poor neighborhoods is increasingly angry with the economic blow from the coronavirus.
The word both Likud and Blue and White MKs used in closed conversations on Monday to describe both Netanyahu and Gantz was “kamikaze.” The MKs will remain quiet for now, but not for too much longer if they really are on a political suicide mission.
The closer Israel gets to a fourth election in not much more than a year and a half, the more likely it will be that their frustration will be brought to the forefront.


Tags Likud