Netanyahu's final days: Last weekend at Balfour or last-minute surprise?

The leak of the coalition deals was proof of sabotage attempts from within the coalition, knowledgeable sources said.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – his people skills are not normal.  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – his people skills are not normal.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The musicians aboard the Titanic continued playing as the ship went down, acting as if they were oblivious to the disaster taking place that would soon submerge them.
Similarly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a point of looking like he is continuing to do his job, as if this coming weekend will not be his final days at the Prime Minister’s Residence on the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets in Jerusalem.
There are no moving trucks. There has been no speech acknowledging defeat. And of course, there has been no contact whatsoever with incoming prime minister Naftali Bennett, or anyone close to him.
What there has been, however, are interesting references in private conversations to Ariel Sharon’s last-minute success in blocking Shimon Peres from forming a government in 1990. Sharon helped Agudat Yisrael MK Eliezer Mizrachi go into hiding, protected by bodyguards hired by Sharon, leaving Peres to face the wrath of his wife, Sonia, who made a rare appearance in the Knesset plenum’s visitors gallery for naught.
Five of the seven MKs in Yamina have been assigned bodyguards to protect them, as has New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar. But the guards are there to enable them to vote, not to help them avoid voting.
If anyone goes into hiding, it might be backbench Ra’am (United Arab List) MKs Walid Taha and Saeed Alharomi.
It would only take one MK to vote against the coalition for it to lose its narrow majority and keep Netanyahu in power. Sources close to those involved in preventing the government’s formation said there was still a 15% to 20% chance that they could manage to stop it.
They said that Monday night’s leak of the coalition guidelines to Channel 12’s political analyst Amit Segal was proof that there is somebody within the new coalition who is working to sabotage it. Clauses in the coalition deal that would have prevented a Netanyahu comeback were changed after the backlash from the leak that night, and that was already an achievement for Netanyahu.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) deliberately set the vote on the new government for Sunday in order to add an extra day between the publication of the coalition guidelines and the vote, hoping to maximize the effect of an outcry to potentially wavering MKs. Levin also got away with scheduling it for late Sunday afternoon, not the morning, to allow more time for tension to build.
Only after the agreements are signed will the final appointments be revealed. Labor leader Merav Michaeli has been hiding the role of MK Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi whose appointment to certain roles could be considered very controversial. Nachman Shai, who is not an MK, is expected to be named Diaspora Affairs minister, but Kariv, who finished second in Labor’s Knesset primary, will either receive a deputy minister’s post in a sensitive ministry or be put in charge of an influential Knesset committee.
Shas, United Torah Judaism and Likud intend to use Kariv to attack the coalition, continuing their efforts to turn Reform into a dirty word. Kariv’s support for the American left-wing lobby group J Street will undoubtedly be highlighted. Netanyahu already attacked J-Street’s founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami, on social media this week in an effort to paint the Bennett-Lapid leadership as a “J-Street government.”
The comparisons of the new coalition to Iran, Syria and North Korea are just the start. Netanyahu’s associates say he truly believes the entire world will be threatened if Israel’s enemies perceive the Jewish state as weakened without him in power.
His critics, of course, say his actual motivation is to avoid the wrath of his wife, Sara, not Iran. It is no wonder that all compromise proposals Netanyahu negotiated had he been part of a coalition kept his family living on Balfour Street, even during the time he would have rotated out of the premiership.
With that much at stake, it is no wonder that Netanyahu will leave no stone unturned ahead of Sunday’s vote. Only if the vote happens and he is officially out of power will Netanyahu play his final song and get ready to move.
“It’s not over yet,” said a source close to Netanyahu. “He always prepares for the worst scenario, but there is more happening than meets the eye. Let’s see on Sunday.”