Netanyahu's desperation will change Israel's future - editorial

The desperation among some of them. That is what makes this vote so potentially dangerous for the future of the country.

 PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have opposing views of the Lebanon maritime agreement. Will the voters care on November 1? (photo credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have opposing views of the Lebanon maritime agreement. Will the voters care on November 1?
(photo credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Benjamin Netanyahu no longer tries to hide it. 

He might not want to be seen on the same stage as Itamar Ben-Gvir, but even he knows that there is no choice but to give the extremist MK, who is No. 2 on the Religious Zionist Party’s list, and his partner, Bezalel Smotrich, what they want after the election.

Assuming that his right-wing bloc reaches and even passes the sought-after 61 seats, Netanyahu will be forced to give his new coalition-mates plum ministries. 

Netanyahu said as much this week in an interview he gave to Makor Rishon, stating clearly that both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich would be ministers in a government that he forms. It was a sharp break from previous comments Netanyahu had made over the years.

Last February, ahead of the last election, Netanyahu said that Ben-Gvir would be part of a coalition that he would try to assemble after the election, but that the Otzma Yehudit leader was “unfit” to be a minister. 

 Head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party election event in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, September 11, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party election event in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, September 11, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The truth is that it is unlikely that Netanyahu has changed his mind. He probably still believes that Ben-Gvir is unfit but he also knows that he has no choice and that he has chained himself to a group of Jewish extremists in order to try and retake the Prime Minister’s Office. 

There is also a political angle. Netanyahu’s Likud Party has been bleeding seats to the Religious Zionist Party and is – according to recent polls – set to get just about 31 seats in the election, as opposed to the 35 with which it started the campaign. The four missing seats have simply moved over to the more radical list led by Smotrich. 

While this doesn’t change the outcome of the bloc, Netanyahu does prefer to keep those seats and to have a bigger Likud and a smaller RZP that can make fewer demands if and when the former prime minister tries to form a coalition after November 1.

When, and if, that happens, Netanyahu will only have himself to blame. He legitimized Ben-Gvir and he paved the way for him to be on the cusp of serving as a top minister in the next government. This was his doing, ever since he played a key role in uniting Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit with Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party a couple of elections ago.

Now, he will have to pay the price, and that will be not just by allowing Ben-Gvir to serve as a minister in the government, but also by giving into some of his legislative demands. 

Ben-Gvir situation is dangerous to Israel

And this is where the situation truly has the potential to become dangerous for Israel

The country that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are looking to create is one that does not have coexistence between Jews and Arabs. It is one where Jewish women and Arab women give birth in separate hospital wards (Smotrich has spoken openly about this), it is one where Arabs can easily be expelled if they are not considered loyal to the state and it is one where members of the LGBTQ community do not have rights, will feel persecuted and will have a potential top minister in the government who thinks they are like animals. 

Netanyahu knows this is coming, but apparently he doesn’t care. The one issue on his mind right now is whether he can somehow evade his trial and stay out of jail

To achieve that goal, he needs partners like Smotrich and Ben-Gvir – who will help him pass the necessary legislation. If he will have to give the duo what they want in terms of portfolios and additional democracy-harming legislation, so be it. 

This is the reality that Israel faces on the eve of the country’s fifth election in the last three years. Most of the politicians running at the head of parties are the same as they have been for the previous elections. 

What has changed is the desperation among some of them. That is what makes this vote so potentially dangerous for the future of the country.