Olmert to Bennett: Create 'New Likud' with Sa'ar, oust Netanyahu - opinion

"I remember well that you pledged to prevent having to hold a fifth election, whatever the cost. This is the only promise that you cannot keep."

NAFTALI BENNETT in his office. The Yamina Party leader now represents the sane right wing in the political arena. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
NAFTALI BENNETT in his office. The Yamina Party leader now represents the sane right wing in the political arena.
Dear Naftali,
We are not close friends. We are only acquaintances. We do not hold similar positions on various issues that are on the public agenda. While you are in favor of annexation, I am in favor of withdrawal. While you are in favor of building settlements, I am against it. Unlike you, I believe that we should encourage US President Joe Biden to reach an understanding with the Iranians that would lead to a new nuclear agreement. I believe that such an agreement would limit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons for many years to come. I think that the unrestrained rhetoric expressed about the Iranians does not contribute anything to Israel’s security, and it would be better to refrain from doing this. It’s true that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the main and impetuous babbler, but you also take part in it at times.
Overall, there are few topics upon which both you and I agree. You are a radical right-wing settler supporter; I, as you know, pursued policies that were based on a willingness to engage in territorial compromise and a return to 1967 borders, with minor adjustments. Also, I supported concessions on Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, which could become, in the framework of a peace agreement, the capital of a Palestinian state.
There are many disparities between our views. Moreover, you took part in actions initiated by Netanyahu when you were his aide that were intended to create the false impression that the Second Lebanon War had been a complete failure, which justified efforts to overthrow the government I had been leading.
You acted alongside Netanyahu’s lackeys, who were backed by rich American Jews, that tried to get IDF reservists excited about demonstrating in a style that was popular after the Yom Kippur War. This effort failed. Nowadays, you may admit even to yourself that the Second Lebanon War was an important strategic achievement for Israel that brought stability to Israel’s northern border for almost 15 years.
In short, I could list all of the reasons why I didn’t vote for Yamina, headed by you and Ayelet Shaked, and why I will not vote for Yamina in the future.
Nevertheless, together with Gideon Sa’ar, you now represent the sane right wing in the political arena. You and your friends, along with Sa’ar and his friends, believe in the ideals that have been in line with the Israeli Right for many years. You believe in a Greater Land of Israel, in the settlements, in a single country where two different peoples live. At the moment, you are having a hard time admitting this, but in time you will understand that we cannot keep controlling all of the territories and not grant full civil rights to all of the people who live there. You and Sa’ar are decent people, which is something that cannot be said about the current leader of the Likud Party. He is a crook who does not believe in anything but his wife’s, his son’s and his own comfort and their hedonistic and lustful tendencies.
You and your friends are different. Unfortunately, you are following the wrong political path, although you do feel this way because of your burning faith that this is the correct path for the future of the State of Israel.
Sa’ar wants to improve the lives of Israeli citizens just like you do, and just like the great Menachem Begin used to say. Since you are decent right-wingers who are dedicated to what you are convinced is important to the country and its security, I recommend that you not be tempted by Netanyahu’s false promises. Surely, you know better than anyone else that none of his promises can be believed. You and Shaked don’t need any reminding of your past experiences while you served as a minister in his government; of all the tricks, insults, falsehoods and pretensions. It’s all familiar and known.
Since you’re a decent person, joining the gang of crooks on Balfour Street is not an option open to you. You have no excuse, no imaginary state of emergency, no nuclear threat from Iran (which currently has no nuclear weapons – and its ability to produce them in the near future is unclear, and certainly not actual) that you could use as a reason to join a government led by Netanyahu and dominated by Itamar Ben-Gvir. (It’s true that Bezalel Smotrich is ostensibly the leader of the religious-Zionist bloc, but in these types of organizations the more extreme member always become the leader.)
If you join the right-wing coalition, you will destroy your political future with your own two hands. You will go from being a respected public representative who is known for his integrity to being an errand boy for the crook and a lackey to his wife and to being a rival of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in the battle for support from the nationalist and violent hilltop youth.
That’s not your place. I recommend that you resist the temptation. It’s not simple. But anyone who aspires for national leadership positions must be able to resist an offer that in the short run looks shiny and interesting but turns out to be a political death trap. Given the composition of the partners, and considering the violent and uninhibited nature of the Balfour Road gang and the cronies that hang around the prime minister, they will do everything to tire you and your partners out during every minute of the coalition partnership with you.
I fear that the other option – of joining the opposing bloc – is also unrealistic and preposterous. I really hope that it is created and that you’ll be able to join it. This coalition would enable you to become prime minister for a certain amount of time and then swap places with Yair Lapid.
But you said it’s not practical to speak about the prime ministership with just 10 seats. You are correct. Is it more practical with seven seats? What’s more, in such a composition, the bloc would have to receive the support of the Joint List – at least two or three of its members – and perhaps also from the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party. I see such a composition as the key to bringing about a change in the make up of the government. But do you? Would you and Sa’ar together agree to sit in a government that was dependent upon the support of Meretz, Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh?
I would happily jump at such an opportunity. You wouldn’t, and you know it. And Sa’ar also knows it. You are trapped in a complex tangle, and also in the commitments that each of you has made over and over again. Both of you pledged not to join any government that relies on votes from Arab members of Knesset. No other government will be formed, unless you and Sa’ar succeed in laying out a red carpet lined with precious gemstones for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, whose leaders will slam the door in Netanyahu’s face and then go back to the place they really belong – the sane center where they’ve always been.
There is a chance that this could happen. After another election. I remember well that you pledged to prevent having to hold a fifth election, whatever the cost. This is the only promise that you cannot keep. In any case, this isn’t entirely up to you whether or not we go to a fifth round of voting. If you do join a coalition with the Joint List, Ra’am and Meretz you’ll have to violate other commitments you’ve made that are deeply connected to the heart of the worldview you espouse.
So, what’s there to do? I recommend that you and Sa’ar consolidate your lists. Anyway, there isn’t really any difference between the two of you. You’re both decent people. You both believe what you’re saying. You’re both right-wingers, just like the Right should be. A Right that is fair and is deeply committed to the principles of equality and democracy.
You can and need to create a “New Likud” that will run against the old Likud in the upcoming election. If you do that, you will be the country’s leaders and Netanyahu will go back home. The current Likud members will join you. They won’t receive you as refugees for whom the supreme ruler is willing to deploy his sponsorship. Instead, they will return to the Likud, as it once was, under your leadership. If you do this – you will win. If you don’t – you will disappear.
Now the decision is up to you alone.