A game of musical chairs

How many times during these 14 days will the prime minister decide to call early elections and then change his mind? And again decide, and change his mind again.

Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Within two weeks, the prime minister said, he will “decide” whether he’ll call early elections in February or March or end his term on time. Anyone who knows Binyamin Netanyahu knows exactly how these two weeks will look, how frightening and sweaty they will be, until he decides.
How many times during these 14 days will he decide and then change his mind? And again decide, and change his mind again.
He will hold countless debates and discussions and consultations, in private and with all, in meeting rooms and smoking areas, during the day and night, in which all possible scenarios will be presented, as well as those that are impossible, but should be presented anyway. And he also will have, of course, phone calls. Many of these will be held in English.
On the line, across the sea, will be patrons, each with his own size of contribution, to have his say in the ear of the decision-maker.
More interesting than the others will be the one held with an old, aggressive billionaire, the man who really makes a difference.
His resounding voice will perhaps urge the prime minister to cut to the chase as soon as possible, because it’s not certain that “our guy” – he means Mitt Romney – will win in the two next debates with President Barack Obama (although victory in the first debate is considered a miracle), so maybe it is better to minimize the damages and to hold elections now.
Now is not the time to up the bet, even though the interlocutor in this conversation actually knows a lot about gambling.
Envoys will arrive to meet the prime minister, rushed, panting, trying, each one in turn, to be “the last who whispered in his ear,” because anyone who knows the prime minister knows that at the end of the day, the lucky last one to enter his room and scare him with something will be the one to divert the train onto the right track.
Five minutes after he gets on it, Netanyahu will be already looking for a way to escape it, just as he had done dozens of times in his career, just as he zigzagged himself throughout his life, saying something, intending something else, and winking wistfully back, maybe because the lady said something that sounds like disqualifying the option he selected.
He has already decided, you say? Elections in February? Probably. Still, this was also said last time, when the Knesset had already decided on the date of the elections (this past September 4), and the campaign began, and then, late at night, he panicked, or got persuaded, or received a surprising phone call from Sheldon Adelson, and built a surreal coalition with Kadima, only to find himself now in the same hopeless situation.
Yet there is a difference between this time and last time. Then, everything was up to Netanyahu. He had pulled a rabbit out of the hat (Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz). Today, it is still up to him, but less so. There are no rabbits, and more important, he has no state budget.
Because the prevailing view is that Bibi will be the next prime minister, few of his coalition partners want to quarrel with him, and therefore, if he exerts all his influence and sweats and shakes and threatens, he will be able to pass the 2013 budget.
The question is, what for? If he wins elections in February, he will have to pass a budget, and it will be more difficult then than now, with larger and deeper cuts and the same responsibility imposed on him again and his new term will begin in a swamp that will be difficult to escape.
Great fun it won’t be. So it is actually a game of musical chairs. None of the players in the current coalition, including the Likud, has a real interest in going to early elections.
On the other hand, no one has an interest in giving up the gains it brought its voters during the current term.
If the budget passes (instead of elections being called), everyone will blame everyone else for the declarations meted out to the public, and if there isn’t a budget, here will be exactly the same scenario. Everyone will blame everyone else for dragging the country to elections during this sorry state of affairs. So what is the bottom line? Elections in February? Well, that’s not certain.
Maybe sooner, in January!