Saving Netanyahu – and the Likud

Netanyahu’s refusal to implement the recommendations of the Levy Report is a slap in the face to those who elected him.

Liberman and Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Liberman and Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Despite his accomplishments, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu continues to bleed votes to Bayit Yehudi. Some have suggested this is because Netanyahu lacks “big ideas,” like “land for peace” and others that have led Israel into disasters. Others attribute this to lack of significant competition from other parties.
There is a far simpler and more obvious reason: a sense of betrayal among his supporters. Since being elected more than three years ago, Netanyahu has left a trail of disappointment and frustration in his wake. Nothing so alienates as a sense of being taken for granted – even if the alternatives are worse.
Having shattered the trust of his constituency, it’s payback time.
Netanyahu’s refusal to implement the recommendations of the Levy Report (concerning the legal status of Judea and Samaria as contested – not “occupied” – territory, to which Israel has a legal claim under international law) and allowing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to carry out a controversial anti-settlement agenda were a slap in the face to those who elected him.
The latest betrayal is an announcement that the High Court agreed to a request by the state attorney (under the attorney general) to destroy the hilltop community of Amona by April, 2013.
As usual, this judicial decision was misreported.
The High Court did not “order the state to evacuate Amona,” but rather allowed the state (in this case, the Prosecutor’s Office) to implement its decision, regardless of legal disputes and questionable evidence and judicial procedures. As usual, the High Court ruled on a technical issue – the right of the state to carry out policy – not on whether that policy was right or wrong.
The High Court’s stamp of approval for a decision of the attorney-general and state prosecutor, without an examination of the issues by a lower court which has responsibility for such matters, gives the impression of legitimacy. The source of the problem, therefore, is in the judicial system and in the Prime Minister’s Office which could intervene.
Netanyahu’s silence is deafening.
Although most Likud MKs and coalition partners are opposed to the destruction of Amona and other sites, there is little they can do. The decision is up to one person: Netanyahu.
Those who voted for him in the past understand this and now, with the Levy Report on the table, they are asking why Netanyahu refuses to act, and what this refusal means for any future government which he leads. Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) has brought this issue forward, but instead of understanding the importance of this message, Netanyahu is trying to kill the messenger.
Rather than accept Bennett as an ally, Netanyahu seems intent on destroying him. So far, this has backfired – to his own and his party’s detriment.
Finally, voters simply ask, who can I trust? That question cannot be taken lightly. It lies at the heart of all relationships, including the political process.
Although it is unlikely that a left-wing, anti-settlement coalition led by Labor, Kadima, the Tzipi Livni Party and Yesh Atid will garner enough mandates to form a government, they could win by default if Netanyahu’s supporters believe that he does not deserve their vote and vote for others, or not at all.
Aware of risks and dangers on both sides, he seems offended by the dissatisfaction and mistrust tugging on his robe and crown. A master of ambiguity and intrigue, he cannot afford to allow his constituency to take him for granted – the ultimate turn-around.
If this happens, it will be a monumental act of political suicide.
Netanyahu can ensure his continued leadership and his party’s chances to set up a viable coalition by having the cabinet pass a resolution to implement the recommendations in the Levy Report and meanwhile halt all acts of uprooting homes or settlements, at least until the cabinet decides on the Levy Report as a whole. Failure to act decisively now will send a strong warning signal about where he is headed.
This time our antennae are tuned in.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.