Think About it: What is required is patience

In the last two weeks before the elections, I heard numerous traditional Likud voters say that they were not going to vote for the Likud with Netanyahu at its head.

TIME FOR the waiting game (photo credit: REUTERS)
TIME FOR the waiting game
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At long last, after four electoral disappointments, I see light at the end of the tunnel. On Tuesday evening, before the results of the exit polls were broadcast I was preparing myself for another disappointment, but all three exit polls indicated that indeed, something had changed since April, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lost his magic touch and a growing number of voters appeared to be saying: “enough is enough.”
In fact, in the last two weeks before the elections, I heard numerous traditional Likud voters say that they were not going to vote for the Likud with Netanyahu at its head. They were all disgusted by his conduct, lies, spins and hysterics, and the increasingly unpleasant atmosphere he creates around himself. However, as a result of past experience, I didn’t allow myself to believe that these sentiments would start changing the reality.
The winners of the elections last week were Avigdor Liberman, the haredim, Blue and White and the Arabs. Liberman’s eight mandates – three more than he received in April – came from voters who knew that even though he is a right-winger, he wasn’t going to support Netanyahu, and was determined to stop the haredim and National-Religious messianics from gradually imposing a halachic state on us all. Some of his new supporters identify as liberals.
The haredi success stems largely from demographics, that of Blue and White from the fact that it projects a sense of normality and moderation, compared to the growing hysteria that has been pouring out of Balfour Street in recent weeks, and that of the Arabs from Netanyahu’s scandalous, unbridled incitement against them.
The losers of the elections were the Likud, which started off with 39 mandates (including the seats of Kulanu, which merged into the Likud) plus a promise for another 1-2 from Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut, but ended up with 31 – two behind Blue and White; The Zionist Left, which gained only one additional seat since April, despite the joining of forces between Meretz and Ehud Barak, and between the Labor Party and Orly Levy-Abecassis; and the National-Religious camp, which gained only two additional mandates, despite the joining of forces between the New Right and the Union of Right-Wing Parties.
THE REASON for careful optimism is that Netanyahu has only 55 MKs supporting him, from the Likud, and the various religious parties. However, this is marred by the fact that Blue and White cannot form a narrow coalition without both Liberman and the Arabs (an impossibility at this stage), and because the formation of a national unity government made up of Blue and White, the Likud and a handful of other parties needs time to mature.
What Netanyahu will try to do is convince potential deserters from Blue and White, and/or Labor-Gesher, and/or Liberman to join his government, at some exorbitant political price (as he was willing to do in the case of Avi Gabbay’s Labor Party after the April elections). Netanyahu is also willing to consider what he refers to as a “Zionist national-unity government” based on his “natural coalition” with the three religious parties, (not all of which are Zionist in the original sense of the term), to which he is willing to invite Blue and White as a fifth wheel, rather than an equal partner.
Netanyahu believes that he ought to be granted the first shot at trying to form a government, even though Blue and White has 33 seats, and Netanyahu himself argued before the elections that the president should assign the task of forming a government on the leader of the largest party.
Not surprisingly, as the largest party, Blue and White demands to be given the first chance to try to form a government, and, if this occurs, will try to form a national-unity government with the Likud, but only on condition that Netanyahu will not head this government – at least not until such time as the attorney-general decides not to indict him, or he is found innocent of the various charges against him in the final legal instance. In fact, what this means is that most likely, Netanyahu will be unable to be a member of the government, since ministers, unlike prime ministers, must resign if indicted, and the chances of his not being indicted are slim.
The situation would be made much simpler if the Likud were to reach the conclusion that Netanyahu has become more of a burden than an advantage, and to decide to replace him. However, for the time being the only member of the Likud to demand that this be done – on record – is former MK Yehiel Hazan, father of former MK Oren Hazan, who was obliged to leave the Knesset under embarrassing circumstances (the double voting scandal of 2003), and who has an ax to grind with Netanyahu.
I believe that it is only a matter of time before the Likud wakes up to the fact that Netanyahu is becoming a burden and an embarrassment, and takes action to remove him. Unfortunately, the Likud isn’t there yet, and Netanyahu is likely to survive a little longer before others will dare say what Yehiel Hazan said.
I am inclined to agree with Amit Segal from channel 12, and with former Labor MK Eitan Cabel, who have both stated that under the circumstances, a third round of elections is inevitable in the beginning of 2020. I would add: unless the Likud wakes up before then, and understands that we do not need a magician as leader, especially not one who believes he is the cat’s whiskers, above the law and accepted norms, and irreplaceable.
What we need a leader who consults with his political colleagues and with experts, rather than with his spouse and offspring, and most importantly – who sticks to the democratic rules. He needn’t have the sixth highest IQ in the world (which some obscure American journalist said about Netanyahu) – just a sense of decency, clear goals, and decision making capabilities.
What we also need is a government that serves the population as a whole; which understands that one cannot maintain democracy and at the same time break down the pillars which support it; that is willing to reconsider the state’s order of priorities and allocate financial resources accordingly; that acts to unite the various sections of our society rather than incite them against each other; that does not place all our foreign policy options in the basket of a fickle, controversial leader of a foreign state – even if he is allegedly our greatest friend, and befriends populist crypto-fascist regimes while distancing liberal democratic ones; that does not pour our relations with American Jewry down the drain just because a majority within it is liberal and progressive.
No matter how much longer our Via Dolorosa will last before we return to a state of political sanity, stability and correctness, I should like to believe that we have at least embarked on a course leading in the right direction.
Patience – what is required is patience.