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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference, February 19th, 2019.(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A win-win situation for Netanyahu
By GIL HOFFMAN
02/20/2019
It is safe to say that no matter what happens, Netanyahu can find a way to outsmart Gantz politically.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu created an interesting comparison when he canceled his long-awaited trip to Moscow in order to oversee final political maneuvers ahead of Thursday’s deadline for lists to be submitted to the Central Elections Committee.
 
Russia under President Vladimir Putin has been accused of interfering in recent elections in the US, France and Germany, as well as the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Netanyahu, who is often compared to US President Donald Trump, has displayed Putin-like prowess in political interference in recent days.
 
He blatantly interfered in decisions made by Bayit Yehudi, the National Union and Otzma Yehudit on the Right. His interference on the Center-Left was more subtle.
 
For two months, he has been playing with Israel Resilience leader Benny Gantz’s psyche. The Likud has attacked Gantz below the belt, spread false news about his wife and painted him as an irresponsible leftist who conspired against Israel with then-US president Barack Obama and abandoned an Israeli soldier to die.
 
Gantz clearly let Netanyahu get to him. After initially holding back fire, Gantz went overboard in his response to the prime minister in his speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Tuesday. Gantz insulted Netanyahu’s military background, made him look like a hedonist and even put him down for speaking polished English.
 
That was the second Gantz speech of the week that was not received well. The first was at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.
 
That speech was criticized for sounding too much like a Netanyahu address. Two days later, Gantz was criticized for going to the opposite extreme in his attack on the prime minister.
 
The “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” political trap that Gantz crawled into thanks to Netanyahu’s political maneuvers hurt him in the polls and sent him to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid bruised, fatigued and weakened.
 
Those are not good things to be when you start negotiations. It was unclear late Wednesday if a deal would be finalized.
 
But it is safe to say that no matter what happens, Netanyahu can find a way to outsmart Gantz politically again. If the deal is reached, he will paint the joint Gantz-Lapid list as left-wing and anti-religious. If Lapid and Gantz run separately, Netanyahu will likely find a way to divide and conquer their two parties.
 
The next time Netanyahu goes to Moscow, he can give pointers to Putin about how to interfere politically.
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