The fact that Ze’ev Elkin has left the Likud Party for Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party means more than most pundits think. Elkin is a political hawk, a staunch supporter of the settlement enterprise who headed the Knesset’s “Land of Israel” lobby well before he was named a minister. The last thing one can say about him is that he is a leftist, which significantly undermines Likud’s attempts to portray Sa’ar’s new party as left-wing.
Elkin is considered a gifted political strategist, even more so than Sa’ar. As chairman of the coalition, he was privy to and the driving force behind many of Likud’s moves to cement its power. This is why no one will be surprised if someday we learn he was Sa’ar’s partner from the get-go.
Elkin bolting from Likud deals the ruling party a serious blow, as it augments the perception that it is falling apart ahead of a crucial general election.
Still, his accusatory speech should be taken with a grain of salt, as much of it sounded like a list of talking points he received from Sa’ar in an attempt to further his agenda.
It’s safe to say that the 2021 election campaign will be the most tumultuous and challenging one Netanyahu has ever faced. Likud’s continued rule remains in real jeopardy, Netanyahu is being challenged by high-profile figures from the right, and polls are coming up with an increasingly expanding list of coalition outlines that don’t include Likud.
Netanyahu will have to work hard to form a solid coalition come March, and it looks like the right-wing bloc alone will no longer suffice. If Sa’ar remains true to his word and won’t partner with Likud after the elections, Netanyahu may have to turn to the center-left bloc, where success is not guaranteed.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, for his part, knows his party must seek a political alliance. Party insiders say that overtures have been made vis-à-vis Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to rekindle the political bromance between the parties, but while the lines of communications between the two parties have remained open, it is unclear where a reunion could happen.
Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.