(November 20, 2018 / Israel Hayom) As the dust settles on the political battlefield, it is becoming clear that some of those involved in the political turmoil that threatened to bring down the government over the past week, gambled—and lost.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from the latest coalition crisis as a determined leader who does not yield to political pressure. He weathered the threat of early elections, triggered by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman’s surprise resignation as defense minister, and withstood the ultimatum presented by Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who demanded to succeed Lieberman in exchange for remaining in the coalition.
Netanyahu rejected Bennett’s demand and appointed himself defense minister, thereby nearly guaranteeing Likud a bump in the polls in the next elections, scheduled for November 2019.
Habayit Hayehudi’s leader, for his part, did the math and opted to withdraw all demands and remain in the coalition, citing the “good of the country.”
Bennett’s decision to remain in the government still means the coalition numbers only 61 out of a total of 120 Knesset members, giving it a very narrow majority with which to function until the next election. The coalition may not be stable, but Netanyahu has regained control over when to call early elections, if at all.
Bennett, for his part, narrowly avoided being labeled as the one who brought down a right-wing government. For the most part, he was able to do some damage control before being seen exclusively as someone who makes empty threats.
Yes, he will be the butt of many jokes and jabs in the next few days, but in terms of the public’s collective memory, he will probably be perceived as a responsible adult who was willing to “take a hit,” rather than destabilize the entire country.
Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon emerged from the coalition crisis unscathed. While it may have appeared for a moment as though he held the coalition’s fate in his hands, Kahlon made neither threats nor promises, preserving his Teflon image. Still, it remains to be seen what the future holds for his party, especially in the polls.
The big loser to emerge from all this is undoubtedly Lieberman.
Yisrael Beytenu’s chairman had hoped to see the election year through as a hawkish defense minister that out-rights the right-wing government at every turn, but given that his resignation failed to trigger snap elections, all he is looking at now is months of boredom on the benches of the opposition.
Moreover, his failed gambit has made him an easy target for other right-wing parties in the coming election campaign, as his rivals will constantly remind him how, as defense minister, not only did he fail to defeat Hamas, but also bolted when the going got tough and nearly brought down a right-wing government.