Netanyahu may be playing with fire

The prime minister may be schooling Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, but walking the fine line between political maneuvering and elections is risky.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Mati Tuchfeld
Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.

Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz is starting to lose his patience. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is schooling him daily and he is constantly being ridiculed by his partners-turned-rivals in Yesh Atid, who present him in the media as a gullible political novice.

Trying to bolster his image, Gantz, who is also defense minister and alternate prime minister, is going after Netanyahu’s current weak spot—the sovereignty bid. While politically Netanyahu does not need Blue and White to push the move through, the Americans require Likud and Blue and White to be united on the issue.

But Netanyahu and Gantz are locking horns on too many issues, too soon and too aggressively. Gantz may have no real recourse against Netanyahu, but he also knows that, despite the polls, Netanyahu has no real other option either.

Calling early elections during the coronavirus crisis, with a recession looming, could backfire in the worst possible way, as the number the polls currently predict for Likud and the Israeli right may prove to be written on ice. Gantz is well aware of this and it allows him to take calculated risks.

Netanyahu’s attempts to keep tensions in the coalition at a simmer only to have them boil over just before the rotation agreement comes into effect and Gantz takes over as prime minister may also backfire.

Under other circumstances—of coordination and cooperation—Netanyahu could foster a situation in which Blue and White ministers drift away from the party and, when push comes to shove,prefer to stay in a Netanyahu government even if Gantz exits it. That could prevent another election and guarantee that a Netanyahu-led government will be in power for years. But the constant bickering keeps Blue and White ministers close to Gantz, bolstering him against any threat posed by Netanyahu or Likud.

But at the end of the day, this is a battle Gantz can’t win. He can flex his muscles and throw wrenches in various wheels, but Netanyahu still holds all the power. The coalition deal affords the prime minister more exit points, and he is far less wary of the possibility of another election.

Another option is that Netanyahu and Gantz are more coordinated than we give them credit for, that Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria is not on the agenda and that Netanyahu prefers Gantz to be portrayed as the one that pulled the rug out from under it.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that both sides have something to gain from being at odds, further increasing the chances that it’s all an act. If that is the case, then Netanyahu and Gantz are putting on the best show in town.

Still, while conspiracy theories can never be discounted when it comes to Israeli politics, this one may be a step too far.

Mati Tuchfeld writes for Israel Hayom.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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