Benjamin Netanyahu scored a resounding victory over his detractors on the left in Tuesday’s election, but he also settled the score with his rivals on the right. Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Gideon Sa’ar, Zeev Elkin, Zvi Hauser, Yoaz Hendel, Ayelet Shaked and all the other right-wing politicians who refused to toe the line have found themselves in opposition or at home.
Netanyahu wages ideological war against the left, but when it comes to right-wing politicians it is total warfare. To him, a challenge from the right is a threat to his rule and his very being. This is despite the fact that calls for him to govern in a “full right-wing” manner aren’t aimed at him politically. It is an error on his part and on the part of his family to interpret things in this way. The opposite is true. It is because Netanyahu is held in such high esteem that the right wants to see him fulfill its worldview. Proof of this can be found in the ideological cohesion that currently exists in the right-wing camp.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, Miki Zohar and Yariv Levin have no aspiration to replace Netanyahu. All they want is to see their worldview and that of their voters fulfilled: An overhaul of the judicial system and a shift in the balance of power in favor of the Knesset; restoration of governability and personal security throughout Israel and in Area C of Judea and Samaria; and a restoration of IDF deterrence. These expectations come on top of general necessities such as reducing the cost of living and a solution to the housing crisis. There must also be a return to a constitutional situation in which there is one prime minister, without a parity-based government or an alternate prime minister.
On the previous occasions when Netanyahu has been elected prime minister, he hid behind the left, be it in a coalition or via the attorney general, and shirked his duty to carry out right-wing measures. It is disappointment with Netanyahu’s behavior that led to criticism from within. Now that he has a broad and secure coalition without anyone to challenge him, and knowing that the opposing camp is just looking for opportunities to bring him down, Netanyahu has to function as a full right-wing leader, without excuses, without dodging and without sidestepping. And he should do so responsibly, without pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.
At the age of 73 and starting his sixth term as prime minister, Netanyahu is Israel’s undisputed leader. He has the freedom to be who he really is. If he does so, his government will easily last its term. No less important, if he enacts the policies that his voters voted for, he will rectify the impression left by the previous non-right-wing policies that he enacted. His legacy will be set in stone as a leader of the right.