(March 25, 2021 / JNS) After four failed attempts, it’s safe to say that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rivals cannot depose him. He’ll be sticking around for as long as he wants the job. The left-wing camp’s struggle to replace him began with the boisterous raising of blue and white flags, and then black flags, and has now ended with the white flag of surrender.
When those vying for the crown came from the right, Netanyahu was left the central actor in the arena. Many on the right, myself included, thought that Netanyahu, despite his special talents and incredible contribution to the state, had become a burden to the right and the reason for the political instability. Many believed the time had come to pass the torch to a younger leader from the nationalist camp, someone who hadn’t had any indictments filed against them and who had the ability to heal the rifts in Israeli society.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar tried and failed to replace Netanyahu from within the Likud, and then tried and failed to do so from outside. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett joined in these attempts. Both of them did exceptionally well in the polls but crashed on election day. They both should be thankful Netanyahu is the leader that earned the most public trust and should cease and desist in their attempts to succeed him.
A very good leader, someone on Netanyahu’s scale, can only become great if they are wise enough to train the next generation of leaders. For more than a decade, Netanyahu has tried to push out anyone who shows leadership promise. It was in this way that Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, Telem head Moshe Ya’alon, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, Sa’ar, Bennett and his fellow party member, Ayelet Shaked, all of whom came from the Likud and whose ideology matches that of the Likud, were pushed out. They all could have stayed in Likud had Netanyahu wanted them to.
Now with one more term in office ahead of him, the time has come for Netanyahu to conduct himself differently. It will be difficult to bring Sa’ar back to the Likud. He needlessly went on television and signed a contract saying he would not join a Netanyahu-led government. Sa’ar has a few options. He can remain loyal to his contract and warm the benches over on the opposition, he can break his word and follow in Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz’s footsteps, or he can retire from political life once and for all. In my opinion, he will opt for the latter. Once Sa’ar is out of the picture, some New Hope representatives will find themselves connecting to a right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu.
Yamina’s leaders, on the other hand, can and should be brought back into the Likud. Like it or not, Yamina is a second-rate Likud, just as New Hope is a third-rate version. Bennett must admit his dreams of becoming prime minister will only be realized as part of a wider and more established movement such as the Likud. Netanyahu would be wise to open the door to Yamina party heads instead of dwarfing their leadership, while at the same time bringing his potential successors in the Likud into the party leadership. That same developing leadership will be able to lead the State of Israel when the time comes, in precisely another four years.
Don’t you dare call us to the ballot box one minute sooner.
Yifat Erlich is a veteran Israeli journalist and a former member of the Jewish Home Party.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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