News that the 23rd Knesset is about to dissolve, plunging Israel into its fourth elections in two years, came as a shock to no one. It was clear to all that the unity deal signed between Likud and Blue and White following the March 2020 election was an arranged marriage and that the match was doomed to fail.
Tensions were high from the get-go, and while some lawmakers attempted to play marriage counselor, none was able to bridge the growing gap in the two parties’ relationship.
The point of no return, it seems, came on Sunday night, December 20. While Likud and Blue and White were racing to reach a compromise that would allow them to postpone the vote on the state budget, thus avoiding elections, the latter issued a statement taking a serious jab at the former’s negotiation tactics, and the affront proved too much to bear.
It doesn’t take a relationship expert to know that if you’re really trying to reconcile, humiliating your partner in front of the kids (in this case, the media) won’t get you very far.
Even if, by some miracle, Likud, and Blue and White, are able to weather the storm, this government will not live out its days. It doesn’t have the necessary tools to foster stable collaboration between the coalition partners.
A solid government is based on trust, stability, shared interests and some goodwill, which can allow its partners to overcome their differences. The 61-MK government that preceded the current one and comprised Likud, Yamina and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism defeated all predictions and outperformed the national-unity government, which is steeped with distrust, petty politics and personal misgivings, in every way.
It is no secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would prefer to defer the elections until the coronavirus crisis is well under control. He has enough achievements to show the public—historic peace deals, COVID-19 vaccines, international credit ratings—but he also has Yamina leader Naftali Bennett breathing down his neck.
Netanyahu believes Bennett is determined to unseat him, and he cannot be sure where Yamina’s loyalties lie. If he believed Bennett would join him after the elections, he would pursue them without delay, but that is not the case.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, for his part, has taken a clear position by which Netanyahu is undermining Israel’s interests and must therefore be removed from the Prime Minister’s office.
Gantz knows that, in all likelihood, Netanyahu will win the next election, so for him, the safest way to unseat the prime minister is to make sure the rotation agreement takes place. Gantz doesn’t believe Netanyahu will follow through on the November 2021 rotation, but he has to hang on to it, as it’s the only thing that could keep him politically relevant. And he will spare no effort to that end. Otherwise, he is likely to fade into the pages of political history.
It was clear to everyone that the unity deal between Likud and Blue and White would be short-lived. The only question now is who will get hurt when the mudslinging begins.
By Yehuda Shlezinger/Israel Hayom vis JNS