Are we nearing the end of King Bibi’s reign? Much of that depends on his allies, his rivals and the determination of international actors to address the disastrous trends on the ground.
In 2009 and 2013 it was easy to call who the next prime minister would be a month before the polls opened in Israel. Netanyahu underperformed in 2013, when his bloc of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties ended up winning 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, the minimum number that could prevent any other politician from forming a government. But he did win, as most people expected.
Things are far from being that clear this time. The right is still polling over 60, but there are indications that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman may defect from the right, and together with Tzipi Livni, Labor’s Isaac Herzog, Yair Lapid and former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon (who will head a new party), form a centrist government that would send Bibi back home.
Nearly every political pundit in Israel was mulling these options over the weekend. Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben Caspit in Ma’ariv, Channel 2 news. In Haaretz, columnist Uri Misgav already predicted that Isaac Herzog will be Israel’s next prime minister (way too early, I believe). Only among the pages of Sheldon Adelson Yisrael Hayom Netyanyahu is still the sun, the planets and everything around them. This is how Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer summed it up:
Netanyahu’s blood is already in the water & the sharks are circling. He’s almost certainly regretting calling elections. But still too early
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) December 7, 2014
Rumors abounded that Netanyahu might try to have the ultra-Orthodox parties enter his government and prevent the elections, only to be torpedoed by Liberman. In a press release earlier today, the foreign minister made it clear that he will not be part of such a coalition, and that we are indeed heading for elections. This only added to the speculations that Liberman also senses the end of King Bibi’s reign, and is not ready to save him. Not this time.
How likely is such a scenario? In my view Netanyahu is still a favorite in these elections. But it is also clear that he is vulnerable, even without a strong alternative that can unite the opposition, the way Rabin was to Yitzhak Shamir in 92 or Barak was...Read More