By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (March 16, 2017) – Prime Minister Netanyahu is in the air a lot nowadays. Soon after returning from Washington and the love-in with President Trump, he flew to Australia on an official visit. Shortly thereafter he went to Moscow to make sure that President Putin controls his clients in and around Syria not to harm Israel on the Golan Heights. Next week he’s off to China to cement relationships and promote trade.
When he’s at home he receives a stream of leading politicians from abroad who provide welcome photo ops and show Israelis how well the world thinks of their prime minister.
The trips abroad must also bring relief from the discord Netanyahu is facing in Israel. Not only is he received abroad as a statesman of note, and the international media pay attention to him, but it also provides him with a respite from troubles at home.
He’s at the moment involved in three potentially criminal police investigations: (a) about receiving large “personal gifts” from two tycoons who operate abroad but have an interest in Israel – expensive cigars and champagne have been especially mentioned; (b) about seeking to make a seemingly shoddy deal with an Israeli newspaper mogul; (c) about strange comings and goings around the purchase of submarines from Germany. However, nothing of this will end up in court, we’re told.
The prime minister is also suing a prominent journalist for spreading false information about a tiff between Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu that allegedly ended with the former being left on the curbside. And Mrs. Netanyahu is embroiled in legal disputes arising from complaints by former staff members of her household who have very embarrassing things to say about her.
Apart from these personal matters, the prime minister has to deal with a fractured cabinet; its ministers openly snipe at each other at every opportunity. As a result, the coalition is weakened. In addition to the four right-wing parties in it now, the daily Ha’aretz predicts that four more may emerge, each led by a disgruntled politician. This would split the right-wing (apart from the ultra-Orthodox) into eight with the prospect that some of them wouldn’t pass the minimum requirement for membership in the Knesset. Opposition parties may then pick up some of the stray seats.
Though several current members of Likud and other right-wing parties say that they’d like to replace Netanyahu, it’s not likely that they or those currently in opposition will succeed. Netanyahu may stay in office because, by all accounts, though he may not be the statesman he claims to be, he’s a very skilled politician, apparently much more able in this regard than his would-be opponents.
The fact that he’s likely to remain prime minister even after the next election, isn’t healthy for the country. His very long stint has stimulated his seeming insatiable appetite for power (nothing unusual in a politician). In addition to being prime minister he’s also foreign minister and only because of a Supreme Court decision he has had to give up temporarily the communications portfolio (that controls the media) to a yes-man who gets his marching orders from the prime minister’s office.
Netanyahu’s argument is that he, better than any other Israeli, can make sure that the country is secure – and security is the primary concern here. Also as Israel has become quite prosperous, he wants us to believe that it’s all thanks to him. Though it’s not clear whether he’s right, it’s difficult to point to someone else who might do better. Some of us deem this to be very bad news.