Opinion: The prime minister is facing a challenge from a former ally who is a skilled politician in his own right, and despite the normalization deals and the vaccine, the upcoming election will not turn out as he planned

What more could have been done to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu end the embarrassing charade that he did not have to abide by the coalition agreement he signed with Benny Gantz seven months ago?

Netanyahu had devised new rules for the political game. According to him, the biennial budget for 2020-2021 that should have passed in August was nothing but a piece for him to play when it suited and not a requirement for a functioning government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)


According to the new Netanyahu rules, the deal that would hand the premiership to Gantz in November 2021 was nothing but a feint that would never come to pass.

Former Labor Party minister Haim Ramon, who led the negotiations between Blue & White and Likud in the run up to the dissolution of the Knesset, said that just as both parties appeared to be a handshake away from averting elections, Netanyahu demanded that he remain prime minister until May 2022.

Yet according to the new Netanyahu rules, Blue & White are to blame for the fourth elections in two years.

But it was Netanyahu’s arrogance, his refusal to listen to anyone else, his sycophantic cheerleaders parroting party propaganda that led Israel to this point. Admittedly, Gantz’s embarrassing weakness and utter lack of political acumen also played its part.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Tal Shahar)


Former Netanyahu ally Gideon Sa’ar’s announcement that he was leaving Likud to form his own party and run against the prime minister in the upcoming elections – as well as his pledge to never sit in a coalition with him – poses a new challenge.

In Sa’ar, the consummate politician has for the first time faced off against a polished and skilled lawmaker in his own right, one who not so long ago was his confidant, his cabinet secretary and his coalition whip.

The maneuvering Sa’ar displayed in thwarting the budget extension bill – which Netanyahu believed had a Knesset majority – shocked the prime minister.

The political board has been upended. Most of the Israeli public might be right-wing, but they are not necessarily Likud voters.

גדעון סער על מצב הקורונה בישראל
Former Likud stalwart Gideon Sa’ar has set up his own party to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)


For the first time, swathes of the right-wing are joining the “Anyone but Netanyahu” camp. The first defector was Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, another former acolyte, and now it is Sa’ar. This should keep Netanyahu awake at night.

The prime minister singlehandedly caused a rift in the right-wing that has now spread to the electorate. He might never outright accuse those who do not follow him of being leftists, communists or traitors, but he has enough keyboard warriors to do so at his behest.

And despite the landmark normalization agreements and the coronavirus vaccines, the elections are not going to play out as Netanyahu planned.

He is no longer in control of the game.

As reported by Ynetnews