Political Affairs: What the PM decides to do in Judea and Samaria will determine how he will be remembered.

Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


It has taken 507 days, three elections and billions of shekels, but by the time this is being read, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supposed to finally have a new government in place.

The compromise deal that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz rejected after the September election would have resulted in Netanyahu completing his term as prime minister by this month.

Now Netanyahu has at least until November 14, 2021, and if he goes back on his commitment to a rotation with Gantz, he could stay in power for another three years, or until a conviction ultimately brings him down.

Gantz has plenty of reasons to fear that Netanyahu will not honor that commitment. Netanyahu succeeded in breaking up Yamina on Thursday morning after breaking up Blue and White and Labor last month, Kadima in 2013 and Labor in 2011.

Getting more defectors over the course of a year and a half should not be too much of a political challenge.

But meanwhile, Netanyahu’s associates say this government is everything Netanyahu has dreamed of: He has a wide and stable coalition, his power is virtually unchecked, and his fiercest critics are in the opposition.

Naftali Bennett officially joined Avigdor Liberman, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon in the opposition on Thursday. In the opposition, they can all scream loudly, but Netanyahu will not hear them in the Knesset as he would be forced to if they were in the security cabinet.

There were those who expressed surprise that Netanyahu did not back down and make Bennett a sweetheart deal to enter the government at the last minute. They thought Netanyahu would need a party further to the Right of the Likud in the government, as he has tended to have in the past.

But in what is expected to be his last government, Netanyahu did not want to deal with Bennett, whom he considers the ultimate annoyance. There are also political reasons why Netanyahu did not want Yamina in his government.

Netanyahu intends to implement US President Donald Trump’s diplomatic plan, including applying sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. Taking that significant step will be even sweeter for Netanyahu if he does not have to share any credit whatsoever with another political party.

It was the Likud under Menachem Begin that annexed the Golan, and it is the Likud that will be applying sovereignty,” a Likud minister said. “Niche parties can push, but ruling parties get things done. After we apply sovereignty, the voters will know next time that niche parties are no longer needed.”
WHILE THAT is the message Netanyahu will send voters about his Likud, his associates said applying sovereignty will also send a key message about himself.

Whatever Netanyahu decides to do in Judea and Samaria between July and at least November will be his main legacy as prime minister. His conversations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday were an important step toward achieving that legacy.

A former Netanyahu chief of staff said his legacy has already been established as the longest-serving prime minister.

“His legacy will be strengthened if he delivers on the annexation of the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, and the Jordan Valley,” he said. “If there is one issue that Netanyahu will be remembered for, it will be Iran and preventing them from reaching nuclear capability. Unfortunately, it does not seem likely that he achieves that in the next 18 months.”

For Netanyahu, who will apparently never attack Iran’s nuclear installation as he once thought he would, applying sovereignty is what is left to have as his legacy. After that step, no one will ever be able to say again that he was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister but never accomplished anything tangible.

When the satire show Eretz Nehederet portrayed a duet of Begin singing with Netanyahu, Begin sang about destroying the Iraqi nuclear reactor, and Netanyahu about giving a speech in the UN while holding a picture of a bomb. (It rhymes in Hebrew). After sovereignty is applied, they will both be remembered as prime ministers who annexed territory, along with Levi Eshkol, who annexed east Jerusalem after the Six Day War.

Netanyahu expects the implementation of the Trump plan to continue regardless of who wins the US election in November. His associates said this has not changed, despite recent statements by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his advisers.

“Once the Trump plan is put forward, the goalposts will have been moved, and it will be very difficult for any administration to move them back,” Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post in February.
Netanyahu also does not expect his coalition partners in Blue and White and Labor to prevent him from applying sovereignty. The coalition guidelines state clearly that the bill would be brought and passed as soon as possible after July 1. Netanyahu is supposed to consult with Gantz on the plan, but Gantz does not have veto power.

Both the coalition’s guidelines and its composition were drawn up with applying sovereignty – and crafting Netanyahu’s legacy – in mind.

Once that has been accomplished, Netanyahu could decide to leave office and let Gantz take over, as he promised, in November 2021. After May 2023, Netanyahu could return to the Prime Minister’s Office for another six months, according to the agreement.

That, of course, would be pending what happens in his criminal cases. His cases are unlikely to be decided over the next 18 months, but in the 18 months afterward, they probably will.

Then there is another possibility, which no one in Netanyahu’s circle is openly discussing yet: He could decide to run for the presidency, in a race that will be held in the Knesset in July 2021.
It was noticed that Netanyahu gave the Health portfolio to former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein – a post that will be hard for him to leave and run for president. Was that a step intended to get rid of possible competition? No one close to Netanyahu will say.

But if Netanyahu does seek the presidency, he will be back doing what he has been doing for the last 507 days and running in an election again.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post