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Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
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For most Israelis, the general election on Tuesday was about one thing and one thing only. Not the economy, nor the occupation, nor even corruption scandals. It was about Benjamin Netanyahu. Should he head yet another far-right government, or should his 10-year divisive rule come to an end?

Barring a last-minute upset as the final ballot papers are counted, Israelis have made their verdict clear: Netanyahu’s time is up.

In April’s inconclusive election, which led to this re-run, Netanyahu’s Likud party tied with its main opponent in the Blue and White party, led by retired general Benny Gantz. This time Gantz appears to have nudged ahead, with 33 seats to Netanyahu’s 31 in the 120-member parliament. Both parties fared worse than they did in April, when they each secured 35 seats.

But much more significantly, Netanyahu appears to have fallen short of the 61-seat majority he needs to form yet another far-right government comprising settler and religious parties.

His failure is all the more glaring, given that he conducted by far the ugliest – and most reckless – campaign in Israeli history. That was because the stakes were sky-high.

Only a government of the far-right – one entirely beholden to Netanyahu – could be relied on to pass legislation guaranteeing him immunity from a legal process due to begin next month. Without it, he is likely to be indicted on multiple charges of fraud and breach of trust.

So desperate was Netanyahu to avoid that fate, according to reports published in the Israeli media on election day, that he was only a hair’s breadth away from launching a war on Gaza last week as a way to postpone the election.

Israel’s chief law officer, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, stepped in to halt the attack when he discovered the security cabinet had approved it only after Netanyahu concealed the army command’s major reservations.

Netanyahu also tried to bribe right-wing voters by promising last week that he would annex much of the West Bank immediately after the election – a stunt that blatantly violated campaigning laws, according to Mendelblit.

Facebook was forced to shut down Netanyahu’s page on two occasions for hate speech – in one case after it sent out a message that “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men”. That sentiment appeared to include the 20 per cent of the Israeli population who are Palestinian citizens.

Netanyahu incited against the country’s Palestinian minority in other ways, not least by constantly suggesting that their votes constituted fraud and that they were trying to “steal the election”.

He even tried to force through a law allowing his Likud party activists to film in Arab polling stations – as they covertly did in April’s election – in an unconcealed attempt at voter intimidation.

The move appeared to have backfired, with Palestinian citizens turning out in larger numbers than they did in April.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, intervened on Netanyahu’s behalf by announcing the possibility of a defence pact requiring the US to come to Israel’s aid in the event of a regional confrontation.

None of it helped.

Netanayhu’s only hope of political survival – and possible avoidance of jail time – depends on his working the political magic he is famed for.

That may prove a tall order. To pass the 61-seat threshold, he must persuade Avigdor Lieberman and his ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party to support him.

Netanyahu and Lieberman, who is a settler, are normally ideological allies. But these are not normal times. Netanyahu had to restage the election this week after Lieberman, sensing the prime minister’s weakness, refused in April to sit alongside religious parties in a Netanyahu-led government.

Netanyahu might try to lure the fickle Lieberman back with an irresistible offer, such as the two of them rotating the prime ministership.

But Lieberman risks huge public opprobrium if, after putting the country through a deeply unpopular re-run election, he now does what he refused on principle to do five months ago.

Lieberman increased his party’s number of seats to eight by insisting that he is the champion of the secular Israeli public.

Most importantly for Lieberman, he finds himself once again in the role of kingmaker. It is almost certain he will shape the character of the next government. And whoever he anoints as prime minister will be indebted to him.

The deadlock that blocked the formation of a government in April still stands. Israel faces the likelihood of weeks of frantic horse-trading and even the possibility of a third election.

Nonetheless, from the perspective of Palestinians – whether those under occupation or those living in Israel as third-class citizens – the next Israeli government is going to be a hardline right one.

On paper, Gantz is best placed to form a government of what is preposterously labelled the “centre-left”. But given that its backbone will comprise Blue and White, led by a bevy of hawkish generals, and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, it would, in practice, be nearly as right wing as Netanyahu’s.

Gantz even accused Netanyahu of stealing his idea in announcing last week that he would annex large parts of the West Bank.

The difficulty is that such a coalition would depend on the support of the 13 Joint List legislators representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority. That is something Lieberman has rejected out of hand, calling the idea “absurd” early on Wednesday as results were filtering in. Gantz appears only a little more accommodating.

The solution could be a national unity government comprising much of the right: Gantz’s Blue and White teamed up with Likud and Lieberman. Both Gantz and Lieberman indicated that was their preferred choice on Wednesday.

The question then would be whether Netanyahu can worm his way into such a government, or whether Gantz demands his ousting as a price for Likud’s inclusion.

Netanyahu’s hand in such circumstances would not be strong, especially if he is immersed in a protracted legal battle on corruption charges. There are already rumblings of an uprising in Likud to depose him.

One interesting outcome of a unity government is that it could provoke a constitutional crisis by making the Joint List, the third-largest party, the official opposition. That is the same Joint List described by Netanyahu as a “dangerous anti-Zionist” party.

Ayman Odeh would become the first leader of the Palestinian minority to attend regular briefings by the prime minister and security chiefs.

Netanyahu will continue as caretaker prime minister for several more weeks – until a new government is formed. If he stays true to form, there is plenty of mischief he can instigate in the meantime.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.


Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

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  1. So if Bebe is not elected he goes to prison. Hello Jews! Anybody see any way this could go wrong?

    If Bebe belongs in prison shouldn’t he already be there?

    • Replies: @NobodysaysBOO
  2. HEREDOT says:

    Bibi, an indescribable creature, a crime machine, the killer of millions of people I wish the most despicable death of this bastard.

  3. Altai says:

    The implication is that because Netanyahu was loud and brash, that he is, in fact the source of Israels aggressive foreign policies. With him gone perhaps too the inclination to make him the scapegoat can too.

  4. Facebook was forced to shut down Netanyahu’s page on two occasions for hate speech


    Did terrorists threaten to murder Mark Zuckerberg if this was not done?

    Let’s be clear–no one forced Facebook to do this.

    The company employs numerous pozzed faggots who do not understand that the very purpose of the internet is to disseminate hate speech.

    Don’t take this remark as an endorsement of Netanyahu.

    It’s an endorsement of a free internet in which hate flourishes and normies cower in fear.

  5. .Hope this POS ends up in prison but won’t be holding my breath.

  6. A123 says:

    The author has it somewhat wrong. To survive, all Netanyahu has to do is prevent Gantz (B&W) from reaching 61 seats without him. Likud would demand the Justice Ministry portfolio as an absolute minimum for participation in a “Unity” government.

    Netanyahu’s center-right coalition has locked in Shas, UTJ, and Yamina. The Gantz coalition at this point can only count on Labor and DU. Israel Beytenu and the Muslim Joint List have yet to declare. So the situation looks like this: (2)

    NETANYAHU — 55 Seats
    — Likud: – 31 seats
    — Shas: – 9 seats
    — UTJ: – 8 seats
    — Yamina: – 7 seats

    GANTZ — 44 Seats
    — Blue and White: – 33 seats
    — Labor-Gesher: – 6 seats
    — Democratic Union: – 5 seats

    UNDECLARED — 21 Seats
    — Yisrael Beytenu: – 8 seats
    — Muslim Joint List: – 13 seats

    Gantz has two extremely serious problems obtaining the Undeclared parties.

    The Muslim Joint List, not unsurprisingly, wants to carve up Israel to make way for the creation of a Muslim State. Gantz is on the record opposed to these Muslim Joint List goals: (1)

    Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz promised not to uproot any settlements in the Jordan Valley, explaining that it was vital to Israel’s security to hold onto the area. … “This is a crucial strategic area, which Israel needs, always needed and will always need in the future,” Gantz said.

    It is not clear what concessions Gantz would have to make to obtain Muslim Joint List support. Which brings us to the 2nd issue.

    Yisrael Beytenu, while not religious, is to the RIGHT of Netanyahu, and will not accept anything that looks even vaguely like surrendering Israeli land. Any attempt by Gantz to make concessions on national security issues to bring in Muslim List support would prevent Yisrael Beytenu from joining the Gantz lead coalition.


    The situation looks quite bleak for Gantz. And, another crushing blow is likely to hammer B&W in the near future.

    Israel’s dysfunctional legal system has been running a Mueller like witch hunt for so long, the clock has run out. Baring unprecedented legal manuvering, they have to bring charges in October or permanently give up. Unless there is a ‘smoking gun’ that has been successfully kept secret, the failure of the investigation to make a credible case will exonerate Netanyahu. And, that exoneration will likely cause B&W support to collapse.

    PEACE 😇




    • Replies: @peterAUS
    , @Anon
    , @Fabian Forge
  7. @WorkingClass

    he will cheat as normal for him,maybe nuclear.
    as Bush said it would be easier if I was the dictator.
    What could be done to ensure a more just allocation of national wealth? In the old days, circa 100 AD, Roman authorities instituted a fiscus Judaicus, a ‘Jew tax,’ precisely to offset the extra cost burden placed on society by Jews. Dare we suggest reinstating such a thing? A few trillion dollars could go a long way to right the wrongs of modern society.

  8. Anon[498] • Disclaimer says:

    Thanks for the info! If the YB group with 8 seats joins Benny boy’s coalition AND the Joint List group joins Gantz’s coalition for the sole purpose of keeping Benny boy out even though they’d be supporting perhaps an even MORE anti-Palestinian group than Benny’s, Gantz wouldn’t have enough seats while Benny would have 63. Both YB and Joint List would have to join Gantz’s coalition (is that even possible?) 44+13+8=65 seats as opposed to Benny’s 55 seats. I can see Joint list with the leftist groups joining Gantz. Only way YB joins Gantz’s though is if they can’t stand the thought of Benny running the country for more years and want to see him in jail, where he and Sarah deserve to be (plus didn’t he cheer the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995?)

  9. @A123

    But could Netanyahu add YB and still keep Shas?

    • Replies: @A123
  10. This is an interesting article but unsatisfying. It isn’t as clear cut as Mr. Cook would have us believe. Per usual, the post-election haggle will take time. ‘To Bibi or not to Bibi’is the question of the post election haggle. The voters moved away from the Likud and B&W parties enough (4 seats and 2 seats, respectively, since April) that this question arose.

    So, like most politicians, Bibi lost his sparkle over time or, as we say here, familiarity bred contempt. Ah, Bibi, your visual aids at the UN General Assembly reminiscent of spy vs spy; your prolongued glaring silences that struck terror (or was it laughter?) in the hearts of friend and foe alike; your reassurances to the elderly (‘we’ll just use the Americans like a tampon’); ah, statesmanship, thy name is Bibi.
    Others argue the man is a clown with the combined subtlety of a horny teenage boy and a used car salesman but I say Bibi is a man to watch; we could all learn how to channel our ‘inner Jew’ through his example. Bibi got things done. He had Obama build up Isis, destablize Egypt, regime change Libya, ‘democratize’ Tunisia, got Trump to recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. Embassy there. Quite the resume for a Rothschild foot-soldier.
    Who will fill his shoes? What man will match his gravitas? We shall find out soon enough if Bibi has one last surprise for us or if he is to be put out to pasture. Either way, he will always be in our memories as a reminder of just how wisely tptb are at choosing a servant.

  11. A123 says:
    @Fabian Forge

    But could Netanyahu add YB and still keep Shas?

    The head of YB, Avigdor Leiberman, has stated that they will not form a coalition with Shas.

    I do not like using the term ‘impossible’ when it comes to politics. However, there doesn’t seem to be any way forward on that option unless YB gets rid of Lieberman.


    As an update on current status….. The state of confusion grows.

    The President of Israel is now consulting with the leaders of each slate that successfully received seats. Each party leader provides a Recommendation to the President advising him on which party to select as lead in the coalition formation process. This does not commit the party providing the Recommendation. It is only advisory.
    — YB declined the opportunity to provide a Recommendation.
    — The Muslim Joint List may no longer be joined. The head of the Muslim Joint List tried to give all 13 Recommendations for B&W. However, one of the parties in the list used the same option as YB and declined to provide a Recommendation (1).

    Even more perplexing. — Gantz provided formal Recommendation for B&W to receive the mandate to go first, while simultaneously trying to avoid being selected to go first.

    President Reuven Rivlin began his consultations toward forming a new government on Sunday, amid a historic move by most of the Joint List to recommend a candidate for prime minister and a controversial decision by Blue and White to not seek the first chance at building a coalition.

    We will learn more as the consultation process continues. Ultimately, the President will give the formal mandate, and I’m not sure if B&W can decline if they are selected to go first.



  12. “Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?”

    To the US?
    Of course he can, And will, As will his successor.

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