When the Magician runs out of tricks: the case of Bibi Netanyahu

Whereas in Europe and America, the majority of youths usually vote for left-wing parties, in Israel, it’s the other way around. Countless fighting and skirmishes with Hamas have influenced the Israeli youth to look elsewhere, other than the left. Their answer was found in Benjamin Netanyahu, the Harvard educated, hard-line right-wing Israeli Prime Minister. 

Netanyahu comes across as polished, forceful, and determined. Dubbed “The Magician” in Israel, he’s someone that has earned a reputation of a no-nonsense politico; someone that always gets what he wants. And moreover, someone who knows how to leverage impossible hands to his favour, even when this goes against all odds.  

Netanyahu has been Prime Minister for 12 subsequent years. Before that, he spent 3 more years as Israel’s Prime Minister between 1996 and 1999. He has held various important Ministerial positions too. In other words, his experience in Government is unparalleled. What this experience has meant for Israel, Palestine and the surrounding region, however, is up for discussion. 

From 2016 till 2020, Netanyahu had been very keen on collaborating with former American President Donald Trump. His loyalty to Trump resulted in Jerusalem being recognised as the Israeli capital, to the outrage of American allies and foes alike. This episode goes to show Netanyahu’s perseverance, with results being delivered even when this appeared to be impossible.

Meanwhile, whereas Bibi (as he is called), is polished, going so far as to speak English in a deep Pennsylvania accent, the same cannot be said for his youngest son Yair. Whenever in recent times, Netanyahu has had problems, it has been his youngest son Yair that has led his defence on Twitter and other social media. Yair does not mince his words, neither privately nor publicly. Leaked obscenities of his, have led to headlines that have embarrassed the elder Netanyahu. And yet, Yair, who lives at the Prime Minister’s official residence, the Beit Aghion, is considered to be a strong influence on his father Bibi, who is alien to social media. 

The Israeli Political Scenario 

Although Netanyahu’s party Likud is the largest party in the Israeli Knesset, having 30 seats, Parliament is still hung following this year’s elections. For a party to govern, it needs 61/120 seats in the Knesset, and therefore coalitions are a must. 

Netanyahu and his allies managed to form a caretaker government last March. That being said, this week it emerged that the Israeli Opposition had reached a coalition deal that would mean that they can put Netanyahu out of office. 

Whether this coalition will hold or not is another question. Within its ranks, this coalition has the far right, the centre, as well as the left. Former Defence Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to become Prime Minister until 2023, even though his party only has 6 seats in the Knesset. Centrist Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, Israel’s second largest party, will then take up the Prime Ministerial reins in 2023. To complicate matters the coalition also relies on Raam, the Israeli-Arab party led by Mansour Abbas. One would do well to ask, therefore, what Mansour Abbas’s position will be, should the new Israeli government come to odds with Palestinian leadership, as other Israeli governments have done before. 

Ironic is also the fact that Naftali Bennett, who is expected to become Prime Minister, is a far-right, right-winger, going so far as to argue for continuing West Bank annexation, with Israel ruling Palestine in perpetuity. In other words, even Bibi Netanyahu is considered a moderate next to Bennett. 

The question, therefore, crops up on its own: Will this new Israeli Government hold up in the long run? As things stand, it seems as if the coalition has only one thing in common, and this is being anti-Netanyahu. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, some people state. Yet what happens after the enemy is eliminated? Perhaps we shall have an opportunity to ask this question later on. For now, however, it seems as if the Magician has run out of tricks.

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