The people had its say, selecting Netanyahu as prime minister, acquitting him of all guilt and providing him with a right-wing bloc. Yet the omnipotent Bibi failed miserably to form a government. The last elections were a referendum on the competence of the prime minister to serve even when an indictment is pending against him (subject to hearing). Enchanted by Bibi and his talents, the people decided that a few cigars, bottles of champagne and gifts did not bother them, as long as they enjoyed the financial and security situation created by the “wizard.” A referendum was also held in Britain. Voters were fascinated by the demagogues’ promises of a Britain free of immigrants if they would only leave the European Union. The people chose Brexit, and since then Britain has been experiencing political chaos that has resulted in the replacement of two prime ministers over the past three years.
In Israel, too, the people chose the easy way, blinded by Bibi’s demagoguery, and it turned out that, like in Britain, the people had erred, that democracy had failed, and that a prime minister under the axe of the State Prosecutor’s Office cannot function. The private and public have become entangled, and Netanyahu is at the mercy of his “natural” coalition partners, who understand that when he must form a coalition at any price and bring about a constitutional revolution in order to save his skin, they can extract from him any concession.
Regardless of how the next election campaign will be conducted and its subsequent results, Netanyahu’s failure marks the end of an era. The success of Bibi, the representative of the capital-authority/government group, was connected to his ability to convince his “base” of a joint war against Israel’s left-wing Ashkenazi elite. In the name of hatred for the left and the Arabs, Netanyahu has become, in the eyes of his constituency, a Teflon pan. While the Netanyahu family dined on gourmet meals, the “base” made do with leftover crumbs. Bibi’s supporters ignored the global and technological processes occurring throughout the world, including the fact that Israel’s needs in 2020 are changing. The British “base” also refuses to accept the fact that Britain cannot return to the greatness of its past, and it ignores the underground tunnel linking it to the European continent. As for the American “base”, it wants to close itself off between the two oceans and erect a high fence along the border with Mexico, yet the high-tech and finance industries are tied to the global economy and cannot be separated.
Bibi symbolizes the old neoliberal economy, whose economic prosperity created enormous social gaps. This is an economy that exempts large companies from paying taxes and dries up the government budget. The inevitable result is that education is in decline, the health system is collapsing, the transportation system is outdated, and corporate as well as government culture is corrupt.
Bibi symbolizes not only the end of the “correct” economic era that enriches tycoons and drops crumbs to the “base”. He also symbolizes the end of the era of Revisionist Zionism, which advocates for a Greater Israel. Netanyahu’s reliance on Trump to apply sovereignty over the West Bank and bury the idea of a Palestinian state brings Israel to impose an apartheid regime there and condemns Gaza to isolation and a humanitarian collapse.
The decision to dry up the Palestinian Authority and thus force it to accept Trump’s “Deal of the Century” simply increased Hamas’ appetite for Qatari dollars, leaving Abu Mazen alone in the arena and on the brink of political and economic collapse. Netanyahu believes, and also explained in the last election campaign, that the situation is good, even very good, and that his deep friendship with Putin and Trump provides a political and security bullet-proof vest vis-a-vis Iran and the Palestinians. Yet the Putin-Trump couple have created chaos, plunging the global and political system into anarchy. According to the testimony of special counsel Robert Mueller, Russia explicitly intervened in favour of Trump in the last elections, and Mueller implicitly called on Congress to begin the process of impeaching the president. This is Netanyahu’s legacy, a corrupt government and corporate culture, economic stagnation and social gaps, apartheid in the West Bank and a humanitarian disaster in Gaza that from time to time burns the fields of the neighbouring Israeli towns.
There is no doubt that Israel needs change, not a personal one but one of perception. An anti-Bibi must stand up to carve out a different economic and political path. Following Bibi’s failure to form a coalition, and the great shame in dissolving a Knesset elected a mere two months ago, all eyes are on the rival party, Blue and White, led by three retired army chiefs and one media wiz, the last notable for large mouth and poor performance. The chiefs know how to wage war, whitewash failures and give orders. Their political experience is close to nil, and their economic and political perceptions are not so different from Bibi’s. It seems that they primarily want to continue his path, but without him.
And what about the next election campaign? Bibi may go home, either because his friends demand that he pay the price of failure and clear the way, or because his constituents will understand that they do not go to elections twice to acquit the leader, no matter how revered, for the same offense. Everyone understands that if Bibi remains, the fundamental result will not change: the political bloc will remain the same political bloc, Bibi will remain Bibi and Attorney General Mandelblit will not go away. The default option remains the Blue and White party, which already revealed its full intentions when voting against the Knesset’s dissolution as proposed by the Likud party. Its members want a national unity government with the Likud but without Bibi. If members of the Likud leadership want life, they will do the unthinkable and sacrifice their leader on the altar of government. If they are afraid to do so, they will remain, together with Netanyahu, hostages of Mandelblit. And since Avigdor Lieberman, who refused to join the would-be coalition, has now become Bibi’s personal enemy, the chance of obtaining a large enough political bloc is close to zero.
In other words, Blue and White is well positioned to take over the government. It seems that in the next elections we may likely experience a kind of military putsch, backed by the legal system and a group of tycoons who are publicly fed up with the various attempts to save Netanyahu from prison (the same prison as has been graced with the presence of former President Moshe Katsav, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri and friends). Bibi may very well go, but Israel will remain stuck in the same place to which he led it over the past 20 years. Blue and White adopted the slogan “Israel above all” to show Bibi’s base that it could wean itself from Bibi while still feeling with him.
Trump’s deal of the century, which was designed according to Netanyahu’s guidelines, will be adopted as is by Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. We all remember that they supported moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and annexing the Golan Heights. Bibi’s economic policy, based on the “fat man-thin man” theory, will continue to reign, according to the principle: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Only the noisy backdrop will change under Blue and White. Miri Regev, Miki Zohar, David Bitan, Yariv Levin, Bezalel Smotrich and a group of Meir Kahane’s heirs will no longer pollute the air. However, it is possible that Abu Mazen will receive the taxes withheld by Israel, relations with Putin and Trump will cool a bit, and America’s Democrats will again enjoy respect instead of outright contempt. Yet in essence Israel will remain with apartheid in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza, traffic jams on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon freeway, the elderly in hospital corridors and a revised Nation State Law that embraces Druze and discriminates against other Arabs. In time, the generals’ glory will be darkened, and their fate will be no different from that of Generalissimo Ehud Barak.
In the next elections we again face a referendum in which a change of government does not guarantee essential change. Without a clear answer to the fate of the Palestinians, and without an economic turnaround based on different priorities, equal taxation, a green economy, renewable energy and adequate public budgets, Israeli democracy will continue to falter. It is impossible to maintain democracy alongside apartheid and the denial of the basic rights of five million Palestinians. It is impossible to maintain democracy on the basis of economic inequality. In other words, in the face of nationalism and apartheid, there is only one democratic solution: an egalitarian and democratic state from the Jordan to the sea, based on a green economy and social equality.