The Trump method: How Netanyahu jeopardises Israel’s democracy


The effort of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party to find defectors among opposition forces is the latest example of ‘Raja Bibi’ and his quest for power.

Following the fourth election in two years and the ever more likely departure of Benjamin Netanyahu as the country’s prime minister, the situation in Israel is becoming increasingly volatile – and Netanyahu himself is once again adding fuel to the fire.

Netanyahu faces a loss of power on Sunday after a 12-year term, but he is unwilling to accept the latest development of various opponents joining hands against him.

Instead, he is putting enormous pressure on Knesset members not to vote for the new government by mobilizing their supporters, who are gathering in front of lawmakers’ homes for demonstrations and intimidation.

These next few days will show whether Netanyahu’s era is really over. Since the planned government coalition with nominated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has only a modest majority of 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, every day counts.

Netanyahu and his Likud party’s efforts to find defectors among coalition forces is the latest example of “King Bibi” and his quest for power.

Ironically, it was Netanyahu who made the next government possible by passing a new law and ending the tradition of not entering into negotiations with Arab parties, said Donna Robinson Devine, professor of Jewish studies and government at Smith College.

“Netanyahu paved the way for an alternative government to gain power. He introduced a basic law allowing for alternate prime ministers; He started talking to Mansoor Abbas about supporting his coalition,” she told Al Jazeera.

machiavellian power play

This has become a recurring theme in Israeli politics. For years Netanyahu used all kinds of political machinations and Machiavellian power plays to remain the country’s prime minister. However, Israel has paid a heavy price for this. Politically, Israel is paralyzed. Devine said that even the most basic government responsibilities have been put on hold.

“Netanyahu found ways to impose four elections on Israel in two years, the last two the country had to work without a budget,” he said.

Socially, the country is deeply divided, essentially into pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu camps.

The head of Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, warning of political violence and to verbally disarm all those involved.

Without naming names, Argaman’s remarks were directed primarily at Netanyahu and Likud. The latter has openly denigrated the right-wing Knesset members of the Future Coalition as traitors.

While Netanyahu himself said he condemned any calls for violence, he is fully aware of his words and their implications.

“Netanyahu is a very bright, well-educated politician and a master of Israel’s political strategy,” Devine said.

Thus his words were deliberately chosen. Netanyahu spoke of the “greatest electoral fraud in the history of the state” and even the “greatest fraud in the history of democracy”. Netanyahu said that Bennett’s decision to enter into an alliance with leftists and Arabs was the reason why people felt betrayed and reacted accordingly.

Netanyahu’s rhetoric is similar to that of former US President Donald Trump and his post-election comments, particularly on January 6 – the lie that sparked rare political violence in that country.

Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party denies it will seek to pass a law to remove Netanyahu from office [File: Abir Sultan via AP]

‘Israel is in danger’ campaign

Asked whether Netanyahu’s remarks of election fraud paralleled Trump’s playbook, Uriel Abulof, visiting associate professor at Cornell University, told Al Jazeera: “To an extent: Netanyahu was not suggesting that it was rigged , but Bennett deceived his voters. However, Bennett did not, as he clearly indicated that he wanted to remove Netanyahu.

Indeed, Bennett announced that he did not wish to work with the main coalition partner Yair Lapid or the Arab parties. However, the devil appears to be in detail, Abulof said.

“Many refer to Bennett signing a document pledging not to sit with Lapid and the Arab party, but forget that the document was titled ‘Pact’, and Bennett asked Netanyahu to sign it. Invited to. Netanyahu didn’t, so it’s supposed to be void.”

However, as Abulof also pointed out, Bennett did not resort to this argument. Therefore, he may feel that he had indeed revoked his vow.

Additional fuel was added by the support of an influential group of national-religious and ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who took a similar tone, stating the need to do “everything” to prevent the new government from being sworn in.

In addition, the situation is further aggravated by reports that the new government is trying to pass a law to remove Netanyahu from office.

While Bennett’s Yamina is the party claiming it was just a proposition And while denying the law made it to the final version of the agreement between the coalition, the rumor has already had an effect and may be to Netanyahu’s benefit, said Mayan Geva, a lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Roehampton. .

“The reports have been spread very widely by Netanyahu and the media outlets that support him, so they are being used as part of Netanyahu’s ‘Israel is at risk’ campaign,” Geva told Al Jazeera.

While Geva acknowledged that such a law could eventually be passed, it is not without obstacles.

“Netanyahu is certainly the source of many problems for competing politicians, and if they are in a position to pass a law to help solve the Netanyahu problem, they could very well escalate it. Worth noting that even if a law is written and approved by the Knesset, it is very likely to be challenged in the High Court.”

‘Israel is not a monarchy’

Meanwhile, Bennett spoke of a “violent machine” that was deliberately set in motion. Then, addressing Netanyahu directly, he said, “Let go and let Israel move on.”

Regarding Likud’s claims that the new government would be too far away, he responded that the coalition was “10 degrees further to the right” than the current one and allowed Israel to elect a Netanyahu-led government.

For Bennett, it will be about resilience and focus in these next days.

“There will be a lot of shouting about a change of government, but Naftali Bennett is right – Israel is not a monarchy,” Devine said.

However the damage has been done. Devine said Netanyahu is willing to jeopardize Israel’s democracy in order to remain in power primarily for personal reasons.

“His determination to remain in office as a way of escaping prison has compromised state institutions if convicted of charges against him.”

Still, according to Geva, the implications of Netanyahu’s selfish ways are vast and dangerous.

“We are seeing a desperate politician who has been in power for a long time and is afraid of what will happen if he is no longer the PM. Netanyahu has a strong support base, and it is possible that there may be some violence in response to his claims. Perhaps some of this violence will be directed at members of the predicted government, particularly members of the right-wing parties, whom Netanyahu is portraying as traitors. “

‘Act on Charges’?

Out of all people, Netanyahu should take cognizance of how fast summer can be. In 1995, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by right-wing radicals.

As of today, Netanyahu played a role and doesn’t seem to have learned. While opposition leader, he was the keynote speaker at two demonstrations, which included chants such as “Rabin’s death” and was generally involved in the anti-Rabin movement. he keeps denied the allegations.

“Netanyahu is again playing a major role in fueling the dangerous idea that the country is in existential danger in an attempt to rally its supporters,” Geva said.

“Therefore, it is easy to compare the present with 1995 based on the concern that people will act on the allegations of Netanyahu and his supporters, and use violence to ‘save the country’.”

So what does the worst case look like? “A civil war if violence erupts,” Abulof said. However, its chances are currently minimal, he acknowledged.

“If Bennett is sworn in, it is likely that the state will force Netanyahu to step down – albeit humiliatingly,” he said.

In short, the current situation is another test if Israel is becoming a failed state, Abulof concluded.

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