As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces his final days in office after 12 years, he has accused those in office of electoral fraud.
Netanyahu said a “deep state” conspiracy had ousted him and that the former opposition party that took power on Sunday betrayed voters. “They are uprooting the good and replacing it with the bad and the dangerous,” he told the conservative TV station Channel 20 this week. “I fear the fate of the country.”
The allegations are in line with a strategy long employed by the prime minister. According to the Associated Press, Netanyahu has used harsh language to describe any threat to Israel, regardless of size, and criticized his opponents for undermining. He has also been equally brilliant in presenting himself positively while portraying opponents as negative.
“During his tenure, identity politics is at an all-time high,” said Israel Democracy Institute president Johann Plasner.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
It is a formula that has served Netanyahu well. He led the right-wing Likud party for more than 15 years, leading a series of electoral victories that earned him the nickname “King Bibi”.
He has resisted pressure from President Barack Obama to make concessions to the Palestinians and publicly defied them by delivering a speech to Congress in 2015 against the US-led nuclear deal with Iran.
Although Netanyahu was unable to block the deal, he was largely rewarded by President Donald Trump, who recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, pulled out of the nuclear deal and brokered between Israel and the four Arab countries. Helped in the historic diplomatic settlement.
Barring three brief wars with Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, Netanyahu has slowed down what appears to be a highly successful shadow war against Iran, slowing Israel’s long-running conflict with the Palestinians.
Plasner said the situation with the Palestinians today is “remarkably similar” to when Netanyahu took office. “No major changes in either direction, no mergers and no diplomatic breakthroughs.”
But some of Netanyahu’s tactics now seem to be coming back to haunt him. The new Biden administration has been quiet for the Israeli leader, while Netanyahu’s close ties with Trump have alienated large sections of the Democratic Party.
At home, Netanyahu’s magic is over as well – due in large part to his trial on corruption charges. He has criticized an ever-increasing list of perceived enemies: the media, the judiciary, the police, centrists, leftists and even hardline nationalists who were once close allies.
In four consecutive elections since 2019, the once invincible Netanyahu was unable to secure a parliamentary majority. Facing the unexpected prospect of a fifth consecutive election, eight parties have managed to assemble a majority coalition, which is set to take power on Sunday.
Israeli politics is generally divided between dovish, left-wing parties that seek negotiating settlement with the Palestinians, and religious and nationalist parties—led by Netanyahu—who oppose Palestinian independence for a long time. If any of the recent elections had focused on the conflict, the right-wing parties alone would have formed a strong, stable majority.
But the Palestinians hardly come to the fore—another legacy of Netanyahu, who has shrugged off the issue.
Instead, everyone seemed to talk about Netanyahu’s personality and his legal troubles, which proved deeply polarizing. The incoming government consists of three smaller parties led by former allies of Netanyahu who had bitter ties with him, including the presumed prime minister, Naftali Bennett.
Bennett and his right-wing allies also broke a long-standing taboo on alliances with Arab parties. A smaller Islamist party, also bowed down by Netanyahu, will be the first to join the ruling coalition.
Netanyahu and his followers in Likud have become increasingly despondent. Initially, Netanyahu tried to lure some “defectionists” from his former allies to prevent him from gaining a parliamentary majority.
When that failed, he resorted to the language of his friend and well-wisher, Trump.
“We are witness to the biggest election fraud in the history of the country,” Netanyahu claimed at the Likud meeting this week. He has long dismissed the corruption trial as a “witch hunt” driven by “fake news” and said in TV interviews that he was being pursued by a “deeper situation”.
His supporters have held threatening rallies outside the homes of MPs joining the new government. Some lawmakers say they and their families have received death threats, and one said a mysterious car chased them recently.
Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox aides meanwhile have projected Bennett as a threat to his religion, with one even asking him to remove his kippa, which is worn by observant Jews. .
The online excitement by Netanyahu’s followers has gotten so bad that many members of the incoming government were assigned bodyguards or even taken to secret locations.
Some Israelis have compared tensions at the US Capitol to the uprising in January, while others have pointed to the excitement before the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In a rare public statement, the head of the Shin Bet Internal Security Agency, Nadav Argaman, recently warned of a “serious increase in violent and inciting discourse and bigotry” on social media that he said could lead to violence.
Netanyahu condemned the provocation, saying he too had been targeted.
Gail Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University, said he expects the coming months to be volatile.
“We are going to see a very vocal and aggressive head of the opposition, which means Netanyahu, is determined to ensure that this coalition of change will be short-lived and that we will have another election as soon as possible,” he said. . added.
“We don’t even remember what normal politics looks like,” Talshir said.