It might be a tad early for this column but then again, I may be right on the button. What seems to be happening is that Likud-Beytenu is steadily losing ground, at this time mainly to Bennett’s Jewish Home party. The bleeding won’t stop there. Netanyahu has clearly overplayed his cards and hubris has led him to keep his campaign at a low energy level, hoping to score most of his points by just governing and playing statesman. Unfortunately for him, Labor’s constant nagging on the economic and social front, together with certain realities that are published almost daily and show that Likud-Beytenu, if anything, has done a lousy job during the last four years, are beginning to have an impact.
In the territories, another intifada is raising its ugly head and the public is beginning to internalize that Netanyahu is not really the superstar that his spin-doctors try to make him out to be. His do-nothing approach vis-a-vis the Palestinians is making people nervous; joining Likud with Israel Beytenu made his party base itchy; and the competition with Bennett and the Jewish Home over who is more right-wing gives a lot of people the creeps. The constant talk about imminent cuts to the budget also raises memories of Netanyahu’s ruthless measures in 2003 when he, as Minister of Finance, caused considerable damage to the country’s social safety net, damage which has not been repaired yet. No surprise then that Likud-Beytenu is tanking. But until yesterday, that appeared to be of little consequence for the right-wing block which seemed to hold a steady majority.
Livni’s move on Friday night to call for a meeting with Yachimovich and Lapid, right after Yachimovich’s declaration that Labor would not join a Netanyahu led government was just the opener for a coordinated “get Netanyahu” effort that has been long overdue. For all intents and purposes, we are talking about a possible game changer that may finally open an opportunity for a real alternative to another Likud-Beytenu led government, mainly by bringing out voters who otherwise would stay home.
The exquisitely timed interview with the former head of Israel’s Internal Security Service, Yuval Diskin, will certainly make a contribution to Netanyahu’s fall from the public’s grace, which is what it was supposed to do. Rarely have I seen a testimony so damaging as the words spoken by Diskin, a dedicated public servant who clearly comes across as levelheaded and trustworthy. Efforts to discredit him will not succeed – Diskin has an exemplary record, is well known for his integrity and doesn’t really have an ax to grind: He would have liked to head the Mossad but Diskin is smart enough to know that his chances were not big in the first place, considering his adversarial position on major issues important to Netanyahu.
The recent summary dismissal of the head of the Central Bureau of Statistics, Prof. Shlomo Itzchaki, who promptly informed the public of the concerted government effort to mislead it on vital economic statistics, is another valuable contribution to the effort to convince the public that Netanyahu and his friends must not get another chance of running the country.
All those who had already given up hope and were certain that after the January 22 elections Netanyahu will once again be selected to form a government, can now breathe easier: Chances of an impending change have improved considerably and if the three center and center-left parties with Labor in the lead get their act together (by no means a foregone conclusion) and everybody, but everybody, will come out to vote, Netanyahu’s reign will be history.