Israel Is Ready For Bennett

A poll published in the Friday edition of The Jerusalem Post informed that nearly 60 percent of the Israelis believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to run the country has been harmed by the police probes. The Post’s poll is not surprising as it is clear now more than ever that Israel has sank into a deep regime crisis where it is so easy to shake the country by mere investigations and police recommendations. In contrary to the US, where there is a long tradition of electing once in four years a president to be impeached only for grave reasons, Israel is terribly sick due to a different, futile tradition where prime ministers are ‘impeachable’ even if they weren’t indicted. Thus, though Prime Minister Netanyahu wasn’t indicted yet, we see how the fizzing political scene is ready to replace him with young politicians like Gideon Sa’ar or Naftali Bennett.

Mr. Netanyahu, who doesn’t deny getting forbidden gifts from Mr. Milchan or discussing how to manipulate the media together with Yedioth Aharonot’s Mr. Moses, has played a serious role in overthrowing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the latter was charged by Israel’s police for bribery and other criminal offenses. He contributed his share to the political situation to which we are sinking today as he wanted Olmert to go home before the former Prime Minister was indicted in the court of law. However, Netanyahu’s primordial sin cannot justify the way he is mistreated today. He must be given the presumption of innocence until the Attorney General will decide whether to indict him and which charges can be brought to the court. Israel itself should rethink how to stabilize the country as it is crystal clear that it desperately needs a government capable of ruling for four years without annoyable distractions and interferences. In nearly 10 years, Mr. Netanyahu was elected three times to his post but couldn’t complete his tenure for sheer political instability. The next Prime Minister of Israel, whoever he or she would be, must find the way to carry out serious, principled ‘regime change’ in the torn Israeli political system.

Israel Is Ready for Bennett

There are people in Israel who tend to portray Education Minister Naftali Bennett and his political partner, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, as the local version of the foreign Alt-right. However, it would be more accurate to label Bennett and Co. as the new Israeli neoconservative right. The two reject the Aharon Barak-style activist interpretation of Israel’s law, their patriotism is true and intelligent, they view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in One State Solution eyes but not heading toward Apartheid as some claim, and above all — they are honest, clean and totally blameless. Some would say that Mr. Bennett doesn’t fit the Prime Minister job due to his neoconservative, hawkish stands regarding the Palestinians. However, Bennett and Shaked are far more pragmatic, principled and ideological than Mr. Yair Lapid who runs a one-man party and served as Finance Minister under Mr. Netanyahu without reporting the latter’s seemingly fraudulent behavior. To be honest, no one knows Lapid’s ideology or vision besides his true, genuine commitment to Israel. In our days, we need a leader with a serious vision, not just a good defender of Israel’s interests.

Although Mr. Bennett has been declaring more than once that he would run for the Prime Minister post after Netanyahu’s era is over, the Israeli Education Minister would have to decide quickly whether he wishes to replace Mr. Netanyahu due to the recent political developments. Bennett is far more politically trained than Lapid and can rally the political right better than his rival, our self-portrayed contender Gideon Sa’ar. However, in order to win a massive support amongst the Israeli population, Bennett and Shaked should renounce their hardcore religious affiliation, defy against reactionary rabbis who harm their party’s reputation, fight militant tendencies within the settler population and display a bold leadership which can win right-centrists’ votes. In fact, they have enough time to do it and can quickly organize their party for the coming elections to be held in the beginning of 2019, according to Shaked’s interview to Yehuda Sharoni in Ma’ariv daily. With a good strategy, they can do the same thing President Trump did in America and defeat the left-centrist camp. All they need is to decide how badly they want to win the Israelis’ hearts and minds.

Neoconservatism is Back

 After Barack Obama won the 2009 presidential elections in the US, it seemed that the neoconservative right was dead. Obama utilized his great popularity to be reelected in 2013, and once Hillary Clinton decided to run four years later, no one believed the Republicans would beat her. Donald Trump did the impossible and knocked the Clintons-led Democratic Party. He did it with the same neoconservative agenda with which President George W. Bush won twice the general elections and it is possible that Trump will surprise the liberal establishment again in 2018 by gaining a tight control in the Congress. What makes the neocons so strong today and why are they not dead as so many commenters were expecting?

It is evident that there is no mysterious magic in the neocon ideology which failed in freeing Iraq from its poor fate, went to unnecessary, bloody war in Afghanistan, promoted extreme market policies which almost brought the US economy down on its knees, created social strife in delegitimizing minorities like the LGBTQ and immigrants, and paved the way toward the rise of contemporary white supremacist groupings. However, the Left and the liberal circles did not provide the Americans with what the neocons have been providing: power. The Americans, like the Israelis, wish to see that their hopes are translated into genuine power in the very basic sense Trump phrased this desire: Make American Great Again. They want to become once again a superpower in political terms, to have good economy that meets the needs of ordinary American workers, to drain the Washington swamp which was slipping away out of their hands.

In Israel, the right is heading towards disaster in political terms (the One State Solution), uncapable of unifying the country under one social banner, and is mistrusted by people who disagree with the way it runs the economy. However, as the Israelis feel their country is weak; they’re desperate to see a new leadership which would carry forward the Zionist dream. It is far from being a cliché; neither Mr. Netanyahu nor his rivals can anymore deliver a rallying, all-encompassing message that will gather around it the Israeli masses. In this sense, the rightist hardliner Bennett can play a crucial role in making Israel great again; those who think he is unready for the job must contemplate where Israel would be in five or 10 years without replacing its failing, weak misleadership.

About the Author
DAVID MERHAV is a journalist writing for The Jerusalem Post, The Jerusalem Report and The Forward. Since 2008, he is working as journalist & Op-Ed columnist in Makor Rishon daily, Hebrew conservative newspaper published in Jerusalem; He also served as the Public Relations director for the Jabotinky Institute in Israel.