Mon 11 Dec 2023 7:09 am - Jerusalem Time

The Economist: “Netanyahu is at the mercy of his partners and has no say in major decisions in the war on Gaza.”

The British magazine “The Economist” published a report entitled “Benjamin Netanyahu is at the mercy of his hard-line coalition partners... and has little say in major decisions in the war.” It stated that Netanyahu has returned to facing the issue of being tried on charges of bribery and fraud, after the courts returned to work on December 4, after a two-month hiatus due to the war in Gaza.

Netanyahu's lawyers are now demanding that the hearings be postponed, saying that he does not have time to prepare, due to the war.

But is Netanyahu really leading the war? The magazine asks, which quotes Israeli officials as saying that military decisions are mainly made by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with two other former generals, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, leaders of the centrist National Unity Party, both of whom joined the government shortly after the Hamas attack on the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip on October 7, to work in a new war government.

This group, which includes five members, makes all major decisions related to the war, but Netanyahu is largely isolated within it.

Gallant, a member of the prime minister's Likud party, has not liked his leader much since Netanyahu unsuccessfully tried to fire him last March.

According to the report, Netanyahu is also concerned about Gantz, who is far ahead of him in the opinion polls, with three-quarters of Israelis recently saying they want Netanyahu to resign, either immediately or once the war ends.

The report stated that the three former generals in the war government are much closer to Netanyahu than the current generals in the Israeli occupation army, on whom the Prime Minister tried to place full blame for the October 7 disaster.

The report reveals that among the decisions over which Netanyahu had little influence was the timing of the recent ground attack in Gaza.

The other decision was to accept a week-long truce with Hamas in exchange for the release of 110 hostages, most of them women and children, according to senior Israeli officials.

Trapped within a hardline coalition

The report confirmed that Netanyahu is trapped within a hardline coalition.

Before the war, the main centrist parties refused to join a government led by a prime minister on trial for corruption.

So, a year ago, Netanyahu returned to power after 18 months in opposition by putting himself at the mercy of far-right parties to form a majority, and they now hold his political fate in their hands.

As a result, Netanyahu has little power over the budget, which is controlled by the religious parties in his coalition, where they have allocated billions of shekels to West Bank settlements and Jewish religious schools.

Netanyahu also cannot block other right-wing policies, such as the wholesale issuance of arms licenses by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Jewish Power party.

According to the report, Netanyahu's political paralysis means that he cannot plan what to do in Gaza when the fighting stops.

The extremist wing of his coalition wants to keep the Israeli army in the region permanently.

But Israel's main ally, America, wants Israel to withdraw completely to allow the revitalized Palestinian Authority to take control.

But under pressure from his far-right ministers, Netanyahu was forced to veto cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, for which his finance minister deprives him of funds.

Political weakness

The report pointed out that Netanyahu revealed his political weakness by his inability to restrain junior ministers who make inflammatory and destructive statements.

These include the highly titled Minister of Intelligence (although she has no authority over the Israeli intelligence services), who called for the resettlement of Gazans to Egypt, and the Minister of Heritage, who considered dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.

Within the ruling Likud Party, there are rebellions afoot.

Gallant and Nir Barkat, the independent-minded business minister, are among those believed to be considering the challenges facing leadership.

But Netanyahu still controls his party and will be difficult to remove, the report said.

No confidence and parliamentary majority

The report notes that there are two ways to replace the prime minister. The first is through a “constructive no-confidence” procedure, where a majority of the members of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) vote to choose a new prime minister from among its members.

There may soon be a parliamentary majority against Netanyahu, but the divided Knesset is unlikely to agree to an alternative.

The most acceptable outcome, once the scale of the war in Gaza is reduced, is a quick Knesset solution.

In this case, Israel's sixth elections in less than six years would be held by mid-2024.

However, in general, the report concludes by saying that “the main issue at stake will be Netanyahu’s political survival.”

Source: Sama News


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The Economist: “Netanyahu is at the mercy of his partners and has no say in major decisions in the war on Gaza.”