Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departs after meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, Sept. 25, 2016. (photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
“Netanyahu is undoubtedly at one of his strongest points in the Likud,” a senior Likud minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity the evening of Sept. 26, upon returning from the party’s annual toast for the Jewish New Year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only speaker at the event, and the minister’s statement is an accurate reflection of Netanyahu’s show of power that evening. He stood alone at the top of the party’s hierarchy. Even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon didn’t enjoy such stature at the height of his own power in the Likud. He was, of course, challenged by none other than Netanyahu, who was busy with his large base of supporters doing all he could to replace Sharon.
Before Netanyahu’s plane had landed after his visit to the United States, over a thousand party activists were already waiting for him in the crowded hall in Kfar Maccabiah. They were understanding about having to wait for hours, a wait that grew even longer when Netanyahu finally arrived. Before they saw him enter the hall, he shut himself off in a private side room to freshen up, put on his makeup and go over his long speech. He corrected and improved it, erased and added to it, until he thought it was the perfect text. Only then did he step out to the crowd.
Unlike previous occasions, however, despite the long, exhausting wait and the late hour, these Likud supporters greeted Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, with one of the warmest, most heartfelt receptions in years. Maybe it was because he has managed to keep them in power in election after election for the past seven years. In their eyes, Netanyahu is in a league of his own.
Netanyahu’s entrance was met with exultant cheers from his Likud supporters. Cellphones were pulled out as if he were a rock star. Netanyahu strode in confidently, waving his hands and relishing the applause and every cheer of “Yay, Bibi!” Over the past few years, Netanyahu has managed to hone the feeling among the Likud that it is “us against the world,” the world being what he considers the dangerous left, with its willingness to make concessions, and the media that attacks him and his wife on what he believes to be a daily basis. In that sense, Netanyahu had come home.
The timing of the Likud’s New Year celebration certainly contributed to the good mood. It came right after Netanyahu returned to Israel, after the media had spent days reporting extensively on his address to the United Nations and his high-level meetings with a US president about to leave office and his potential successors. In every event, he was portrayed as the defender of Israel.
While the members of the Likud and its ministers were honored to have Netanyahu mention them by name, it was obvious that they were little more than a fancy backdrop for him. Right now, Netanyahu is the sole, unchallenged star of the party. He attained that status after eliminating his rivals, or at the very least hitting them so hard that they are paralyzed, as he did to popular Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
The event offered a glimpse into the inner workings of a party that has always seethed with internal struggles. The obvious conclusion is that Netanyahu is indeed in a good position within the Likud. He is a strong leader, and it doesn’t look like anyone is about to compete against him, despite former Interior Minister Gideon Saar’s hints. And it is doubtful that Saar will jump into the fray with Netanyahu’s leadership virtually unchallenged.
Even those pockets of resistance within the Likud that kept Netanyahu awake in the past melted away long ago. They once included former Likud Knesset member Moshe Feiglin (and his “Jewish leadership” movement) and other ideological groups on the right. Former Minister Danny Danon was once a political headache, at least internally, but Netanyahu sent him to the United Nations, and ever since, that front has been quiet.
Historically, there has never been a situation like this within the Likud. Netanyahu is not only alone at the top, but there is no strong option waiting on the sidelines to offer an alternative to his control of the Likud.
What likely kept the Israeli prime minister awake that night was a poll released by Channel 1 at the time of the festive event. It showed the chairman of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, growing stronger and his party emerging as the largest in the country. The poll indicated that Yesh Atid would win 25 seats, and the Likud 21, if the election were held today. What this means is that since the last election in 2015, the ruling party led by Netanyahu has lost almost a third of its strength.
More bad news for Netanyahu came from his rivals on the right: The poll gave the HaBayit HaYehudi chair, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, 13 seats and the Yisrael Beitenu chair, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, nine. Their growth in strength since the last election comes at the expense of Netanyahu and the Likud.
This is apparently also the reason Netanyahu’s speech Sept. 27 was a classic campaign speech, even though there are no elections on the horizon. It was a very long speech at 40 minutes, complete with a slideshow. It was unusual, as Netanyahu usually makes do with a brief holiday greeting at events of this kind. This time, however, Netanyahu wanted to “recall” his achievements: Israel is thriving, its international status is secure and most of all, the state is strong militarily and economically.
Netanyahu told his Likud supporters, “The rule is very simple: The weak do not survive. The strong and the smart survive. That is why our task is to make Israel very strong and very smart. If you are strong, you can do more than just defend yourself. You can also forge alliances.”
At the end of the event, the prime minister’s team tried to downplay the poll, which could have ruined the celebration for them. In briefings to the press, his people tried to emphasize that the poll was taken before the prime minister’s address to the UN, “with all that this means for the results,” one of his associates told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Even if that is the case, this is still a troubling trend for Netanyahu, who had been climbing in all the recent polls. What difference does it make for Netanyahu, who has no competitors in the Likud, if an alternative for the position of prime minister is emerging and if he is losing seats to Liberman and Bennett? It is a good thing for him that elections are not on the horizon.
A Sa’ar 4.5-class Corvette of the Israeli Navy fires its canons during a naval exercise off the coast of Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry on Sunday announced a series of deals for the purchase of combat systems from local defense industries in the amount of $420 million by the end of this year. This is part of a project to acquire warships whose mission would to protect natural gas platforms within Israel’s “economic waters” in the Mediterranean against military threats.
An Israeli soldier training in Krav Maga.
Several dozen members of the Indian military are currently learning how to protect themselves using the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, India Today reported this weekend.
“I brought Krav Maga to India in year 2002 after intensive training in Israel,” Vikram Kapoor — the head instructor at the International Krav Maga Federation — was quoted as saying. “This is the only self-defense technique that is being evolved every moment and that is why it is the best.”
Culminating a three-year process, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando on Thursday adopted a resolution titled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” with approximately 98 percent voting in favor. The resolution calls on members to “avoid purchase of products associated with the occupation or produced in settlements in occupied territories.” It also establishes a process for the church to review its investments “for the purpose of withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.”
Rabbi Steven Wernick says Netanyahu recruited progressive Jews to find a compromise for the holy site; now that the PM has reneged, world Jewry won’t be silent
The fight for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall is a battle already won by Jewry’s Conservative movement. For some 20 years, Conservative Jews have inhabited a spiritual home at Jerusalem’s contentious holy site, which they won through a series of Supreme Court cases — in a section allocated to the Davidson Archaeological
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Photo credit: hebron.com)
In a secret ballot held at the World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow Poland, on Friday, UNESCO voted twelve to three in favor declaring the Holy City of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs “Palestinian world heritage sites”.
The resolution described a Muslim history of the city while blatantly ignoring the Biblical narrative describing 3,000 years of Jewish connection to the site. Six countries abstained from the controversial vote which, at the request of Poland, Croatia, and Jamaica, was a secret ballot; a first for such a vote.
During last month’s 2017 Chicago Dyke March, the true face of “inclusion” among “progressives” finally surfaced. According to the Chicago based newspaper Windy City Times, the march proceeded calmly with people “of all races, genders and gender identities” attending, until “the Dyke March Collective ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).”
Something is terribly broken in the relationship between American and Israeli Jews. I say this as an American Jew who has lived in Israel for almost half a century. But if anyone thinks this started with Women of the Wall or PM Netanyahu’s recent – and I believe unfortunate – backtracking on the agreement over egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, he is suffering from selective memory, if not total denial.
gentleman from times gone by. He was soft-spoken, courtly, and wore his pants hoisted high and held up by suspenders; clearly, a European who had personally endured horrors in the last century.
Indeed, he had personally survived the Holocaust in Poland. Therefore, I could not immediately understand why he now attends a very left-wing synagogue—but, totally incomprehensible, was his unexpected and rather passionate defense of Poland and of the Poles. He argued on their behalf as if his very life still depended upon it.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Jerusalem but not Ramallah has prompted much comment.
The expectation of equal treatment goes back to the Oslo Accords’ signing in Sep. 1993, when the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, represented his government in the handshake with Yasir Arafat, the much-despised chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. No one found it strange or inappropriate at the time but things look differently nearly a quarter century later.
Matthew Healy at the Atlantic, one of the few remaining liberal anti-censorship magazines, offers a disingenuous counterpoint to the debate over political correctness.
The attempts to silence dissenting points of view are counter-speech, according to Healy. And counter-speech is an important form of free expression.