1. Bend it like Bennett: Vested with a mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to form a new government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making his first sallies toward building a coalition, though few think he will be able to succeed.
- “On the way to a right-wing government, or a fifth election,” reads the top headline in Israel Hayom, which has seemingly dropped any pretense of being anything other than a sounding board for Likud talking points.
- According to the paper, amid intensive talks with right-wing parties aimed at getting over several humps, an option has emerged that the paper claims is tentatively backed by both Netanyahu and New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar, in which Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett would agree to a prime ministerial rotation, or brotation, with Bennett going first.
- “According to checks by political sources with Sa’ar’s people, the New Hope head would agree to enter such a government when Netanyahu is not at its head,” the paper reports.
- Someone at Israel Hayom must have a wry sense of humor, because ON THE SAME PAGE is a story about proposed Likud legislation with the sole purpose of making it possible for the party to renege on its previous rotation agreement with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz. (Always good to see lawmakers working on bills that are really important to normal people, like legalizing ways to wiggle out of commitments, rather than silly things like tackling violence against women or Arabs.)
- If Bennett somehow doesn’t take Netanyahu at his word, he can always go back to Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, who also offered him first go at a rotation. “But obviously Bennett will be weaker then, with minimal bargaining power,” notes Haaretz’s Yossi Verter.
- “What is Bennett planning? What’s he cooking up?” asks Kan. “Will he go with Netanyahu? Just two months ago he said that ‘the last year has proven that he failed in his role.” At the moment of truth, will he decide to ‘join the stretcher-carriers,’ as he did in October 2019. Will he sit with the offspring of his ‘former brothers?’ Lapid or [Bezlalel] Smotrich? And will he realize his yearnings for a government headed by him, or will too much walking between the raindrops leave him wet as well?”
2. Change we can’t believe in: ToI’s David Horovitz, writing that Netanyahu is again in the driver’s seat, notes that the anti-Netanyahu camp may still try to get together, though he has his doubts it will yield much.
- “With the prompting of another right-wing anti-Netanyahu leader, Gideon Sa’ar of the six-seat New Hope, Bennett and Lapid may yet make further attempts in the coming days to agree to terms on a coalition partnership. But they failed to do so in the two weeks since the March 23 elections — when the electorate voted in a Knesset with both a majority of right-wing lawmakers and a majority of lawmakers utterly or somewhat opposed to Netanyahu,” he writes.
- Walla runs a headline saying that “the Knesset’s imagination is working overtime,” noting all the various ideas being bruited about for putting together a government, most of them less than realistic.
- “While Lapid, depressed over having not gotten the mandate, flies off to vacation overseas, right-wing leaders, Sa’ar, [Ze’ev] Elkin, Bennett, [Ayelet] Shaked and [Bezalel] Smotrich are constantly discussing with Likud colleagues other ideas to get Netanyahu out of the prime minister’s seat in a respectable way that will allow everyone to go home and put together a dream government of 65 seats. Thus was born the plan that places [Knesset speaker Yariv] Levin or someone of his standing from the Likud or another right-wing party as prime minister, and moves Netanyahu to an alternate post with a commitment to fund his term. Even the most problematic and controversial idea, which would move Netanyahu from Balfour to the President’s Residence, is especially popular among Likud officials, despite the moral consequences of electing someone under criminal indictment to be citizen No. 1,” writes Tal Shalev.
- In Yedioth Ahronoth, Sima Kadmon writes that “whether or not Netanyahu puts together a government, this is a resounding failure by the change camp,” accusing them of letting a golden opportunity pass them by by refusing to hash out differences or rally around a single figure. “Just imagine if Netanyahu were in the place of any of the leaders of the change camp. Do you think he would make their mistakes?”
- Channel 12’s Dafna Liel writes that the path to a fifth election is being paved by politicians who are putting petty personal political pursuits above all: “There’s no right or left. Among most politicians, politics comes before all. Nobody should deceive themselves into thinking that politicians don’t act according to political considerations, that’s not the claim. But one would expect that the personal political considerations would not be conflated with those of the public. This week is a great time to be reminded that this is not a given.”
3. Remembering and stumping: One might also think that this is not a week to mix politics with memory, as the country marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, but some accuse Netanyahu of doing just that with his primetime speech at the main ceremony at Yad Vashem.
- “On such an occasion, you would expect somberness, solemnity, humility, grace, historical perspective and valuable insight. After all, this is a day in which the entire country remembers the most vile genocide and tragedy in human history. But not when it comes to Mr. Netanyahu,” Alon Pinkas writes in Haaretz. “For him, Holocaust Remembrance Day is just another opportunity to make a political speech, a self-serving tirade.”
- Speaking to Army Radio, Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer also decries the politicization of the Shoah, without specifically going after Netanyahu. “Today, in Israel but not only, the Shoah is dealt with as a political tool. This undermines the memory of the Holocaust.”
- In Zman Yisrael, Tal Schnieder writes that Netanyahu kicked off his fifth election campaign with the Yad Vashem speech. She notes that the central section of the speech was devoted to a Haredi woman from Jerusalem Mahane Yehuda market who was vaccinated recently by an East Jerusalem Arab.
- But Schnieder notes that what Netanyahu left out of his description is the fact that 30 years ago, the same woman, Bella Freund, used her body to protect a Palestinian terrorist from a lynch mob.
- “So look what we have, a woman whose life story also includes her readiness to sacrifice herself to shield a terrorist from a lynching. Freund’s name came up several times in the context of Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot an already incapacitated Palestinian knifeman to death. What else do we have here? A prime minister who in the last years has endeared himself to characters like Azaria and those who represent them in the Knesset.”
- As if to prove her point, Israel Hayom on Friday runs a gushing preview of a gushing profile about the owner of a great “victorious” new bakery: none other than Azaria, who is also writing a book and says he has no contrition about what he did and would do it again.
- With Memorial Day coming up as well, offering politicians yet another pulpit, Channel 12’s Menachem Horowitz suggests a rethink of the way the state deals with official memorial ceremonies, in which the most important politicians attend events in the capital and other large cities. He’s fine with the political speeches, but thinks the little guys who live in the kibbutzim, moshavim, towns and settlements out in the boondocks should be honored with them too, suggesting a system in which the prime minister, president and other top figures visit different places every year.
- “Think about the bereaved mother from Beersheba, or the bereaved brother from Nahariya. Are they not deserving of having the prime minister honor them with his presence at least once on Memorial Day? Are only the families of those buried at Mount Herzl or Kiryat Shaul worthy of the honor,” he writes. “With all the talk of the ‘family of bereaved,’ of a nation united on this day of honoring the fallen, everyone should be included it, even those who live a little further away from [Tel Aviv’s] Ayalon freeway and [Jerusalem’s] Herzl Boulevard.”