1. Primary minister: Two announcements shook up the political world on Thursday, but despite the mini earthquakes, the Knesset is no closer to forming a governing coalition.
- The first was Likud’s announcement that party leader Benjamin Netanyahu was considering calling a snap primary, letting Likud choose its leader for the first time in five years (when he easily defeated then-MK Danny Danon).
- Channel 12 reports that the move is designed to ensure that he is seen as “the party’s unchallenged leader,” should it come time for the Knesset to choose a lawmaker to form a government, assuming both he and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz both fail to bring together coalitions the first time around.
- In Walla news, Tal Shalev contends that the move was meant to stave off a mutiny should a third round of elections roll around.
- “If the country is dragged to new elections — senior Likud members are liable to push their candidacy against him in any case, and at a time and under conditions that are less comfortable for him,” she writes. “Quick primaries now can let him control who runs against him and keep a handle on the agenda as the sitting prime minister.”
2. I’m ready: It came as little surprise, but was a bit of a bombshell in any case that former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar quickly signaled his readiness to take on Netanyahu, tweeting just “I’m ready.”
- Sa’ar is widely seen as Netanyahu’s most serious challenger for the Likud throne, and Netanyahu has worked to try and push out Sa’ar, who returned to politics in April after a hiatus.
- Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker notes that despite the bad blood, Sa’ar has mostly stayed away from directly attacking Netanyahu: “One time he cautiously suggested he would be against immunity for the prime minister, but the rest of the time he has been careful not to rebel. But today, after a decade in which no senior Likud member dared stand up against Netanyahu — Sa’ar tweeted that perhaps he is in the picture.”
- In Haaretz, though, Anshell Pfeffer writes that Sa’ar is being careful, knowing that Likud doesn’t take kindly to those who try to push their leaders from the throne.
- “Gideon knows that Bibi will win if a primary is held,” he quotes an unnamed Sa’ar backer saying. “But he wants to make it clear that he is the leader for the succession. So he’s putting himself out there without actually attacking Bibi.”
3. I’m not: By late Thursday, though, the primary idea was starting to be seen as little more than a test balloon, with the party seemingly backing off of it.
- According to several reports, the shift came after senior Likud members told Netanyahu to rethink the plan.
- “Party officials came to Netanyahu and told him he only has what to lose from the move,” Channel 12 news reports.
- Speaking to Channel 13 news, Culture Minister Miri Regev claims that Netanyahu was never serious about the idea anyway and the whole point of the exercise was just to get Sa’ar to come out of the woodwork.
- Israel Hayom’s Mati Tuchfeld reports that Netanyahu was actually surprised that Sa’ar was so quick on the draw: “What was supposed to be a test balloon to get Gantz to climb down turned into an actual plan, which would gain meat and bones in the coming days, thanks to a tweet.”
- But Maariv’s Ben Caspit writes that Netanyahu actually has been holding talks with many people about going to primaries for a few weeks, but Sa’ar’s tweet “popped the test balloon that was totally real.”
4. Pledge of allegiance: Battling Sa’ar is also front and center in Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom, but not because of the primary challenge. The paper also pushes a pledge being sent around to Likud’s right-wing allies demanding they declare their allegiance to Netanyahu and Netanyahu alone.
- “The document that will stop Sa’ar,” reads a headline in the tabloid, which reports that right-wing parties were only too happy to sign the pledge.
- In fact, though, Globes reports that most of the right-wing leaders think it’s too early to sign such a pledge and want to remain flexible.
- Walla reports that Likud believes if the right-wing leaders sign the pledge, “it will make a primary less urgent.”
5. Lapid was gonna be PM? The second bombshell, quickly lost in the all the other hubbub, was Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid’s offer to give up his own rotation agreement if it will help get a unity government forged.
- “He gave up on something he never really had in any case,” Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon chortles. “Still, there was a message in his announcement: The time has come to climb down. This isn’t the last thing Lapid will have to climb down from on the way to creating a government.”
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter, meanwhile, is dismissive of Netanyahu’s supposed commitment to a rotational agreement, citing his speech to the Knesset Thursday, in which he warned of all the dangers threatening Israel, especially from Iran.
- “If the situation is so serious, if the regional pressure cooker is about to explode any minute, who would consider replacing an experienced premier like him with a political newcomer like Gantz,” he writes. “Without meaning to, he exposed his own bluff in a speech that was intended to soften Gantz’s obstinate opposition to join him as number two in a rotation agreement devised by Rivlin. Anyone who thought differently now understands that he has no intention of giving up his place, even if and when he is indicted.”
6. Domestic killing: Netanyahu claimed that almost all of Israel’s problems come from Iran, but it would be hard to blame Tehran for the plague of domestic violence, which reared its ugly head again Thursday night with a murder-attempted suicide that grabs the media’s attention.
- The killing of Michal Sela in her home in the leafy Jerusalem suburb of Motza leads nearly every Hebrew-language news site Friday morning, though the details of the case remain fuzzy.
- Channel 13 news reports that police believe Sela’s husband stabbed her to death and then tried to kill himself in the same manner, in front of their infant daughter. According to the report, the husband, who has not been named, is in an induced coma and cannot give his version of events.
- Walla news quotes a neighbor who spoke to the husband shortly before he lost consciousness as he tried to find help. “Me and my wife tried to commit suicide,” the neighbor recalls he said, indicating some sort of pact.
- The case is being viewed as one of domestic violence and not postpartum tragedy, however.
- “We are a loving, caring family and the worst thing possible happened to us,” Sela’s sister Lily is quoted saying in Ynet. “If this happened to us, we need to ask what the state is doing, how we can stop this violence.”
7. Down and out Down Under: It would also be hard to blame Iran for the diplomatic damage Israel may suffer thanks to its apparent protection of alleged pedophile Malka Liefer.
- An unnamed Israeli diplomatic official tells Haaretz that a Jerusalem court’s decision to release Leifer on bail was “the last straw” for Melbourne, which has waited over five years for Leifer to be extradited.
- “This case is causing irreparable harm to Israel-Australia relations,” the diplomatic official tells Haaretz. “This story is shocking to the Australian public, the rape of little girls seemingly being whitewashed. We have many areas of cooperation with Australia, including security, and they are in real danger.”
- Israel’s ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer also hints that the case is making his job harder in a tweet.
- “While Israeli courts are independent, there are very many in Israel, including the State Prosecution, who find the recent legal decisions regarding Malka Leifer incomprehensible and are working avidly to overturn them,” he tweets. “In their eyes, the case has gone on for far too long and nothing short of full justice can be acceptable. Uppermost in their minds is the immediate extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia to stand trial.”
- On Facebook, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews publishes a letter he wrote to Netanyahu telling him that the decision “defies explanation,” and hoping somehow he can push the matter along.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.Malka Leifer must be extradited.She must face an Australian court.Victims and their families deserve justice.
- Melbourne’s The Age reports that Andrews also spoke to Sofer and Foreign Ministry head Yuval Rotem — a former envoy to Canberra — and was told the matter is being taken care of.
- “A spokesman for the Premier said Mr. Rotem assured Mr. Andrews that Israel was ‘taking the matter seriously’ and ‘it wasn’t one that they were ignoring,’” the paper reports.