Israel media review

The bloc-less monster: What the media is saying about infighting and outflanking

The political mess is getting messier with the anti-Netanyahu bloc splitting in two, and nobody sure if anybody is in anyone’s camp anymore

File: Yair Lapid (R) seen with Naftali Bennett at the Knesset in March 2013. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)
File: Yair Lapid (R) seen with Naftali Bennett at the Knesset in March 2013. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

1. Will you still back me when I compromise to get to 61: Bathed in the radioactive glow of the post-election fallout, the media is attempting to record each and every political twist and turn amid the race for 61 and game the various scenarios and options each side and player have to get there first.

  • “Five days after the election, there is still no clarity, but plenty of talks,” reports Kan, before going on to detail minutely each of the various talks, refusals to talk, spats and signals flying through the post-election atmosphere.
  • In most of the media, the balance is seen as shifting away from interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and toward the gaggle of parties aligned against him, though they seem to be having some problems figuring out whom among them to back as prime minister, with one unlikely candidate emerging.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth details what it calls “growing pains for the change bloc,” lining up the party heads within the bloc (or who might be within the bloc) who want Yair Lapid as head or are planning on recommending someone else.
  • Kan reminds readers (and politicians) that “Yesh Atid wants a ‘Jewish democratic’ government — which means no Balad and no UTJ. Yamina has said it won’t sit with Meretz, and afterward said it would not be under [Yair] Lapid, and also promised not to be in a government supported by Arabs. Good luck to all.”
  • And that’s not all. Haaretz’s Noa Landau notes that Yoaz Hendel, on Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope list, has a history of bloc-blocking by protesting Arab participation. “It’s true that other members of New Hope including Sa’ar himself, as well as Ze’ev Elkin, are not exactly fans of Arab-Jewish collaboration – on the contrary. But they are also seasoned politicians and pragmatic when necessary. They realize that Netanyahu will do anything in order to win, and that anyone wishing to replace him must take the same approach. Hendel, in contrast, is already guilty of foiling an opportunity to replace Netanyahu in the last round of elections.”
  • With Bennett the most fickle, he is all of a sudden being mooted not as the kingmaker, but the king himself.
  • Channel 13 notes that Sa’ar’s options are to recommend Lapid, and thus rely on Arabs to get over the 61 hump, pissing off his voter base, join Netanyahu and piss off his voter base, or recommend Bennett, which is his “most preferred option.”
  • “The change bloc made a huge mistake from ego considerations by wasting time,” former Benny Gantz adviser Ronen Tzur tells Army Radio. “They had the chance to put together only a government headed by Bennett, all the party heads needed to rally immediately after the election to recommend Bennett as prime minister to the president.”
  • Gantz tells Ynet that he backs Lapid, sort of, trying to make himself a kingmaker of sorts, though he also hints that he’s not sure Bennett won’t run off to Netanyahu in the end anyway. “I want to see how it’s possible to get to 53 seats, and then they’ll have my 8,” he says of Lapid.

2. Getting Ra’ambunctious: Gantz also uses the interview to backtrack after a party representative met with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas and reportedly told him not to back Lapid, which Gantz says was not sanctioned.

  • Much of the rest of the media is also focused on whom Ra’am is or is not speaking to, or willing to back.
  • Sha’a Mansour Massarwa, Ra’am’s lead negotiator, tells Army Radio that not sitting with Religious Zionism leader MK Bezalel Smotrich or with Itamar Ben Gvir, a Kahanist member of Smotrich’s party, is a principle that “no one will give up on,” seemingly putting the kibosh on any possible Netanyahu-led coalition.
  • But Israel Hayom claims that Ra’am is actually secretly meeting with Shas about joining the Netanyahu-led coalition. The paper claims that Ra’am has made “no secret” of the fact that it prefers to join a right-wing government.
  • “The quiet in the last few days from the Likud and sources on the right about working with Ra’am is not incidental. There are intensive talks and the silence in the background helps a lot,” the paper quotes an unnamed Ra’am source saying.
  • Yedioth quotes a senior Likud official saying that talks with Ra’am are possible, but not until Yamina’s Bennett makes up his mind. “We can’t bring Abbas if we don’t have Bennett. The moment we know Bennett is with us, we’ll be in a different place.”

3. Don’t count us in: And though the media may act like it’s a done deal, the Joint List is making clear that it’s not in anyone’s pocket either.

  • “I think we don’t need to beholden to the idea that we have to recommend anyone [for prime minister] because it’s a given,” the Joint List’s Aida Touma-Suleiman tells Radio 103. “We’ve been in this movie before, we supported Gantz despite everything we knew and he knew we wanted to take down Netanyahu. And what happened in the end? Gantz went to a Netanyahu government.”
  • On the other side, the tide has shifted so much that even some Netanyahu stalwarts are seen as considering jumping ship (though they may also just be trying to drive up their price).
  • “We still haven’t decided what to do, but there is thinking and talk – just preliminary – about changing the political line, about looking into other options,” an official from Degel Hatorah, one of the UTJ factions, tells Haaretz, noting that the party liked things better when it was a king-making free agent. “We see it’s not good for us to be in a situation where we’re in Netanyahu’s pocket.”
  • While admitting that it’s too early to say Netanyahu failed, ToI editor David Horovitz marvels at the fact that he did not emerge easily victorious with all he had going for him. “How can that be? How did this happen, when the success of his vaccination drive was only the most irresistible of a whole array of factors so plainly working in his favor, so clearly appreciated by the Israeli electorate? How did he not triumph, when he had signed no fewer than four regional normalization agreements, overwhelmingly applauded by the public, in the months before these elections? When the Mossad under his direction has achieved such extraordinary successes in the battle against Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program? When the Israeli economy under his oversight has proved so robust and so innovative, and is such a credible bet to bounce back relatively rapidly from the devastation wrought by COVID-19? When he is so articulate a presence on the world stage? When he has kept Israel so relatively stable for so long in the shifting, hostile Middle East?”
  • Writing for Channel 12, political strategist Moshe Klughaft sums it all up as Israel being “addicted” to elections: “At the end of the day, what’s nicer than hitting up the election emergency system again and again, hitting the panic button and continuing to act with all our gears turned to the political game? When crisis is a chance to put off everyday life for a future that will never arrive?”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed