On Friday afternoon, just before the Sabbath began, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave control over Israel's most important government ministry to someone who had never served in a high-level defense position, other than being a member of the security cabinet. This is taking place at one of the most difficult and tense times in Israel's history, after Netanyahu himself constantly proclaimed that the fraught security situation facing us requires an experienced person in the position. Netanyahu said that even former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was "unfit and too inexperienced" to realize how important the situation was.
Bennett is an experienced politician, and will no doubt accept the position, whether for two weeks or two months, with complete seriousness and responsibility, but he is a partner in the worst kind of political maneuver: temporary political musical chairs using national security for Netanyahu's personal benefit. This is nothing to be proud of. Government ministries have been used as political bargaining chips since the founding of the state, but more caution has been exercised with the job of minister of defense, which is not child's play.
This is not for the sake of widening the coalition, because there has been no such thing since December 2018. The outgoing/temporary/transitional government serving in office without the Knesset's confidence since April 2019 probably lacks the authority to take such a step. The attorney general, however, is likely to smooth Netanyahu's way to doing this, as he retroactively approved Netanyahu's round of firings and appointments back in June, when he fired Bennett. Now Bennett is being reappointed to the cabinet.
Netanyahu's attitude towards people, both positive and negative, changes so quickly that you have to ask what day it is in order to know whether he will be courteous towards or spit fire at the religious Zionist parties' two ministers.
It will be said that Bennett has coveted this position for some years. He has convinced himself that he will have a decisive influence on government policy. That remains to be seen. He at least did not promise that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will be assassinated as soon as he gets the job.
What is the purpose of the maneuver? It is completely obvious. Netanyahu wanted to attach three MKs, so that they would not take part in a coalition without him, headed by the Blue and White Party. It is doubtful whether Bennett and New Right chairperson Ayelet Shaked would have done this, anyway, but they already knew with whom they were dealing. They sent a few hints via the media, Netanyahu was immediately persuaded that they were about to join forces with Blue and White, and made sure to preempt the possibility.
There are, however, a number of humiliating aspects to this step. The Likud's announcement did not mention Shaked's name. This ignoring of the New Right's chairperson is demonstrative and callous.
Shaked was quick to forgive the insult, announcing on Twitter than the measure had been coordinated with her, and that she preferred this possibility to having two ministries: the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Labor Social Affairs, and Social Services.
Other potential victims of insult are leading Likud MKs, who are having political personalities installed over their heads: Gilad Erdan, Yoav Galant (who has excessive expectations), Nir Barkat, and Gideon Saar. Netanyahu always prefers rewarding people who pose an external threat of the leaders of his party.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yisrael Katz has considered himself a party leader and more important than Bennett for a long time. He got his wish six months ago, but it is doubtful whether he will restrain himself when two young and charismatic figures are brought into the Likud in a position to compete later for the leadership of the party.
Every time that the prime minister sets the bar of proper administration lower than it has ever been before, he makes Israelis used to inferior standards.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 10, 2019
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