Wednesday, May 18 was one of the most intense days in Israeli politics in recent years, with countless strange headlines that Zionist Camp party chairman Yitzhak Herzog was about to become foreign minister. It became clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to appoint Avigdor Lieberman the head of the right wing “Yisrael Beitenu” party as defense minister instead of Moshe Ya’alon, in exchange for the support by the small party, with just six Knesset members, for his coalition.
It is very possible that this maneuver will enable Netanyahu to extend his term as prime minister for another year or two, but as of right now he has sown the seeds for his defeat and for the defeat of his Likud party in the next elections.
Very few figures in the Israeli public support the appointment that highly respected Knesset Member Benny Begin called irresponsible and bizarre.
If Netanyahu had given the defense portfolio to a person without experience in the Likud party, people may have accepted it. But by giving the portfolio to a person whose extreme views and statements regarding Israel’s security situation were rejected by the majority of the public in the last elections, he is saying to the Israeli public that I don’t care about you, I don’t need to ask you and I don’t consider you. Zionist Camp party leader Herzog claimed Wednesday night that Netanyahu agreed to give him the defense portfolio one year after his party joins the government. If that was true, it needs to be asked if Netanyahu has turned Israel’s security into personal political capital that can be passed within several hours from an irresponsible and extremist left-wing party (even according to Herzog’s definition) to an opportunist right-wing party.
Netanyahu apparently thinks so.
The fundamental problem is that Israel’s public has no faith that a man with no defense background, is capable of serving as defense minister, And that of course came before the responses in the region and the international community.
The defense portfolio crisis did not end with Lieberman’s appointment, it is just beginning,
The incumbent, Moshe Ya’alon, announced Wednesday night that he will not give up the portfolio and will not submit his resignation. In other words, he will continue carrying out his duties until the PM is forced to dismiss him to make way for Lieberman if their coalition deal is finalized.
This could threaten the unity of the Likud, or threaten to bring the government down. These are exactly the kinds of steps that Netanyahu had hoped to avoid.
In other words, one way or another, we are at the start of a turbulent processes which may lead to a new election.