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29.08.2014
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'Bennett backs a man who wants to blow up the Dome of the Rock'
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Mati Tuchfeld

Bennett's over-the-top attack

In the wake of the 2009 election, after the final votes were tallied, the general assumption on the Left was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government would not last more than a few months.

Former Kadima cabinet minister Haim Ramon devised that theory and many good people were convinced that it would hold true, refusing to discard it until their very last day on the opposition benches, partly because of blind faith. It turned out to be utter foolishness.

Not only did Netanyahu's government last more than a few months, it lasted longer than most other governments in recent decades.

This same theory has recently become a working plan for top politicians on the Left, chiefly among them former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is intent on staging a comeback should his legal affairs resolve favorably. (One of the corruption cases against Olmert is now being argued in the Supreme Court and another one is still being litigated at a lower court, although regardless of their outcome, he may face legal hurdles if he chooses to run for office again.)

Olmert, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni, Ramon, and lately even Labor's Shelly Yachimovich are all trying to demonstrate that the next Netanyahu government will be unstable and won't last more than two years.

This could be nothing more than wishful thinking. While the elections are not officially over, judging from recent polls Netanyahu will have a much easier time assembling a coalition this time around.

This is because unlike the 2009 election, when his party came in second and won only 27 seats, this time he will likely head a faction that comprises roughly 35 seats. Moreover, the other parties in the right-wing bloc have announced loud and clear that they will support Netanyahu, despite tensions and animosity. Shas co-leader Aryeh Deri could be seen holding up his party's voting slip against the backdrop of Netanyahu's image, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett has inundated the country with campaign posters featuring himself alongside Netanyahu and a caption that reads, "Strong together." It doesn't get any more committed than that.

And there is another reason. In 2009, inviting the left-wing Labor into the coalition would have been unfathomable. This time around, inviting the center-left parties Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid, and Kadima, headed by Shaul Mofaz (should it garner enough votes to enter the Knesset), into the coalition, is a plausible scenario. Perhaps it is even the natural thing to do.

Even the various demands both parties would likely impose during coalition negotiations are not too bombastic. With minor adjustments, Lapid's plan to increase the ultra-Orthodox sector’s share of the burden in the IDF and other forms of national service could eventually become acceptable even to the ultra-Orthodox parties themselves.

As for budget talks and austerity measures, these won't topple the government only one month after it had been formed (under Israeli law, if the government does not pass a state budget by a certain deadline an election is automatically called). So on what exactly do Olmert and his cohorts base their theory that Netanyahu's government is headed for a crash and burn?

That said, they are all entitled to entertain such hope.

Bennett's recent attacks on Netanyahu have crossed the line, not just because they were in bad taste, but because they lack common sense. If Bennett truly believes Netanyahu launched a vicious campaign against the knitted skullcap constituency (that is, national religious Jews) reminiscent of the attacks on Netanyahu after the Rabin assassination, why did Bennett go out of his way to put pictures of Netanyahu on his party's campaign billboards all over the country? Was this the tit-for-tat against someone who has declared war on him and his constituents? Of course not.

At least when the hardline Strong Israel party, which is to the right of Bennett, attacks the premier you know that it believes what it says. Bennett knows his attacks contradict his own message, but perhaps he is letting his angst do the talking for him.

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