Photo: Flash 90
To understand how it happens that Bennett and his right-wing party lose within a week between eight and ten seats in the polls, one has to go back and remember how Bennett managed in less than a year to get from six seats in the election to twenty-three seats in the polls. Bennett’s meteoric takeoff occurred rapidly, but three different stages in its development can be discerned.
The first phase began when Bennett stood out as someone who understood the severity of the corona crisis, as opposed to those who underestimated it in the first place or those who thought he was behind us with the decline in morbidity following the first closure, the Passover closure. Bennett has also managed to be portrayed, whether rightly or less rightly, as having good answers to the deep health and economic crisis in which Israel is immersed. From the first days of the plague until today, he has not stopped warning on the one hand and offering on the other.
To warn against complacency and helplessness, and to offer practical measures that will alleviate the severity of the situation, both in the health aspect and the economic aspect. His deep commitment to addressing the Corona crisis was well expressed in his slogan “No Corona – not interesting”. Presumably, Bennett really wants to make it easier for the people of Israel and believes in his ability to do so. But beyond that he also read the electoral map well, realizing that among the public groaning under the yoke of the plague and its plagues there are extensive sections that would be willing to support anyone who would be portrayed as a potential savior. Naturally, from his seat in the opposition he did not bear responsibility for government errors, and most of his proposals also could not fail because they were not put to the test of reality. The mandates of those disappointed by Corona’s government treatment, many of them Likud voters in the last election, were the first step in Bennett’s growth momentum.
In the second stage, religious Zionist voters returned to support the right. Among the reasons for this are the sectoral insult from the projection to the right-wing opposition by Netanyahu, and the collapse of the governmental alternative on the left, which created a feeling that this time Netanyahu could manage even without the sector’s votes. To these is added the sectoral tendency to turn the support of the general public and the sympathy of the media into a central test, the passing of which justifies support for one of our own who has succeeded in winning them.
After Shimina began to show in the polls a double-digit result in an upward trend, came the third stage in which Bennett began to be perceived, and not only in his own eyes, as a governmental alternative. This was the stage where no small electoral share of “just not Bibi” camp voters looked to the left and did not see there who could beat Netanyahu in the next election. When they realized this, and on the other hand saw Bennett rising and rising, they began to befriend the idea that in times of distress both the religious and right-wing Bennett could be used in the role of “not Bibi.” This created a surprising phenomenon for center-left voters in the last election, who began to identify in the polls as those who intend to vote for the right, less than Bennett’s love and more than Netanyahu’s hatred.
To bolster this wing’s support for his party, Bennett tightened his adherence to the “no corona no interesting” line. He even stopped talking about settlement, sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the judiciary – issues that are the soul bird of his strongest core of supporters. Bennett tried, with a great deal of temporary success, to wink in two opposite directions. Believing that Bennett does not really mean what he says, the Corona may be at the top of his agenda, but he will not interfere and even support behind the scenes when Smutrich takes care of the settlement and Ayelet Shaked returns to take care of the justice system.
The Mandate Tower of the Right and Bennett was therefore built on a very sensitive construction, founded on internal contradictions, not resistant to storm and storm. It was clear that this building was likely to collapse, and it did happen as soon as “just not Bibi” voters found another candidate from the right who they hoped would do the job for them. Gideon Saar is more suitable for them. He has no dome on his head. He is married to Redemption Stone, who is considered one of their own. He does not have a hard core of right-wing and religious voters who will prevent him from breaking left, if he is interested, to the satisfaction of his new voters. And no less importantly, unlike Bennett, he was quick to pledge not to sit in a coalition with Netanyahu and thus made himself one of their own.
Is Bennett still able to change the trend? Does he have the power to restore his status as the leading candidate to replace Netanyahu? It seems to depend mainly on the decisions of others. If Netanyahu and Gantz somehow manage to reach an understanding at the last minute and prevent the dissolution of the Knesset and the government, it must be assumed that Saar’s momentum will slow down and weaken as the election date gets further away. In such a situation, Bennett may once again be the leading candidate for the “no Bibi” position. On the other hand, the more the elections are postponed to a time when the majority of Israel’s population is already vaccinated, the less significant the corona damage from which Bennett’s aliyah began. Bennett understands this, so he has now moved on to talk about how to get out of the employment and economic crisis, from which the recovery challenge is likely to occupy us long after the virus, masks and social distance are with God’s help behind us.
If the election is not postponed and a storm remains in the picture, Bennett’s main challenge should be to preserve his power as a party with a double-digit number of seats. He will probably lose most of the center-left voters, who flocked to him in the absence of another alternative to Netanyahu. But the blessing can be seen in the fact that he will be able, and perhaps even obliged, to go back and turn to his natural core of supporters and strengthen the right-wing and religious ideological component in his party.
Bennett’s decision not to join the “just not Bibi” camp like a storm may have deprived him of seats in the polls, but it is first and foremost a value-based right and is also likely to turn out to be politically rewarding. The hard core of Bennett supporters may prefer him over Netanyahu, but most are disgusted by the sweeping disqualification of those who have served here more than anyone else as Israeli prime minister. More than anything else, this personal disqualification is the cause of the deep political crisis of repeated elections in which Israel has been immersed for two years, without the ability to form a stable government. When he is free from the need to woo center-left voters, Bennett will also be able to return and lead the struggle to strengthen the governance of elected officials, and against the rule of jurists and bureaucracy. In doing so, he will differentiate himself from Saar and his friends and supporters, whose pride in statehood will keep them away from leading this all-important struggle.
As someone who is not committed to either the “only Bibi” camp or the “only not Bibi” camp, Bennett will be able to decide after the election which camp to choose. It will probably be a sign language that has the power to decide which government will be formed here after the election – a national-religious government led by Netanyahu or a coalition of only non-Bibi parties from the right, center and left led by Saar or Lapid or one rotation or another. In Libra’s words, he will also be able to return to the Ministry of Defense, and this time as a natural choice and not in a snatch of a momentary opportunity. From this senior position he will be able to establish his status as a claimant to the crown and build over the years a stable electorate that is not based primarily on the negation of someone else, and therefore is in no hurry to collapse from any small tectonic shift in political space.
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