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A «Likud« without Netanyahu?
By: Mohammad Al-Sahli
August 16, 2017

The Judicial suspicions about Netanyahu have placed the leaders of «Likud» in front of a hateful question; who succeeds him?

Benjamin Netanyahu often repeated before the leadership of his party that the Likud was on its way to decay and perhaps fade away, if he did not take over his leadership in the 2009 Knesset elections, and he transferred it from a small party to the second rank at Knesset, just one seat away from Kadima, which was headed by Tzipi Livni.

The Israeli prime minister, who has headed the Likud and the government since that, does not hesitate to pretend that his personal abilities have contributed in governing and winning the battles against his opponents and enemies alike.

The letter that was delivered by Netanyahu to the leaders of his party is, that there isn’t a strong «Likud» without his presidency, and in the context he delivered a massage to his partners in the governmental coalition, that there is no strong Israeli government without the Likud leadership, headed exclusively by him. However, in the light of judicial suspicions and accusations of committing corruption crimes, many Likud leaders have begun to check the feasibility of what he delivered to them in his letter.

In the Israeli political and partisan scene, the individual plays an influential role in the course of the party's action and in determining its position in this scene, this was evident in the stage of the "founding fathers" who were mainly in the leadership of ''Labor'' and ''Likud'' parties, but It was even more obvious, when Ariel Sharon left the Likud Party, then formed a new party (Kadima), then he engaged it in the elections ,and took the first position in the Knesset; this statement also is clear, when Sharon was absent from the political scene, then Ehud Olmert took over the leadership of party which began with him the process of retreat and decay until it finally faded after Shaul Mofaz took his seat. Almost the same thing happened with the ''Labor'' party after the assassination of Rabin and the arrival of Shimon Peres to his place, to start too the retreat stage with him, and with Ehud Barak (who divide the party) and later Peretz and those who came after them.

The statement regarding Likud is clear, after Sharon and most of its main leaders left it, to retreat from the forefront scene that took place in the 1970s, to a small party with 11 seats in the Knesset, until Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected as its head again and won 16 additional seats. Although Kadima (28 seats), was assigned to form the government, however Netanyahu managed by his maneuvers and alliances, to thwart Livni's attempt then he was assigned to form the government.

Since then (2009), he has been prime minister, this confirms two issues; First, the lack of serious competition to him in and out the Likud Party, at a time when the other parties were lacking to leaderships capable of polarizing and forming a convincing alternative, the second issue, related to Netanyahu's ability to maneuver and play with contradictions between his opponents within the governmental coalition and outside it.

The important factor that enabled Netanyahu to take advantage of these two mentioned issues is related to the increasing bias in Israeli society toward the extreme right, on the rhythm of encroachment of the expansionist policy of Israeli governments and the growing influence of settlers on directing the general policy of the government.

In this regard, Netanyahu was at the forefront, and he was able to win the support of most settlers, when he engaged in conflict with Washington on the backdrop of Obama's speech (4/6/2009), in which he called for the freezing of settlements and the right of the Palestinians to establish their own state.

In internal politics, especially economic, his opponents and enemies could not present clear economic plans to face the path that he led to it, so that, the middle and poor classes were affected and there were demonstrations under the slogan "I want a house to live", after the big rise in housing prices, in light of Netanyahu's actions.

During the run-up to his second presidency (2009), Netanyahu systematically worked to limit his rivals within the Likud and some of them had to leave the party to challenge Netanyahu from outside. During the same period, he worked to gain the new parties and join them into the ruling coalition, through tempting deals, at the expense of the Likud itself, to ensure that he remains the prime minister. Among these forces is ''there is a future "party headed by Yossi Lapid and the "Jewish House" headed by Bennett.

So, whenever Netanyahu feels that there is a gathering within the coalition against him, he turns the table and calls for snap elections, and that what happened after Livni and Lapid agreed against him. All this was happening, at a time when the Zionist parties in the opposition were living in internal conflicts and their weakness was increasing, with no apparent contrast in the programs of parties in general, especially towards the Palestinian file, so, the Israeli voter did not have a serious alternative to turn to it.

But since a few months, the judicial suspicions have been intensified about Netanyahu, his wife and a number of his close aides, and the talk has begun to rise about the corruption of German submarines' deal, and Netanyahu's intervention in favor of some of (henchmen) at the expense of the law.

Although he has not been indicted yet, but the recent agreement which has been reached by the Israeli police with Ari Harrow, his former office manager and considering him as a "state witness" in corruption cases against Netanyahu, casts a dark shadow over any foreseeable scenario for Netanyahu's status in the near future.

It is normal, that the Likud will live in a confusion status, after its leaders suddenly find themselves confronted by the question of Netanyahu's successor. Although this question has been repeated frequently in many occasions, but it has not been as urgent as the Likud leaders are trying to find an answer for it.

When these leaders were silent for a long time regarding this issue, the reason was that they were afraid to enter within the circle of suspicion without judicial confirmation, and then they will be faced by Netanyahu's discontent, and perhaps his party too, but with the issue of "state witness", some of these leaders calculations have been changed to search for a way to rescue them from the repercussions of Netanyahu's official charge, without losing their position within the party and even to increase the chances of those who aspire to compete with his successor.

Therefore, the announcement of Avi Dichter - head of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, that Netanyahu should submit his resignation immediately after issuing an indictment against him - was remarkable, so, Dichter wants to appear as a protector for the future of the Likud and to keep it away from the repercussions of official investigation with his head, and as he is seeking to reduce the party's losses on the eve of snap elections if they are approved.

Although many say it is too early, but several indications show that the judicial file against Netanyahu could witness serious developments that could push for searching for an alternative.

Both Netanyahu and Obama began their presidency at the same year. Eight years later, the "democratic" president left and Netanyahu has remained at the Israeli government, and perhaps he hopes to continue with President Trump, who seems closer to understand his policies and vision in the regional settlement.

The possibilities are multiple, but it is certain that the Likud will be different without Netanyahu, through slightly.

Mohammad Al-Sahli is an Editor in Chief of Al-Hourriah newspaper, the official speaker of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by: Rawda Abo Zarqa
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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