After hearing the name Benjamin Netanyahu associated with Israeli politics for so long, many Evangelicals and foreigners are baffled by the litany of new players on the political scene and this new coalition that's about to oust the prime minister.
But, as ALL ISRAEL NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel Rosenberg noted in an interview with David Brody last week, these names aren’t new, and, in fact, many of the right wingers in the coalition calling itself the “change bloc” are former associates of Netanyahu’s – beginning with Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett himself.
“Most people have never heard of the next prime minister’s name, or the next foreign minister – these are not names that are known because Netanyahu has dominated, not just Israeli politics, but American politics regarding Israel for so long,” Rosenberg said on Brody’s show, the Water Cooler. “There’s going to be a lot of re-education … Naftali Bennett, who? Yair Lapid, who?”
Netanyahu has been the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the modern State of Israel – 12 years now, and three years in a separate term prior to this.
However, even as we are likely to embark on a dramatic political change here in Israel, Rosenberg explained that Bennett is “an exact protege, literally trained and recruited by Netanyahu.”
“He served in the same special forces unit in the Israeli military that Netanyahu did. He became incredibly successful in business after the army – sold one of his companies for $145 million; was recruited by Netanyahu to come into politics as Netanyahu's chief of staff,” Rosenberg said. “Now, think about that – one guy is almost an exact replica. He thinks the way Bibi thinks in terms of policy, in terms of worldview. He’s the first religious, kippa-wearing Torah-observant Jew ever in the modern history of Israel to be prime minister.”
But Bennett’s main challenge right now?
“Netanyahu hates him. He had a huge falling out with Bennett years ago and drove him right out of the party. … However, the man served as defense minister, he served as education minister. He's young – 49 – but he’s pretty well experienced. And we’ll have to see how he does in his first big moment on the stage as prime minister,” Rosenberg said.
In fact, several of the politicians who are heading the “change bloc” – also known as the “anti-Bibi bloc” – are former Netanyahu acolytes who he managed to push away as well.
“It’s a chronic reflex by Netanyahu to drive away anyone that’s beginning to emerge as potentially more popular than him,” Rosenberg said. “To put it in general terms: Benjamin Netanyahu has many strengths, but he is not a disciple maker. If a disciple starts to get too much clout, he drives them out and squashes them.”
And while one prominent Evangelical – Mike Evans – has declared war on Bennett, Rosenberg noted that Netanyahu had been courting Bennett up until the last-minute to get him to join a Likud-led government.
“Remember, Netanyahu was desperately trying to recruit Bennett – despite their falling out – back into government. And Bennett said, yes.”
But Netanyahu failed, even with Bennett, to cross the 61-seat majority.
“Bibi couldn’t do it, so Bennett went a different direction,” Rosenberg said.
To call Bennett a traitor, or that he is “betraying the right-wing cause, betraying Evangelicals – I don’t see it. I don’t see it at all.”
“He’s a straight right-wing guy. He believes in building settlements. I don’t think many settlements are going to be built because he had to build a coalition with centrists and left-wing parties, too, including the first-ever Arab party to get involved in an Israeli government,” Rosenberg said.
The government is “going to be very 'across the board,' but it’s mostly right wing.”
All that being said, however, Rosenberg cautioned Brody to not rule Netanyahu out just yet.
“Until you see a new government, I would not say, ‘It's a done deal,’” Rosenberg said. “It doesn’t seem like Netanyahu has any more tricks up his sleeve … (but) he is a shrewd political cat. You do not get to be the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the modern State of Israel unless you know how to do full-metal-jacket political combat. And nobody does better than Bibi.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.