Whether or not Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s resignation and subsequent reinstatement after a last-minute agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu solves the current coalition crisis, one thing is clear, Bibi is beginning to lose his grip on his coalition.
The Prime Minister has always done an excellent job in balancing various interests of sectoral parties within his coalition by explaining to the factions that all would lose with new elections. While there is still some truth to this, Likud’s falling poll numbers suggest a different story altogether. Couple this with Avi Gabbai’s rise as Labor leader and the paradigm which saw Likud as the right wing and traditional anchor for those religious parties has fallen away.
This doesn’t mean that Bibi will be dethroned if elections were to be held, but he is no shoe in anymore and what is increasingly becoming apparent is that self-interested ministers within his party are beginning to sense he is weak.
MK Eichler from UTJ claims that it was in fact Transportation Minister Katz who created this crisis.
“There is no explanation that the Likud government will expand the work done on Shabbat except for the attempt by the Transportation Minister and Welfare Minister to topple the government. The traditional Likud voters will not forgive them if Netanyahu’s government falls apart,” Eichler was quoted as saying.
This may be in the realm of rumor, but the facts are in. The construction took place with the approval of Minister Yisrael Katz who had to know that this would create a crisis.
None of this is important other than to point out that Bibi is finally being seen as weak and this perception is from within the Likud itself.
With a rising Jewish Home and UTJ on the religious right and a revamped Labor under Avi Gabbai who is religiously traditional as well as a centrist when it comes to security and “settlements,” Likud is finally beginning to worry that Bibi has lost his touch and thus his grip.
Once again, none of this means that the Prime Minister’s days are numbered, especially since he has been counted out plenty of times before only to surprise. However, the younger generation in Israel, which has grown up and matured after the Second Intifada, Gaza Withdrawal, and Second Lebanon War has discarded the mistakes of breaking Israeli politics into a polarized relationship revolving around the Two-State Solution and Religious-Secular relationships. The younger generation has come of age and appears to see things far differently than the elder statesmen of Bibi’s generation.
Time will tell if the current flare up with the Chareidi UTJ is the beginning of the end for Bibi or a tremor of a far bigger earthquake to come.