On July 20, Binyamin Netanyahu broke the Israeli record for time as Prime Minister: 4,867 days – more than 13 years – in office. To make it to 5,000, he’s got to still be PM on December, 1. Will he make it?
If he doesn’t, it won’t be a direct consequence of any of the criminal charges Israel’s Attorney General has recommended he should be indicted on. Netanyahu has a hearing on his case in October, and the right to appeal the results of that, not to mention the time for trials and verdicts. That’s not going to happen before December, 1. If ever.
On the other hand, there are two other ways in which Bibi, as he is known to friends and foes alike, did something no other Israeli Prime Minister has ever done. After being asked to form a government, he failed, could not get 61 votes in the 120 seat Knesset. And after that, rather than give anyone else a chance to construct a governing coalition, he forced a second election, the first time in Israeli history there will be two national elections in a single year.
Elections are expensive and this one might have been avoided. Under law, Netanyahu’s failure could have been someone else’s opportunity. President Reuven Rivlin could have asked someone else to form a government. Former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White party got fewer than 15,000 votes less than Netanyahu’s Likud was the likely choice. But before that could happen, Parliament had dissolved itself and the second election of 2019 was on.
Could Gantz have made it to Prime Minister? Probably not. It is conceivable that Gantz, like Netanyahu, he could get to 60. But that would have required the votes of the main Israeli Arab party, and that in itself could make getting to the necessary 61 impossible. Still, Bibi was taking no chances, even if it meant saying, “Better no government, than one without me at the top.”
But several Israeli political analysts have said, that’s the label Prime Minister Netanyahu would apply to himself – “irreplaceable.” The dramatic absence of real costars on the Netanyahu marquee is no accident. There’s little room in Bibi’s spotlight for anyone else but him.
Remind you of another strongly self-defined Chief of State whose ongoing conceptual and social media autobiography is always on autofocus? Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu go together like ham and lox – well, they are both salty. And they do go together. Netanyahu hopes he will help Donald Trump get re-elected in 2020, and knows that Trump’s help over the past two and one-half years has been very valuable for him.
Josef Federman has been the Associated Press Bureau Chief in Jerusalem since 2014.
Federman had written about and helped direct coverage of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in his previous role as Jerusalem news editor.
Federman joined the AP as an editor on the international desk in New York in 1993, transferred to Charleston, West Virginia, the following year and returned to the international desk in 1995.
A native of Westborough, Massachusetts, Federman worked as an editor at The Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2003 before returning to AP as a correspondent in the Jerusalem bureau. He was named news editor in 2006.
Federman has been a chairman of the local Foreign Press Association, an organization that promotes press freedom and safety in Israel and the Palestinian areas. He also has covered assignments in Rome, the Hague, the United Nations, Washington and Cairo and has appeared on U.S. and Israeli media.