| 12.3°C Dublin

Netanyahu poised for return to power in Israel


Former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is eyeing a return to politics. Picture by Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

Former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is eyeing a return to politics. Picture by Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

Former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is eyeing a return to politics. Picture by Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s pugnacious former premier, is planning a political comeback on Wednesday, after the government led by his former protege lost its majority last week.

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is poised to raise a motion to dissolve the government following the resignation of one of its key coalition members on Thursday.

The coalition, led by Naftali Bennett, was left reeling after Arab parliamentarian Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi stepped down in protest at extreme right-wing rhetoric from senior figures.

It means Bennett now heads a minority government, commanding just 59 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

The motion to dissolve the government, which will reportedly be tabled on Wednesday, could lead to Israel calling its fifth election in three years, though it is unclear whether the opposition has enough support to pass it.

Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli pollster and political analyst, said Netanyahu could be on the cusp of a comeback but would first need to unite the squabbling and fractured factions in opposition.

“He has a chance of making a comeback but there’s still a lot that is up in the air,” Dr Scheindlin said.

“They [the opposition] need to make sure they have the majority of 61 for the formal readings and to do that there’s a lot of moving parts.

“The parties are practically not operating as parties anymore; each individual faction member seems to be deciding on his or her own.”

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been plotting a return to the premiership since last June, when he was toppled by a patchwork coalition of left-wingers, centrists, hardline right-wingers and an Arab party.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The coalition was forged by centrist leader Yair Lapid and 50-year-old Bennett, the leader of the hard-right Yamina party, who used to consider Netanyahu as a mentor before they became bitter rivals.

Lapid, the foreign minister, sought to put on a brave face as he said the government’s demise had been predicted many times before without coming to pass. “We have been eulogised five times already with special broadcasts — and we came back,” he said. “Now those same people are telling you that it’s all over — it’s not over, we are still here.”

If next week’s motion passes it would be a dramatic turn in fortune for Netanyahu, whose attempts to secure a quick return to power have failed.

The Likud leader is on trial for fraud and corruption charges that he denies, and earlier this year reports said some disgruntled party members sought to remove him as opposition leader.

Netanyau has ramped up his attacks on Bennett in recent weeks, deriding him as “weak”, “whining” and incompetent in posts on social media where he has millions of followers.

He has been particularly scathing of Bennett’s security record, which is under scrutiny as Israeli cities have experienced deadly urban terror attacks this year by Palestinian militants.

They include a gun attack in a trendy nightlife district of Tel Aviv, an axe attack in central Israel and a shooting in the ultra-orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

In some cases, the attackers reached their targets after slipping through holes in the fence between the Jewish state and the West Bank.

“We must not wait for the next terrorist attack or the next shooting,” Netanyahu said of the so-called “wave of terror” in a speech in April, rallying his Likud supporters.

“We must immediately form a strong right-wing government under my leadership to restore security and quiet.”

Despite his trial, polling suggests that Netanyahu remains the most popular politician in the country.


Most Watched