A leader can’t play fast and loose with his base
Seasoned politician such as Netanyahu should have known he’d pay a price for ‘two states’ speech
The Likud party continues to look for the reason it was almost overthrown, but there are many reasons behind its failure in the recent elections. The main reason is the loss of faith. The prime minister made so many contradicting promises he did not fulfill that his supporters and haters alike gave up on trying to figure out the riddle: “Who are you, Mr. Netanyahu?”
For example, the “Bar-Ilan speech” completely contradicts the very essence of his party. Why did party members accept this unilateral declaration, which was not submitted for their approval ahead of time? Simply because they did not believe Netanyahu. “It’s a trick,” they said, without asking themselves how long a country can be run by using trickery. The devastating result was revealed in the election campaign, in which Likud could not even draft a platform because every message they wanted to include contradicted a different message conveyed in the past. Likud members had nothing to say during the entire election campaign, apart from stressing the need for a “strong leader.”
Likud forgot that a past ruling party, Mapai, collapsed under weight of its lies. The public lost its faith in it. Politicians enjoy some room for maneuvering and are forgiven to some extent, but a politician who rejects the core, the inner truth of his party, may find out that there is some truth to the saying: “Honesty is the best policy.”
Likud lost most of its Knesset seats due to Netanyahu’s “two states.” Because Netanyahu’s leap from the Land of Israel to Palestine destroyed the genetic code of the national camp and drove an arrow straight through the heart of the heritage of Jabotinsky, the Irgun and Herut. A seasoned politician such as Netanyahu should have known he would pay a price for this. Maybe he did. Maybe that is why he decided to merge with Lieberman’s party ahead of the elections.
During a televised discussion on the coalition negotiations, one of the pundits expressed bewilderment over Yair Lapid’s insistence not to compromise his principles. Unbelievable. The man is actually making good on promises he made on the eve of the elections. Who ever heard of such a thing? Well, the pundit was wrong. The most important clause in Lapid’s platform refers to the demand for equal share of the burden, and he will be forgiven for slight deviations that are needed to advance the coalition negotiations, but he must not compromise his principles. If he does, he will be punished faster than the Likud was punished.
A party that has been around for a long time and has a history does not collapse at once, but a new party, which is built entirely on the integrity of its leaders, will not be given another opportunity.
Habayit Hayehudi’s meteoric rise is mainly the result of the mandates Likud lost following the “Bar-Ilan speech” and the settlement construction freeze. Now Bennett faces the challenge of convincing a suspicious institution that he is not an “extremist.” According to reports, Habayit Hayehudi will show some flexibility during the coalition talks with Netanyahu, but if the party will be flexible on the core issues and join a coalition that strongly supports a two-state solution – it will not be forgiven. Bennett must realize that his voters sought refuge from a Palestinian state. They did not vote for him because they believed he would promote an equal share of the burden or lower housing prices.