IN THE MEDIA
Benjamin Netanyahu expected to return to power in Israel – Ehud Yaari on ABC News 24
Nov 3, 2022
Recorded 2 November 2022
Bev O’Connor: Well, let’s return now to Israel’s election, where supporters of the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are already celebrating his possible return to power. Ehud Ya’ari is a labor international fellow at the Washington Institute and frequent visiting expert for the Australian Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. And he joins us out of Queensland. Ehud, lovely to see you again. Such an interesting time. Do you think we’re likely to see the return of Benjamin Netanyahu?
Ehud Yaari: Oh, yes. Thank you, Beverly. This is a definite. He’s the comeback kid. He has mounted, single handedly a campaign to regain power against a formidable coalition, coalition of his opponents. And he has done it. So he will now enjoy a majority at this point, I would say, of 65 out of the 120 members of parliament. Cohesive coalition. He may have others joining later on, but he’s back. And not too many people are probably happy about it in some places in the world and in Israel. But it’s a solid victory.
Bev O’Connor: Yes. How critical was it that he kind of forced this amalgamation of the far right groups to form a new bloc, which may have been the reason he succeeds?
Ehud Yaari: Well, he has succeeded, I think, mainly because at the end of the day, after five rounds of elections over three and a half years, people said to themselves or many did, that they don’t really care whether it was getting pink champagne from James Packer or havana cigars from James Packer and others, but they would like to have a good pair of hands on the wheel. This is basically his victory. His problem now is that in order to obtain this victory, he had to make an electoral alliance with far right party. He usually tried to steer away from them. Not having a joint photo with the leader, etc. And now his test will be on whether he can tame them to behave themselves once they become ministers.
Bev O’Connor: Yeah, and that is such a key point Ehud, because, you know, the more radical Ben-Gvir who is going to probably be one of the the firebrands of this radical group that he has formed an alliance with has insisted that he is given a ministry and wants in fact, quite a senior one.
Ehud Yaari: Yes. This guy, his name is Mr. Ben-Gvir. That’s the guy that Mr. Netanyahu refuses to have a joint photo with, although they are they were allied in this election campaign in some ways. This guy would like to be the homeland security minister. I’m not so sure he’s going to get it. I think that traditionally Mr. Netanyahu was always looking to have a coalition partners from the centre and the left. There is not much left left in Israel. The Labor Party is almost wiped out and nothing much is left of the left in Israel for reasons which have to do with the situation with the Palestinians. But he still would like to get allies from the centre, centre left in order to diminish his reliance on the radical right and the ultra-orthodox. And he was very careful tonight when he gave his sort of victory speech. He was very careful not to commit himself to what kind of government he’s going to try and establish.
Bev O’Connor: And that is quite interesting because to your earlier point, under the prime Minister, Yair Lapid, you know, there had been some progress made on sort of issues that had been just sitting there and not moving forward. Even him talking about the possibilities of a two-state solution. Also, there is a Democrat in the White House that changes the dynamic substantially for Benjamin Netanyahu, does it not?
Ehud Yaari: Benjamin Netanyahu and Joe Biden have a long history, 40-plus years. They are basically personal friends, although they may not see eye-to-eye on many issues. I think relations with the United States will be fine and Netanyahu will make sure that his new partners from the radical right don’t have much say in foreign policy and defence issues. The the main problem that Bibi is facing now is to convince the Israeli public. Those who were vehemently opposed to his return, that he can be really a prime minister for all, etc. Because what has happened is for almost four years, the only issue in Israeli politics was yes, Bibi, no bibi. Now in this round of elections, the stalemate has been broken with a victory for Bibi. Now, what is he going to do with that? And I think he’s going to prove a much more leaning towards compromises than would be deducted from the way he led his very vigorous campaign of elections.
Bev O’Connor: Yeah, and well that is very encouraging to hear, because I think there was a lot of hope that there was going to be some progress made on a number of fronts. What happens, though, to his legal battles? Because, as you say, maybe they don’t care about the pink champagne, but he still does face charges.
Ehud Yaari: Yes. Mr. Netanyahu would like, and he was campaigning about it like many other other politicians in Israel, for the need to reform the judicial system. That is, not to allow basically, not to allow the Supreme Court to overrule decisions taken by the parliament. That’s the issue. But he cannot do much concerning his own trial. I don’t think his trial is going too well for the prosecution. Although he may be indicted on some charge, minor charge at the end. But he will have to live with the fact that the trial keeps going on as he returns to the prime minister’s office. And he’s done it before. He will do it from now. I believe this trial may take another two or three years.
Bev O’Connor: Very interesting indeed. Well, great to get your analysis, as always. And we will watch as finally, I guess, the election is declared. Thanks. Good to talk to you, Ehud.
Ehud Yaari: Thank you.