Isolated on the right? How Bibi's natural coalition may not unite around him after the next election

Having sacked ministerial rivals Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, Benjamin Netanyahu has created more enemies among potential partners


Only eight weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was going into the election with the endorsements of the entire right wing and religious camp in his pocket.

The leaders of six parties had all publicly committed themselves to supporting his coalition after the election.

But following the unprecedented dissolving of the Knesset on Wednesday night, and Sunday’s summary firing of the two ministers of the New Right party, the right wing is suddenly a much less hospitable environment for the prime minister.

There are still three-and-a-half months to go to the second election, but as things stand now, it is highly unlikely that either Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman or New Right’s Naftali Bennett, just stripped of his cabinet post of education minister, will pledge allegiance to Mr Netanyahu in advance.

As far as Mr Lieberman is concerned, it is open warfare between him and the prime minister.

Ever since Wednesday night, when the former defence minister decided not to join the coalition, the two former allies and their proxies have not stopped trading barbs over who is more of a liability to a truly right-wing government.

He repeatedly ignored reporters’ questions over whether he intends to endorse Mr Netanyahu this time around and is relishing his new role as kingmaker — the first polls of this election campaign indicate that Yisrael Beitenu will increase its current tally of five seats and will have the power once again to block a Netanyahu government.

But it gets worse for the prime minister, as Mr Bennett is running again, stung by the humiliating fashion of his firing, before Mr Netanyahu had decided on a replacement to start the preparations for the new school year.

He also refused to answer whether he would support Mr Netanyahu after the second election of 2019.

It is still unclear if Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who was also fired at the weekend, will again be joining Mr Bennett in the New Right party.

But if they do reunite and cross the election threshold, unlike on April 9, it would represent a significant chunk of the right-wing and religious bloc that could be implacably opposed to serving under Mr Netanyahu.

Three-and-a-half months is a long time in politics, but a reconciliation does not seem on the cards ahead of a election campaign that already features intense acrimony on the right.

Released from any commitment to Mr Netanyahu, both Mr Lieberman and Mr Bennett could seek to form a coalition with centrist Blue & White and, who knows, perhaps with some of the Likud MKs who have hitherto voiced their frustration with their leader only strictly off-record.

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