Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received an unforeseen boost on Wednesday, May 29, while he was announcing a new election on Sept 17 after failing to set up a government.
Harsh recriminations and insults flew through the Knesset chamber on the heels of a dissolution vote of 74:45. Netanyahu accused Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman of deliberately undermining a right-wing government and joining the “left bloc.” Lieberman, who will go down in Israel’s political history as having forced the country into two general elections in less than three months, denied supporting opposition Blue-White leader Benny Gantz; he only sought a “sane right-wing, non-religious-dominated government,” he protested.
Blue-White leaders, for their part, readjusted their signature tune. Instead of targeting Netanyahu as the archenemy of democracy, they turned against Lieberman, fearing he may steal their right-leaning anti-religious voters.
New actors meanwhile stepped from the wings into the still-unfolding election campaign – still unnoticed. Fully aware of the political turmoil besetting Israel in recent weeks, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided nonetheless not to postpone the conference set for June in Jerusalem of the US, Russian and Israeli national security advisers to discuss regional security issues. A White House communique setting the place and the time was issued on Wednesday while voting on dissolution was taking place in the Knesset.
The two presidents appear to share the wish to see Netanyahu re-elected and taking up the role they have assigned him in helping to shape Middle East security policy. Their support may prove to be an obstacle that Lieberman and the leaders of Blue-White will find hard to beat. The high-powered trilateral security conference is unprecedented in that it assigns Israel a role equal to that of the two superpowers in determining future Middle East security issues. Putin was even prepared to honor the Jewish state and its prime minister by letting the opening session of the new track take place in Jerusalem.
The coming issue of DEBKA Wehttps://www.debka.com/subscribe/ekly out on Friday, March 31, will discuss this development and its ramifications for Trump, Putin and Netanyahu. To sign on for this eye-opening issue, click here.