Even if Netanyahu agrees to resign, he may appear to be the most powerful of the Poles.

The talk of the town is a prayer agreement that is reportedly being drafted for Benjamin Netanyahu, a pact that would do something that was once impossible to imagine ?? namely, forcing him to leave politics. However, if the negotiations become a reality, what would an Israel without Bibi look like?

Who, say, would lead Likud? Could a government currently backed by a hybrid left-right coalition hold? Will Yair Lapid still be Prime Minister in 2023? Or can a Bibi-loose Likud emerge in a stronger position than before?

Sir. Netanyahu is playing. ?? There is no update, ?? told the former prime minister members of his Likud party today. Referring to the contacts between his legal eagle and the prosecutor, Justice Minister Avichai Mandleblit, Mr. Netanyahu an update when appropriate.

For a week, endless speculation and leaks were centered on a proposal to end the prosecution’s phase of the former prime minister’s major political career. Under the reported deal, charges against Mr. Netanayahu, 72, would be dropped while he would be barred from participating in politics for seven years.

In a surprising move, a former Supreme Court justice, Aharon Barak ?? much reviled by the Israeli right, which accused justice of legal activism ?? said he was negotiating the deal on behalf of the longtime right-wing leader. Mr. Barak said he wanted to put an end to political divisions that are tearing the country apart.

An agreement may still collapse as Mr. Mandleblit’s period ends late this month. His successor has not yet been appointed. However, let’s assume that there is an agreement within the next two weeks that nominally concludes Mr. Netanyahu’s career as a statesman. What’s next?

As for Likud, one can bet that the behind-the-scenes battle to lead the Knesset’s largest party has already begun. One name that gets attention is the name of a former mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who is openly fighting for Likud’s leadership. Other party members who have long seen the role are a Likud member of the Knesset, Israel Katz, and especially the right-wing zealot Zeev Elkin.

Then again, the great Likud coup would be a triumphant home for Gideon Saar. After unsuccessfully challenging Mr Netanyahu for the leadership, Mr Saar Likud struck last year, forming the New Hope party. At the time, he said he could not appear on the same list as a defendant party member.

While Likud is currently out of government, New Hope is involved, with Mr Saar as education minister. Considered one of the most cunning backroom operators in Israeli politics, Mr. Saar’s return makes him prime minister in a Likud-led government.

Then there is the issue of a coalition. Sir. Saar is far from the only member of the current government whose only reason for joining the hybrid left-right coalition was opposition to and even hatred of Mr. Netanyahu.

In fact, an alliance between Prime Minister Bennett’s right-wing party Yamina and left-wing Meretz and Labor, the United Arab List and the centrist Blue and White was until recently considered anything but impossible. The current finance minister, Avigdor Liberman, is yet another former Netanyahu protégé who has become a fierce anti-Bibi player.

A Likud without Mr Netanyahu could join these and others who, at last year’s election, stood on an all-und-Bibi platform. A solid right-wing and center-right coalition could quickly replace the current hybrid government.

Such a political coup could happen through a new election or ?? preferably for a majority of Israelis who are tired of endless voice cycles ?? through a vote of no confidence in the current Knesset. Either way, would the result mean an end to the current coalition, held together only by its members ?? desire to get rid of Mr Netanyahu.

There is also a Lapid question. The leader of the center-left Yesh Atid was the winner of last year’s election. His faction emerged as the country’s second largest, behind Likud, making Yair Lapid a strong candidate to conquer the premiership.

Unable to gather enough support from the Knesset, however, Mr Lapid joined forces with Yamina and the other members of the hybrid coalition. In a two-year rotation agreement that shocked political observers, Mr Lapid agreed to serve as Secretary of State under Mr Bennett.

In June 2023, according to the agreement, Mr Lapid would become Prime Minister and send Mr Bennett to the State Department. Still, it’s a question of whether their deal would survive the Big Bang from Mr. Netayahu’s departure.

Other possible scenarios include only a discrepancy in the name. To get loyal Likud members to vote for one of his allies as party leader, Mr. Netanyahu, already the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history, was able to retain power even without a formal title.

Either way, Israelis who have hoped for four years of political stability must now prepare for the possibility of renewed unrest. Even on departure, Mr Netayahu’s presence could be overwhelming.


Twitter @bennyavni

Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife and sons, via his Twitter account.


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