Glum to Gleeful, Israeli Media React to Possible End of Netanyahu Era

In Israel’s newspapers — as fractured as its electorate — the opinions on the possible fall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were as emphatic as they were varied.,

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After more than 12 consecutive years at the helm of Israel’s government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hold on power may be coming to a close.

In a prime-time speech on Sunday, Naftali Bennett, an ultranationalist power broker, announced that his party would cooperate with opposition leaders to form a government led at first by him, paving the way to replace the right-wing prime minister with a former ally and to bring to an end an era in the nation’s politics.

Israeli media were replete with coverage of Mr. Bennett’s statement and Mr. Netanyahu’s rebuttal speech.

Liberal columnists said Mr. Netanyahu would “make this government’s life hell”; conservative pundits expressed dismay that Mr. Bennett agreed to team up with centrist and left-wing parties; and ultra-Orthodox headline writers warned of the establishment of an “anti-Jewish” government.

Here are reactions from Israeli newspapers across the political spectrum.

Maariv, one of the most widely circulated daily papers across Israel, is considered to be aligned with the center. This article excerpt was translated from the Hebrew.

“Bennett’s was a speech by a leader who thinks about the country and people,” wrote Ben Caspit, a columnist for Maariv and a vocal critic of Mr. Netanyahu. “It was an embracing, responsible, judicious and at times even a moving speech. Benjamin Netanyahu mounted, as he usually does, a belligerent attack that brimmed with lies and incitement — one of a man trying to perpetuate at any cost the chaos that has allowed him to rule for two years without winning an election.”

Mr. Caspit added: “If this were a Hollywood movie, now would be the part in which someone would quietly walk into the room, lay a heavy hand on the speaker’s shoulder, and say to him: ‘Sir, it’s over. No one believes a single word you’re saying. You’ve made your bed. Now you need to lie in it.'”

Israel Hayom is a free daily paper that the Adelson family has long bankrolled to provide Mr. Netanyahu with political backing.

“Right-wing stomachs turn at Bennett’s remarks. Every single word in his speech was like a punch in the gut to those who believed him. Ever since he entered politics, Bennett made sure to surround himself with members of the right, ideologues, members of the religious Zionist sector, and supporters of Judea and Samaria,” wrote Mati Tuchfeld, a political commentator for Israel Hayom, referring to the Biblical names of the occupied West Bank.

“None of them joined Bennett because he promised them political stability or believed his life’s purpose was to prevent another election,” he said, alluding to statements by Mr. Bennett that he seeks to prevent Israel from going to a fifth election in less than three years. “They did so because they thought he was a man of the right.”

ImageNaftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, has joined forces with Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, to try to form a diverse coalition that would unseat Mr. Netanyahu.
Naftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, has joined forces with Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, to try to form a diverse coalition that would unseat Mr. Netanyahu.Credit…Pool photo by Yonatan Sindel

Haaretz is the most prominent daily paper in Israel that is associated with the left.

“Netanyahu, if he leaves the Prime Minister’s Office, will go into the opposition and make this government’s life hell. His supporters will follow him and won’t hesitate to use any word, curse or form of protest. The rising incitement against Bennett and Shaked, who have been called ‘corrupt,’ ‘swindlers’ and ‘traitors’ are a pale promo of what’s to come,” wrote Ravit Hecht, a columnist for Haaretz, referring to Ayelet Shaked, a close ally of Mr. Bennett’s. (Mr. Netanyahu would remain in Parliament, unless he resigns his seat.)

“The Bibi-ists won’t abandon Netanyahu,” she added, speaking of Mr. Netanyahu’s most loyal supporters. “Addicted to feelings of inferiority, fantasies of persecution, to blood libels with little basis in reality and especially to speculation and conspiracy theories, they will not accept a regime change that was achieved as a result of a democratic election. They will not leave him because this is how they love him best. A tragic hero, a noble victim, who redeems them from the condescension of the entire world.”

Makor Rishon is a right-leaning daily paper associated with religious Zionism. This article excerpt was translated from the Hebrew.

“Benjamin Netanyahu. What has not been said about the man? Perhaps this is the end. Indeed, it will take time, but this skilled man has reached the finish line, precisely because of his natural talent, success and accomplishments,” wrote Doron Matza, a frequent columnist for Makor Rishon.

“That’s how it is: For every hegemon, there is an automatic resistance. The partners of the next government will try to make sure he is removed from the stage completely. Some kind of legislation limiting his term or potential to run for office in the future will do the job,” he said. “There is something tragic, even unfair, in this game, but that’s how it works.”

Yediot Ahronot is a popular newspaper that is sharply critical of Mr. Netanyahu and is seen as being centrist. This article excerpt was translated from the Hebrew.

“Netanyahu is going to make the most of every single hour out of the numerous hours left to try to set a fire. Every hour that passes only makes him more desperate, more inciting and more dangerous. That is sad, especially since he is one of Israel’s most talented statesmen,” wrote Ben-Dror Yemini, a columnist for Yediot Ahronot.

“But lurking behind that statesman is a dangerous man. His speech from yesterday evening, a speech that was full of incitement and manipulations, made it patently clear that Israel needs a different leadership. It needs responsible leadership, a nationally minded leadership and a leadership that unites.”

Yated Ne’eman is a daily paper affiliated with the Degel HaTorah party, part of the ultra-Orthodox political alliance known as United Torah Judaism. For ultra-Orthodox Israelis, or Haredim, the proposed coalition is a concern because it would be formed without the involvement of either of the two main Haredi parties, which have been part of most coalition governments this century.

“Fear and worry” about the establishment of an “anti-Jewish government whose members are declaring their commitment to harming ultra-Orthodox community,” Yated Ne’eman reported in a headline. “A government of malice,” read a separate headline.

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