The pandemic has Netanyahu in a pickle - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

The pandemic has Netanyahu in a pickle

The global coronavirus pandemic is putting every country’s administration through a test. There are those who pass with flying colors, and those who are failing miserably. The country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic is, yes you guessed it, the United States of America. Trump’s response to the pandemic is the very reason it has spread out of control.

At this point in time, there is a serious increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations. It is clear as day that the weakness Trump displayed in handling the crisis will negatively impact him in the November elections. Polls say that Trump’s popularity is plummeting, while Democratic candidate Joe Biden is everyone’s new favorite.

The pandemic has also dealt a serious blow to Trump’s BFF in the Middle East, Benjamin Netanyahu. Within the last year, three rounds of elections were held in Israel. Neither the "LIKUD" party, which is led by Bibi himself, nor its ally parties, nor the "Blue-White" alliance known as the "Resilience Party" could reach numbers that would enable them to establish a government in these elections. Despite all the favors the Trump administration afforded Israel, Netanyahu failed in the renewed elections.

The Blue-White bloc had announced time and time again that it would not form a coalition government with Netanyahu. Charges had been filed against Bibi on three separate occasions for fraud. Had the Blue-White alliance consented to a coalition, Netanyahu would’ve had immunity once again. However the electorate of the Blue-White alliance were against a coalition with the LIKUD. Hence, a fourth Israeli election was on the books.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought these two parties together. The LIKUD and Blue and White alliance agreed on a “rotating premier” model. The prime ministry of the new government, which started serving the public on May 6, was given to Netanyahu. He will delegate his role to Blue White Alliance leader Benny Gantz in 18 months. The question on everyone’s minds is whether Netanyahu will stay faithful to this agreement.

When looked at through the lens of the Palestinians, there isn’t really that big of a difference between the two parties. Both defend the annexation of the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Trump had brought together the two Zionists leaders at the White House for the announcement of so-called Middle East Peace Plan, which he has dubbed as the “Deal of the Century.” The Palestinians for their part harshly objected to this plan.

Trump, who has his bigger fish to fry these days, is keeping mum about the Peace Plan. He delegated the operation of the plan to his chief advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Netanyahu and the Kushner clan go way back. It is clear that this relationship has been effective in the Trump administration's attempts to force Palestinians to accept the so-called peace plan.

Netanyahu had planned to annex a large portion of the West Bank in the beginning of July. According to reports in the U.S. media, the White House sent Netanyahu messages not to rush into things. In addition to these suggestions, the problems generated by the COVID-19 pandemic have also delayed the annexation plan. Netanyahu’s coalition partner Benny Gantz saysthey should be preparing for the second wave of the virus. Gantz, who has been accused with treason for forming a government for Netanyahu, was also perturbed that Bibi put him front and center in the fight against the virus.

The Netanyahu administration failed to curb the virus. The economy is in recession and one fourth of Israel’s work labor is out of a job. Israeli youth have been on the streets for weeks protesting the Netanyahu government. Also, polls say that Netanyahu’s approval rating has taken a serious hit.

Netanyahu’s trial where he faces charges of corruption and fraud was postponed for January 2021 due to the pandemic. Bibi’s lawyers have requested this deferral. This is the biggest danger that he currently faces. There has also been talk that Netanyahu will dissolve the government and force elections. The word through the grapevine is that Netanyahu doesn’t want to delegate to Benny Gantz. Fresh elections also mean prolonging the trial. In addition to the inefficiency displayed in battling the coronavirus, it is being said that the collapse of the economy emboldened the anti-Netanyahu factions with LIKUD. The Blue and White alliance on the other hand is trying to get through the pandemic without any major blows.

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