Caroline Glick: So Much Noise Over 7 Knesset Seats
Journalist Caroline Glick has made Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett a kind of villain in the coalition-forming crisis. It appears to me that she is following a script written by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even though she once ran on a political party list headed by Bennett. How is one to make sense of this? I find it truly amazing that the head of a party that won only seven seats in the most recent election has become the focus of so much ire.
Caroline Glick has an impressive resume. With many accomplishments in the military and government, she is now mostly known as a journalist in English language Israeli publications as well as American news sites. In 2015 she was considered as a candidate for election with the Likud Party but was not added to the list in the end. At that time, she declared that Netanyahu is “the best leader Israel has to face its current challenges”. She surely knows Bibi well, having served as his foreign policy advisor in 1997-98.
Then, in time for the April 2019 election, she joined the New Right Party (now Yamina) headed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. She was sixth on the list. Unfortunately, the party missed the threshhold by about 1500 votes and did not make it into the Knesset. Glick dropped out of political life and has not sought election since then. Too bad, because had she stuck with the party, she would have been in the Knesset a few months later, after the September 2019 election, and in a position to influence the direction the party takes from the inside. Instead, she is now religated to writing, as an onlooker, what she thinks Bennett should do.
The question remains: Does she still think Bibi is the best choice for the position of prime minister as she said in 2015? Is she still essentially a Likudnik? Or does she still believe in Bennett and the Yamina Party? Perhaps her most recent article, written in the form of a personal letter to Naftali Bennett, will shed some light on this. Throughout her article, ‘you’ refers to Bennett.
After an introduction in which she spoke very highly of Bennett, she wrote about joining his party:
So when you raised the possibility of me joining you to run in the next election, even though I was already a voice in my own right as a writer, I agreed immediately.
It was because she was a “voice in [her] own right as a writer” that she was of interest to the party. After all, each potential MK has to bring something to the table in order to be of value politically. And
I believed that together, not only would we successfully advance the issues most important to us—including sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and reform of the legal system—we would have fun doing it.
Here were her political goals – extending Israeli Law over Judea &Samaria and reforming the justice system. And that makes sense for someone joining the New Right Party. But having fun?
Is that part of politics? Fun? I think a political career would more likely be nerve wracking, sleep depriving, ego challenging, and more, as politicians must manipulate and manouver in order to achieve their goals and must learn to survive the daggers shot at them incessantly by those who want to cut them off at the knees. Were the four short months between her declaration of candidacy and her first failure to achieve a seat enough to show her this would not be fun and, therefore, it was not really for her? She should have known that already from her two years beside Bibi and her various roles in the military and government before that. Perhaps she had been expecting the same mercurial success of fellow journalist, Yair Lapid, when he entered the political fray, or at least the less flamboyant but largely successful political careers of about five journalists-turned-politicians before her. I wonder if any of them would have given up on politics after only four months and one election.
I do not fault her on leaving politics if it is not something to which she wants to dedicate her strengths and her energies. At the same time, I am sorry she left so quickly because I really do believe she would have made an excellent parliamentarian.
The following statement does not ring true for me:
You and I never spoke about the source of your sour relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I didn’t attribute much importance to your feud.
because just before the April 2019 election, the Jerusaem Post reported that:
A joint campaign by Likud and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) against the New Right is “threatening to destroy us,” Caroline Glick, a member of the party, warned Tuesday afternoon.
There is a strong disconnect between “I didn’t attribute much importance .. .” and “threatening to destroy us”. Did something change when she ceased being part of the “us”?
I figured that if leaders focus on advancing the national interest in light of their values and beliefs, they can find a way to work together for the good of the country and the nation.
Did she ever say that to Bibi?
In your case, I assumed your commitment to our common course on the ideological right would enable you to work with Netanyahu despite the fact that he once tried to tar the good names of your late father and your wife in the press.
As if debasing the names of Bennett’s late father and his wife is a minor thing, even a legitimate political act, and as if that was all Bibi used to attack Bennett. Furthermore, I think that Bennett showed he was willing to work with Netanyahu in spite of the arrows flung at him — after all, he was the one party leader who wanted to see Bibi retire from the premiership who did not declare he would not serve in a government under Bibi. And, in fact, he was Defence Minister under Bibi in the 22nd and 23rd Knesset terms Furthermore, he met with Bibi at least five times since the most recent elections in an attempt to find common ground. And even though Jerusalem Post‘s Gil Hoffman says that it appears that Bibi is out to take Bennett down as the only way to have a hope of political survival at this point, Bennett claims he has not closed the door on entering a coalition with Netanyahu under the right conditions.
The following quip leaves up in the air an unsubstantiated, unexplained, accusation:
It’s not as though your hands were completely clean . . .
What is Caroline Glick referring to here? I have not found anything in any other articles Glick wrote that implicate Bennett in foul play. If any of my readers know of such things, please link to them in the comments below this article.
Glick goes on:
During the race two years ago, I never doubted your commitment to our common ideological course. But over the past year, I’ve started to wonder if I pegged you wrong. In the public debate about the sovereignty plan, you were notably silent. So too, in the face of the indictments concocted against Netanyahu by the legal fraternity, you are AWOL.
You know Netanyahu is being tried for actions that aren’t criminal. You know that every day this travesty continues the threat to Israel’s democratic system increases. And yet, you stand by in silence as if this has nothing to do with you.
I agree with Glick regarding the first issue and would have liked to have seen Bennett come out strongly on this. I would have liked to have seen him chastise Bibi for not having dismantled Khan al Ahmar in view of the fact that even the leftist Supreme Court gave the thumbs up for that. However, it seems there is a clear political reason why Bennett has not come out openly on these issues. (Personally I am not sure what I think about the charges against Bibi.) If Bennett hopes to create a unity government, he apparently feels the need to remain neutral. That is only a sham, however, since I suppose everyone knows where he stands. But sometimes politics requires appearances for appearances sake. I suppose.
And here she begins a more serious attack:
After your speech at the Knesset last night, my fears about your character [this sounds bad] have only increased. While paying lip service to the goal of forming a right-wing government under Netanyahu, you made no effort to hide that what you really seek is to serve as prime minister, of what you coyly [coyly?!] referred to as a “unity government.”
I know you know that the government you are referring to won’t be a “unity” government. It will be a leftist government and you will serve as its right-wing figurehead. As heads of coalition factions, by law, post-Zionist Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will be voting members of your security cabinet. Do you really believe you can deal with Iran’s nuclear program with them at your side?
Do you really believe you can protect the communities in Judea and Samaria and competently fight Palestinian terrorists with Yair Golan at your side? This is the guy who compared Israel to 1930s Germany. Who are you kidding?
Here Glick is parrotting the Likud response to Bennett’s consultations with Lapid:
Bennett wants to become prime minister at all costs, including at the cost of inaugurating a left-wing government.
In any case, I wonder if Glick is unaware of the leftist trends within Bibi’s own governments.
Charles Dudley Warner (American essayist, 1829-1900) coined the phrase: “politics makes strange bedfellows” and that is as true today as it was when he first wrote it. While it is well known that Bennett is meeting with Lapid, it is also well known that Bibi considered using the support of Ra’am, a party led by terrorist supporter Mansour Abbas. Amazingly, Glick states in a Hebrew language television interview that she has no problem with Bibi having the support of Ra’am either outside or even within the coalition. The latter would give Abbas access to the very sensitive security intelligence that she deems dangerous in the hands of Meretz cabinet members. Does this make sense?
Finally, she raises Aryeh Deri’s (Shas) proposal for resolving the impasse:
. . . direct elections for prime minister. You said last night that you would support the plan only if your plan to form a leftist government fails.
It is rather disingenuous of Glick to repeatedly refer to Bennett’s attempt at forming a unity government as a “plan to form a leftist government”. It falls in with one of Bibi’s tactics, according to Hoffman:
As he has done successfully to rivals throughout his career, Netanyahu is trying to taint Bennett as left-wing.
It is unclear to me how Glick thinks that holding a direct election for the prime minister will change anything if the Knesset seats currently attained in the last election remain the same. Perhaps they intend to give dictatorial powers to the directly elected prime minister? How else will he form a coalition then that he cannot form now?
At the end of her article it sounds as if Glick is pleading with Bennett to make the sacrifices necessary to help Bibi form a coalition. As if Bennett is the problem. Had Smotrich been willing to enter a coalition with Ra’am, we would already have a government (not that I think he should have, mind you). Had Bibi made Sa’ar an offer he couldn’t refuse, perhaps we would already have a government. We do not know what happened during those five sessions in which Bennett and Netanyahu tried to find terms acceptable to both. Why is it necessarily believed that it was Bennett who put a stick in the spokes? Perhaps Bennett is just too smart to fall into the trap that ensnared Gantz, and Bibi was not willing to move.
Bennett repeatedly states that he prefers a rightwing government and is therefore willing to sit under Netanyahu. But if that does not come about he will attempt to establish a unity government. And he continues to emphasize how that will not come at all costs — there will have to be compromises on all sides in order to heal the dire circumstances in which Israeli now finds herself. He admits that it means putting aside, for now, the goals of extending Israeli law over Judea & Samaria and reforms in the justice system. But these are two issues that Bibi, supposedly at the head of a rightwing government, has not done for decades when he has had multiple opportunities for both of these. If setting these aside for one term while our elected representatives work at stabilizing the country and putting Israel back on track (such as voting in a budget after a two-year hiatus), does that mean that Bennett will have “joined the left” as Glick writes:
If instead, you join the left, to be sure, you will receive the title of prime minister, but at the cost of abandoning everything you stand for, and ending your political career the next time we go to the polls.
Naftali, don’t abandon the course. Keep faith with it. Advance it, and it will push you forward.
I am not sure if this means that Caroline Glick is a Bennett supporter really hoping that he would just help Bibi form a government now, or if she is a Netanyahu supporter using the fact that she was once on Bennett’s party list as a distraction from that fact. Either way, I wish she would write as passionate a public letter to Bibi Netanyahu that requests that he make the sacrifices necessary that would allow Bennett to join him in a coalition for the good of the country.
In December 2020, she quoted Netanyahu regarding his relations with then-President Obama and perhaps this can be pertinent to the situation faced today by Bibi and by all party leaders. Bibi said:
You seek compromise where you can, but you have to avoid compromise where you can’t and you have to distinguish between the two and that’s what I tried to do.
Netanyahu is expert at that in international relations and he is a masterful politician in the domestic realm but in the latter it seems to me that today he is mostly manipulative and conniving. Perhaps he should bring his diplomatic skills to bear in the coalition consultations where Israel’s welfare is at the heart of the matter and not his personal seat at the head of the table. Ironically, were he to follow, in the home domain, his own modus operandi re Obama, he might actually retain his seat at the head of the table and even regain among much of the electorate the high regard which he has lost over these past two years.
Feature Image Credit: Caroline Glick, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons