The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
On Sunday, just after confirmation that Prime Minister Sharon was leaving the Likud and setting up a new party, I posted that Likud would have to stay united and rally behind the winner of its upcoming primary.
Initial polls indicate that Likud will be decimated in the March elections, plummeting from 40 Knesset seats to between 12 and 15 seats.
It is reasonable to believe that Likud can recover at least somewhat once it chooses a leader and after Sharon's momentum subsides.
However, if what transpired today is any indication, Likud is in very big trouble.
Binyamin Netanyahu remains the front-runner in the Likud primary. Today, he was personally attacked by two challengers, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Despite Israel's economic growth of more than 4 percent annually during Netanyahu's tenure as Finance Minister, both Mofaz and Shalom harshly criticized Netanyahu's free market economy policies. As reported today in Haaretz, Mofaz was particularly vitriolic, saying that Netanyahu "grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth" as a "cream-fed kid from Rehavia who hurt the poor." (Rehavia is an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood.)
Shalom not only joined in the attack on Netanyahu's economic views, he called Netanyahu's views on the conflict with the Palestinians "extremist."
As if that weren't bad enough, Shalom then said that Netanyahu's "term as prime minister was unsuccessful, and the public remembers that."
Keep in mind, Mofaz and Shalom are referring to a leader of their own party.
Also keep in mind that no similar attacks (or even criticism) against Sharon came from either Mofaz or Shalom.
I know primaries can be negative, but I've never of anything like this. Mofaz and Shalom are basically both saying that if Netanyahu is nominated to lead Likud, voters would be better off voting for Labor or for Sharon's party, and that Netanyahu is completely unqualified to be prime minister again. Why should anyone vote for someone whose colleague in the same political party call a failure?
Given that Netanyahu will likely indeed win the primary, there can be little doubt that the other parties will use these harsh attacks from his fellow Likud leaders in their own campaign advertisements.
Further, how will Mofaz and Shalom campaign for Netanyahu after saying these things?
Perhaps the answer is that they won't. It's entirely possible that if Netanyahu wins the primary, Mofaz, Shalom, or both could also bolt to Sharon's party, putting yet another nail in Likud's coffin.
It's too early to write Likud off, but if it continues to act self-destructively through the late December primary - and there is no reason to think it won't - Netanyahu will have to pull off a miracle to even finish in second place in the general election.