As Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu is a political survivor who rarely missteps but one such error in judgment may lead to him being replaced in the near future.
As last week’s third round of elections approached, it became clear that every mandate was crucial to form a majority coalition. It seemed clear that fringe right-wing Otzma Yehudit was not going to pass the minimum threshold to earn a seat in the Knesset but their votes could earn Likud another vital two seats. With that in mind, Netanyahu tried to persuade Otzma Yehudit’s leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, to drop out of the race in January, offering him various incentives he thought would be tempting including the coveted ambassadorship.
Less than one week before Israelis headed for the ballot boxes, Ben Gvir held a press conference, revealing the condition that would persuade him to drop out of the race and put his power behind Netanyahu. Most prominent among those conditions was the removal of the Waqf’s authority on the Temple Mount, thereby paving the way for a Jewish return to their holiest site.
Netanyahu refused and Likud went on to win 36 seats. Their rival, Blue and White, won 33. As expected, Otzma Yehudit did not pass the threshold, winning a mere 20,000 votes. But those votes, if applied to other right-wing parties or to Likud, would have enhanced Netanyahu’s ability to form a right-wing coalition. It now seems doubtful that this will happen and Benny Gantz is maneuvering to snatch victory away from Netanyahu.
While not admitting defeat, Netanyahu admitted that his rejection of Ben Gvir’s offer hurt the party at a meeting with the heads of the right-wing parties on Saturday night.
“Absolutely, if Ben Gvir had dropped out, that would have contributed to an even greater victory,” Netanyahu said.
But Netanyahu revealed that the Temple Mount condition was indeed the deal-breaker that led him to reject Ben Gvir’s offer.
“But he had one condition that I permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. This may sound logical to you, but I know that this would have ignited the Middle East and brought down the anger of one billion Muslims on us. And there are things I am not willing to do in order to win the elections. I will continue to protect Israel. Our rivals have no boundaries.”
“There is no end to the cynicism of Blue and White. Would you allow Israel’s government to be dependent on the Joint Arab List? They always justify that by saying that they will disqualify me. I’m not going anywhere. I will remain the Likud’s leader.”
Ben Gvir responded to Netanyahu in a video he posted to YouTube.
“Netanyahu refused to accept even one of the conditions I set forth,” Ben Gvir said. “He wouldn’t allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount or even call for an end to racism against Jews at the site. He wouldn’t open the Temple Mount to Jews on Shabbat.”
“I told him that we could forget about that. I asked him to stop paying protection money to Hamas. He refused. I suggested he evacuate of Khan Al Achmar. He refused.”
“So I suggested that he come out with a statement against a Palestinian State. He refused even this.”
“So, like I have been saying all along if there is no Otzma Yehudit, there is no right-wing in Israel.”
The Sanhedrin weighed in, noting the timeliness of the election crisis.
“The People of Israel were commanded by HaShem, the Creator of the universe, God of Israel to sacrifice the Passover lamb on the appointed time according to the Torah and on the very site designated to do so according to our traditions,” wrote Rabbi Dov Stein, Secretary of the Sanhedrin. “This is the most important mitzvah (commandment), renewing not only the connection between the Jewish People and the God of Abraham but also renewing the connection between God and all of humanity. Performing the Passover sacrifice enables all of mankind to be able to choose freedom, each man in his own right, to go out from any form of slavery. The essence of freedom is to choose to obey the Creator and follow where His will requires.”
“The Deal of the Century signed between Israel and the United States contains a pledge to support the protocols of each religion on the Temple Mount, allowing each to religion to serve as its laws require, pertaining to each religion’s holidays, prayers and rituals throughout the cycle of each year.”
“Thus, the Jewish People, represented here by the Court of the Sanhedrin, are expecting you, Mr. Netnayahu, to allow us to sacrifice our Passover lamb on the 14th day of Nisan (April 4, 2020) in the afternoon on a suitable altar we will build on-site near the site where the Jewish Temples once stood. This is in the hope that at some time in the future the Temple itself will be built in its full glory and the entire Jewish Nation can celebrate according to the Passover Laws.”
“May you be blessed as the faithful ruler of Israel and merit fulfilling your obligations in that role.”
Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the spokesman for the Sanhedrin, noted that now, more than ever, the entire world needed Israel to reinstate the Passover sacrifice.
“Just as the first Passover sacrifice, eaten in Egypt before the Exodus, marked the end of the plagues, the Passover sacrifice in its time and in the proper place, will bring down heavenly mercy and remove the cloud of the coronavirus. It is our responsibility as the Nation of Priests to do this for the entire world and remove the harsh judgment.”
“The history of modern Israel has come back on this story several times in which the leaders of Israel refrained from doing what is required of us by the Bible as well as international norms. Over and over again, Israeli leaders fear the worst, that if we move forward as an independent nation, the region will explode. In fact, the opposite is true. The United Nations warned that moving the embassy would ignite the region. The Golan was the next powder keg that was supposed to explode. The fact is that as Israel takes its place as it should, it reinforces the concept of justice in the world and actually brings more peace.”
“Mr. Netanyahy turned his back on the Temple Mount knowing that it would be his downfall. And it was. The only hope Mr. Netanyahu has is to act as a leader of Israel should and to open the doors to the Temple Mount.”
“The same will be true of Donald Trump. His ability to resist all of the forces that have come up against him is to continue to pave the way for the Third Temple.”
Rabbi Weiss called for the nations to “raise their voices in a universal call for the revelation of prophecy in our time.”
“Just as the Jews were only brought out of Egypt when they finally cried out to God, so too this redemption that will bring about a house of prayer for all nations will only come when all of the nations cry out.”