/‘I intend to be the prime minister of Israel’

‘I intend to be the prime minister of Israel’

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Nobody is aware of exactly when or how but, however the lengthy period of Benjamin Netanyahu could lastly be coming to an finish in Israel.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since founding father David Ben-Gurion, has already expended 13 of his political 9 lives, because the veteran American peace negotiator Aaron David Miller likes to say. However Netanyahu now faces three completely different investigations and a advice by the police to indict him; many consider this time actually is likely to be completely different.

The embattled prime minister got here to Washington this week, searching for solace in worldwide statesmanship – and the nice and cozy embrace of President Trump. And certainly, the image Netanyahu secured within the White Home on Monday was a memorable one: two politically divisive leaders, each satisfied they’re topic of a “witch hunt” by overzealous prosecutors in their very own celebration, smiling and grinning as they promised to remake the Center East collectively.

But it surely might need been a brief distraction. At the same time as Netanyahu took off for his Washington journey, stories emerged in Israel that his former spokesman, a longtime shut adviser, had turned state’s proof. Many consider that if Netanyahu is indicted, he should name early elections, and even step apart. And right here in Washington, the nice and cozy applause for Netanyahu on the annual assembly of the pro-Israel group AIPAC on Tuesday didn’t obscure the truth that within the corridors and hallways had been quite a few would-be successors to Netanyahu – and limitless conversations about how and when which may really occur.

We spoke with a type of who hopes to observe Netanyahu, the hardline younger cupboard minister Naftali Bennett, for a particular episode of The International Politico. Bennett, a former protégé of Netanyahu’s who served as his chief of workers earlier than breaking with him a number of years again to enter politics on his personal, advised me within the interview he gained’t instantly problem Netanyahu – however he’s able to run and win after him – and he was sharply important of the prime minister’s alleged gift-taking, pointedly saying he would need to run and win as a greater “chief by instance” for Israel.

“After the period of Netanyahu, I intend to be the prime minister of Israel,” mentioned Bennett, a brash 45-year-old former navy officer and high-tech entrepreneur who’s now the schooling minister.

Bennett, whose conservative, largely spiritual celebration, Jewish House, is at present a member of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, has typically prodded and pushed the prime minister to the precise. (“Bennett has Bibi hostage,” a veteran Israel observer advised me just lately, “and he’s mainly operating the nation.”) A longtime skeptic that there’s a two-state answer available with the Palestinians, Bennett favors annexing the West Financial institution to the state of Israel (it’s not annexing, he insisted in our dialog, since he contends the land seized within the 1967 warfare already rightfully belongs to Israel). And he’s clearly doubtful in regards to the Trump administration’s present promise to unveil a grand new peace proposal that may by some means convey the 2 events again to the negotiating desk.

Certainly, Bennett advised me Trump’s controversial latest choice to unilaterally acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was roughly precisely what Palestinians worry: tantamount to the US admitting that Jerusalem and all its holy spiritual websites within the historic Previous Metropolis will probably be part of Israel. This is a matter of nice competition, on condition that Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the longer term capital of an impartial Palestinian state and its official standing – together with that of the Previous Metropolis – has been internationally disputed for the reason that 1967 warfare gave Israel management over the territory. “It does imply a united Jerusalem underneath the state of Israel,” Bennett mentioned, even when “everybody’s type of evading that definition.”

Bennett and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem | Abir Sultan/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

The divisive remarks underscore why Bennett would have a tough time vaulting on to Israel’s high elected workplace; overwhelming majorities of Israelis nonetheless assist a two-state answer and even Netanyahu, although he not often mentions it in public, has not formally modified from that as his coverage.

Bennett acknowledged as a lot in our dialog, noting that he’d have to broaden his celebration’s enchantment, to “revamp” it and “open it up” effectively past its present base of hard-line pro-settlement Orthodox supporters earlier than he might develop into a nationwide chief. And in one other interview this week he mentioned he’d be open to remaining in a Netanyahu cupboard, albeit with the extra prestigious and highly effective Protection Ministry portfolio. However, nevertheless the politics shake out, Bennett clearly belongs to a part of the post-Bibi future, to a conservative and assured new class of Israeli leaders who’ve grown up within the lengthy shadow of a Netanyahu period outlined by rising prosperity at dwelling and fading hopes for a everlasting peace.

You may read the rest of our wide-ranging dialog, or take heed to it anytime at The International Politico here.