Right-Wing Merger Good for Netanyahu, Bad for Bennett

Netanyahu in Knesset
Netanyahu in Knesset (Photo: Roman Yanushevsky/Shutterstock.com)

Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again. Wednesday’s right-wing merger, which he engineered and promoted, shows why the prime minister excels at winning elections while his nemesis Naftali Bennett keeps struggling.

The union of Bennett’s New Right and the religious Jewish Home ensures that they will pass the electoral threshold. But more importantly for Netanyahu, it cements his position as the most attractive option for moderate right-wing voters.

New Right, which Bennett billed as a liberal party that appeals to religious and secular Israelis, was the greatest potential threat to Netanyahu’s Likud. Had Bennett truly advanced his new agenda, he would be well positioned to win the votes of frustrated rightists seeking a fresh alternative.

Moderates Prefer Netanyahu

However, by actively pushing New Right to join forces with religious, hard right parties, Netanyahu ensured that he will remain the top choice for the moderate right-wing camp. Crucially, Netanyahu’s ability to attract center-right voters is a key component of his success.

In orchestrating the move, Netanyahu again positioned himself in his favorite role of the responsible adult. Notably, the PM has traditionally sought to surround himself with political players that highlight his own levelheadedness and moderation.

In the past, Netanyahu did this by bringing both leftists and staunch rightists into his governments. This enabled him to brand himself as the “voice of reason” amid the bickering of incompatible coalition partners. Now, he has adopted a similar approach within the right-wing camp.

Bennett’s Failed Strategy

In the absence of better options, most moderate rightists will likely vote for Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the united right faction will again struggle to draw supporters from a limited pool of voters. As always, some of them will vote for Likud based on tactical considerations.

In the bottom line, the right-wing merger reduces the likelihood of a steep Likud decline. This will put Netanyahu’s party in a stronger position against chief rival Blue and White even if the right-wing bloc fails to secure a majority.

As to Bennett, the once promising political upstart keeps shooting himself in the foot. By failing to follow through on his pledges and clinging to sectarian parties, he will never attract the moderate voters he needs to become a prime minister.