UPDATES 9 am Israel time Saturday, June 29, 2013:
*The usual Friday demonstrations at the separation fence in Bilin which always involve a combination of self-proclaimed “international human rights activists”, Israeli leftists, and Palestinians, erupted in violence yet again yesterday with the above groups assaulting Israeli security personnel with “rocks” and whatever else they could get their hands on to throw.
A counter-demonstration in support of the IDF, organized by orthodox Jews in the area, was similarly attacked. One Jewish child had to be rushed to the hospital after having been struck in the head by a “rock”.
*Violence continues to escalate in Egypt with more reports of protesters being killed this morning including a young American photojournalist who was apparently stabbed in the chest as he tried to take a picture with his cellphone.
But lest we look upon the protesters against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood with too much favor, consider the fact that the protests today began with thousands of protesters burning an Israeli flag that had been created on the ground for the occasion. It seems that in the crazy world of Egyptian street politics, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood now stand accused of being “Zionists”.
*Ignoring the war in Syria (in which the death toll passed 100,000 this week), and the increasing fighting in Lebanon, and the violence on the streets in Egypt, John Kerry is now spending his leisure time engaging in shuttle diplomacy to see what can concessions he can wring out of Israel to coax the unelected leader of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, to the “peace table”.
Benjamin Netanyahu has simply grown old.
Not merely in a physical sense but also in the sense that he has lost touch with the Israeli public–a fact that was amply demonstrated in the last election when fresh faces on the scene such as Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett connected with the people of Israel in a way in which Netanyahu no longer can.
Out of step with the Israeli public’s focus on domestic financial and social issues and out of step with where the public stands on the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu even seems to be out of step on the Iranian situation vis a vis average Israeli voters who, at their own peril, seem less and less concerned about Tehran.
But what has happened this week has been an unmitigated disaster for Benjamin Netanyahu.
Because of his decision to merge Likud with Israel Beiteinu in the last election (which calamitously resulted in both parties losing seats and Likud party members losing cabinet positions in the new government), and because of his perceived movement to the “center-left” in pursuing peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu has become an outcast in his own party.
Danny Danon was overwhelmingly elected president of the Likud convention this past Tuesday (following Netanyahu’s indecorous withdrawal from the race on Monday in the face of certain defeat), and tomorrow Danon will also be elected chairman of the Likud central committee.
In fact, Danon has accomplished a complete coup with candidates of his ideological mindset poised to take over the entire Likud administrative organization from the presidium to the secretariat.
To put this in context, we now have Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister and supposed head of the Likud party, unable and even unwilling to take on his own Deputy Defense Minister and losing complete control of Likud.
Your humble servant is not so naive to think that Netanyahu cannot bounce back (I am reminded of Mark Twain’s famous line that “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”), but with Danon now firmly in charge of the party, it difficult to see how Netanyahu could ever be the candidate of Likud again–and how he could ever get the Likud party to endorse whatever “peace plan” he, Kerry, and Abbas might cook up.
The problem is that Netanyahu has been mortally wounded within his own party, and mortally wounded leaders are dangerous.
What is dangerous in this situation is the possibility that Netanyahu, like Barak before him who unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon and Sharon before him who unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, will try to unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria without getting any concessions from the Palestinians, and split off from Likud to form a new party such as Kadima to try get such a withdrawal approved.