Last fall, a few months after Benjamin Netanyahu was finally toppled from his perch as Israeli prime minister, a challenger arose from within his right-wing Likud party. Yuli Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker and senior minister, stated that he would run against Netanyahu for party leader ahead of any new election. “Netanyahu has already tried four times; how can we succeed with him the fifth time?” Edelstein posited, alluding to the four general elections held in Israel since 2019. “With Netanyahu we will never return to power.”
Israel is now in the midst of that fifth election, set for Nov. 1, after the swift dissolution earlier this summer of the government that replaced Netanyahu (led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, who is now the caretaker prime minister).
For his part, Edelstein meekly rescinded his leadership challenge in late June and threw his support behind Netanyahu — once more the Likud and Israeli right’s unanimous and sole candidate for the premiership. Yet the damage to Edelstein had been done.
In the Likud primaries held earlier this month, Edelstein dropped from first spot on the electoral list (behind party chair Netanyahu) to a resounding 17th. Other relative moderates — some, like Edelstein, with presumptions of becoming the future party leader — also did much more poorly than expected. In their place, the 80,000 Likud members who voted in the primary election returned a hardline and slavishly pro-Netanyahu slate.
The two main goals professed by nearly all of them? To not only restore “King Bibi” to his rightful place atop the country but to begin a wholesale revolution in Israel’s democratic system. [Continue reading…]