As outpost legalisation bill passes, Bibi looks vulnerable
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU did not have to try hard to conceal how he really felt about the “regularisation bill” his coalition was about to pass in the Knesset.
If he had wanted to be associated with the controversial piece of legislation, he would have made sure that the vote on Monday night was held up, by filibuster if necessary, until he returned to the country so he could take part in it himself.
Instead, he was content for it to take place while he was en route from London.
They did not need his vote anyway. The bill passed its final reading 60-52.
The law is just another reminder of how Mr Netanyahu’s political fate is in the hands of others — particularly the most right-wing elements of his own coalition.
As one senior Israeli official put it after the vote went through, “they ambushed Bibi when he was in London”.
Some Israelis, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, have warned that the law, effectively legalising the expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land, could open Israelis up to prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
At present, however, such a prospect is remote. Such a prosecution would be unlikely while the ICC is having trouble bringing those accused of mass-murder to justice.
As it is, there is a good chance the Israeli High Court will strike it down. But it comes at a very bad time for Mr Netanyahu. Just as he is globe-trotting — this week Britain, next week the US and the following week to Australia and Singapore — his coalition partners, in particular his former aides, Jewish Home ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, reminded him how vulnerable he is domestically.
Not only does Jewish Home hold the keys to his coalition with its eight MKs, they are also riding high in the polls and could benefit from an election should Mr Netanyahu be indicted over any of the corruption allegations currently being investigated by police.
Meanwhile, the “regularisation bill” is just the first item on Jewish Home’s shopping list. The next thing is a law being prepared for the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, the large settlement to the east of Jerusalem.
The right-wing claims that with Donald Trump in the White House, Israel can go a head and pursue a prosettlement policy without incurring the wrath of its American ally. They may be right on this.
This would have sounded outlandish just a few weeks ago, but Mr Netanyahu may be starting to miss Barack Obama.