Netanyahu’s Grip Loosens Amid Israel Turmoil

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Mr. Netanyahu’s allies insist that he will be able to balance these competing demands.

“Anyone who knows Prime Minister Netanyahu knows that his personal and political abilities, in particular, are above question,” said May Golan, a minister without portfolio in Mr. Netanyahu’s cabinet.

She discounted reports of divisions in the cabinet.

“There is a huge gap between what is published in the media and the ongoing management of the coalition,” Ms. Golan said. “Our coalition is a homogeneous, right-wing, Zionist coalition — with identical goals, identical values ​​and identical objectives.”

Some analysts reckon that Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right allies are unlikely to abandon him because they know that they have few other routes to power without him. But critics say he is in danger of losing control of both his government and the country.

Every move he takes to placate President Biden, such as sending an envoy to meet with Palestinian leaders in Jordan on Sunday, angers his far-right allies and encourages them to take countermeasures.

After Mr. Netanyahu criticized settler attacks in the West Bank this week, his national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, called for an end to what he called the government’s “policy of containment.” Mr. Ben-Gvir also turned up at an unauthorized settler outpost, calling for it to be kept in place even as security forces evicted settlers who had moved there.

The contortions inherent within Mr. Netanyahu’s strategy were particularly apparent on Sunday, when the Biden administration announced that the Israelis and the Palestinians had agreed to several de-escalatory measures, including a freeze on new settlement announcements. Hours later, amid criticism from Mr. Netanyahu’s right flank, the Israeli government said there had been “no construction freeze” and “no change in Israeli policy.”

“Is he riding the tiger, or is the tiger riding him?” Ben Caspit, another Netanyahu biographer, asked in a column in mid-February in the newspaper Maariv.


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