File this one under Man Bites Dog: MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor), former commander of the Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit and son of former IDF Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev (1924 – 1994), said on Shabbat at an event in Tel Aviv that he is “trying to enlist 60 signatures that recommend to the president to grant the mandate to form the next government to Yuli Edelstein.”
Yuli Edelstein, 61, is currently serving as Speaker of the Knesset. He was elected at the top of the Likud primaries’ list last February, and is one of the most popular Likud politicians in Israel. He is also probably corruption-proof, seeing as his father-in-law, Leonid Nevzlin, is a billionaire.
Bar-Lev added: “We have to tell him – You are the Speaker of the Knesset, it’s all on your head. I’m not going into the Likud internal struggles. I sincerely hope and believe that if the president assigns it to him, he would make the right choice. It takes a lot of courage in the different parties, to understand that maybe this is the only option that will prevent a third election. Many egos would have to be disregarded.”
Edelstein has been having a lot of conversations with influential party leaders starting in November, and those have told Channel 12 News that Edelstein was preparing to run for the Likud leadership and that he was seeking their support. But in order to win, Edelstein would have had to take the chance of losing in a three-way race against Netanyahu and MK Gideon Sa’ar.
But being drafted, as Bar-Lev is proposing, does not require that the chosen MK be the head of a party. Any MK would do. And today, with Netanyahu bruised by his criminal indictments, and Sa’ar being considered a “traitor” by many in the party, it could be the Speaker’s time to rise to the top.
The Labor party issued a statement saying they respect MK Bar-Lev but do not endorse his initiative – they are committed to Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz.
Bar-Lev supports what he calls maintaining Israel’s democratic and Jewish character by initiating a series of partial Israeli withdrawals from Judea and Samaria in order to minimize the number of Palestinian Authority Arabs living under IDF military rule, and transferring responsibility for those areas to the PA. Edelstein couldn’t be farther to the right: he rejects the idea of a Palestinian State, which he believes would inevitably go to war against Israel.
Which suggests the Bar-Lev is sincere in seeing recruiting the Knesset speaker to lead the country the lesser of two evils: better put an honest rightwinger in charge than chance a third election campaign. In my book, this is patriotism.