The State of Israel is politically adrift. As it reels from a new wave of violence incited by Palestinian leaders, and debates a new bill that would define the country formally as a “Jewish state,” the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears shaky. He is threatening to call new elections to keep his own ministers in line, though his popularity has plummeted from its summer highs after the war in Gaza ended indecisively.
Americans tend to regard Bibi as indispensable. That is partly because no Israeli leader in recent memory has been as adept at making Israel’s case on the world stage. It is also, however, because Netanyahu has been very successful at opposing President Barack Obama, who has tried from the outset to undermine Israel’s position.
In fact, when Netanyahu ran for office, his explicit selling point to the Israeli electorate was that only he could oppose Obama effectively. Israelis, unlike many Americans, chose to be well informed about Obama’s radical background, his association with known anti-Israel radicals, and his opportunistic, lukewarm-at-best support.
Now into his third term, Netanyahu has delivered on his promise. Yet with Obama fading fast from the global stage, Israelis may be discovering that Bibi is no longer indispensable. In new elections, he might well lose.
That might alarm those Americans, particularly conservatives, who have come to see Netanyahu as a crucial leader, offering a full-throated defense of western democracy against radical Islam when Obama, the so-called leader of the free world, has not. A loss for Bibi might also be celebrated by the American left–especially groups like J Street, which targeted him, unsuccessfully, in their efforts to boost Obama’s misguided Mideast policy.
The truth is that there is only one indispensable man in the Netanyahu government, and it is not Bibi himself. It is Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, who has a unique strategic understanding of Israel’s challenges and possesses the rare quality of patience.
Though undiplomatic at times, Ya’alon’s central thesis–that there is no “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–has held up despite efforts on all sides to force an outcome.
Ya’alon has remained focused on the bigger strategic threat: Iran. In that effort, Ya’alon managed to build a solid relationship with outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a past Israel skeptic. He has also avoided the sort of impulsive tactics to which democracies are susceptible.
Recently, Ya’alon hinted that he might be interested in Bibi’s job one day. In whatever capacity, he is Israel’s only indispensable public figure.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak