THE BLOG
05/27/2016 05:08 pm ET Updated May 28, 2017

Netanyahu's House of Cards

YinYang via Getty Images

Last week's political drama in Israel once again proved that in coalition government systems, there is no business like the show-business of politics.

Weeks of behind closed door maneuvering by Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi attempted to bring together a centrists' coalition government comprised of Netnayahu's Likud and the opposition Labor Party.

And why you may ask would international leaders get involved in coalition building? Logic goes as follows. In a post Arab-Spring era, Sunni Arab nations share multiple interests with the small Jewish nation, chief among them, countering Iranian hegemony. Thus an historic opportunity was identified by the ever optimistic John Kerry and his European colleagues who never gave up on the idea of resolving the Israeli--Palestinian conflict via a two state solution.

As such, Issac Herzog put his reputation and Labor Party leadership on the line by reaching out to his political opponent, with a belief that together, they can lead a bold game changing regional peace initiative.

Just as soon as Herzog was preparing to take on the role of foreign minister in a broad coalition government, Netanyahu soon delivered his rival (as well as the Americans and the Europeans) a trick, straight out of political playbook of Frank Underwood, of the television show House of Cards.

Instead of building a centrist coalition that would open a new page in regional diplomacy, Netanyahu invited the controversial Avigdor Lieberman and his far right Yisrael Beytenu Party into what may now seem as the furthest to the right Israeli government to date.

This maneuver surprised many political analysts, journalists, and diplomats alike. Herzog along with many western pundits argued that Bibi passed up "an historic chance" to reach a breakthrough in a regional peace process.

Netanyahu's critics are correct to suggest that the new coalition places Netanyahu's government away from the political center, and towards the far right. Yet, anyone who suggests that Bibi's coalition reshuffle was a function of ideology, may indeed be missing the real story.

Over the past two decades, Bibi consistently demonstrated that any relationship between his political behavior and ideology is as disparate as the relationship between Kim Kardashian and the current conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Netanyahu's preference of Lieberman as defense minister over Herzog as foreign minister supported the old cliché that all politics are local.

Far more concerned with his own political future than any pie in the sky regional peace process, Bibi was as determined as ever to undermine his true political opponent.

This is where the political plot thickens.

Netnayahu's political checkmate more than likely ended Herzog's reign as the leader of the Labor Party. Yet, no one ever suspected that the non-charismatic Buji Herzog could pose a legitimate threat to Bibi's leadership.

The true explanation for Netanyahu's maneuver was his fear of the growing popularity of his own defense minister Moshe Ya'alon. Highly independent, trusted by the Israeli center-right, and respected by the Americans, Europeans, and Sunni leaders, Ya'alon is the only member of the Likud Party who could threaten Netanyahu's role as the leader of the Likud party.

While Bibi embodies the showmanship of an American television star, Ya'alon is as organic to the Israeli ethos as a humus filled falafel sandwich on a Tuesday afternoon.

Borrowing a page from the political gamebook of Tayyip Erdoğan who fired the widely respected Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Netanyahu solidified his control of the Likud by getting rid of Ya'alon.

Only time will tell if Netanyahu's political maneuver was an act of genius or a short-sighted move that will ultimately end his political career in the next general election.

Israeli pundits and political insiders are already fantasizing about a new center right "Likud Light" coalition led by Ya'alon and other disenfranchised Likud pragmatists.

Several public opinion polls conducted in the past week indicate that the majority of Israelis disapprove of Ya'alon's dismissal, and of the new coalition government. Yet, this government will likely hold on to power as long as the political interests of its key partners will align.

It is difficult to predict what policy outcomes will result from Bibi's political reshuffle. In the Israeli version of House of Cards, Benjamin Netanyahu is a political animal whose sole focus is his own political survival, even when it comes at the expense of the interests of his own voters.