Israelis will be headed to the polls for a second time in 2019. One politician played a major role in setting off both elections: Avigdor Liberman.

Seven months ago, Avigdor Liberman withdrew his Yisrael Beiteinu party from the coalition and resigned as Israel’s defense minister. The move was a protest against what Liberman cast as Benjamin Netanyahu’s weak approach to Hamas and Gaza. But there was also some politicking at play. Liberman hoped his exit would precipitate the government’s collapse, and Israelis, raw off a recent round of fighting over Gaza and its environs, would remember his “principled” stand when they went to the polls. Although his departure helped hasten the march toward elections, things didn’t turn out exactly as Liberman planned. After Yisrael Beiteinu left, Netanyahu kept the coalition afloat for another month, a long time in Israeli politics, before dissolving the coalition on his own terms. While Liberman defied predictions that he would miss the electoral threshold in April’s contest, he ended up with his worst finish yet at just five seats.

Now, it is Liberman who once again helped set off an election season. The Yisrael Beiteinu head held fast in refusing to join over a disagreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties on conscription legislation. In the past few days, Netanyahu has tried to bring every pressure to bear against Liberman, delivering a primetime television address, conducting an interview with Israel’s Russian-language Channel 9, and seeking the intervention of President Donald Trump. With just hours to spare, he even floated an offer to the opposition Labor Party to join the government with four ministerial portfolios and even adopted Yisrael Beiteinu’s platform on the draft issue. Many of these desperate measures seem targeted directly at Liberman’s base of older immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and in the end, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Netanyahu had called on Vladimir Putin for help too.

The question for Liberman is: why make the same gamble twice? Last time he tried to trigger elections, he ended up in a fight for his own political survival. But there is a difference today, and that is that Liberman could actually come out of this ahead.

When Avigdor Liberman resigned his post last November, he brought Netanyahu’s coalition down to a bare majority of just 61 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats. He reasoned that his withdrawal would soon be followed by another party’s — likely Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi — taking the government down with them. It was hardly a far-fetched calculation from Liberman’s point of view, but he underestimated his Bayit Yehudi colleague’s fealty to Netanyahu. In the end, Bennett went back on a threat to leave the government. This is what allowed the prime minister to hold the coalition together for more than a month while Liberman looked on from the opposition. By the time elections were called, Liberman’s hardline stand on Gaza had receded from the news cycle.

But the situation has changed. In the final weeks of coalition negotiations, Liberman operated with greater certainty that his brinkmanship would immediately produce elections. Netanyahu wanted to avoid a situation in which President Reuven Rivlin passes on the opportunity to form a government to another member of Knesset, such as Opposition Leader Benny Gantz, or, worse (from Netanyahu’s perspective), rival Likud MK Gideon Saar. That would have left Netanyahu more exposed than ever to prosecution with indictments hanging over his head in three corruption cases. This is why the prime minister began pushing forward a bill to dissolve the Knesset when things started to look uncertain.

With another round of elections set for September, Liberman will occupy the spotlight from the get-go. I maintain that Yisrael Beiteinu’s ultimate fate will still be held hostage by demographics so long as it is perceived largely as a Russian speakers’ interest party. Yet Liberman stands to gain broader, if temporary, appeal with voters from standing up to the prime minister. He will be remembered as the man who made Bibi sweat, a deeply gratifying prospect for the Yisrael Beiteinu chief, who was once Netanyahu’s underling at the prime minister’s office in the late 1990s. It won’t be a great victory for the opposition, per se. After all, Liberman is no democrat. But in refusing to budge, he delivered Netanyahu a sort of round-about election defeat, a feat no center-left candidate has achieved in over a decade.