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THE RATIONALITY FOR NETANYAHU'S RE-ELECTION

Trump and Putin collage

How come Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who faces three indictments for fraud, has won an unprecedented fifth election? Just three days after election day Israeli jets reportedly launched another devastating airstrike on an Iranian missile facility inside Syria. Israel, as usual, did not acknowledge the attack that caused severe damage and killed several militants, possibly members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu did make a statement: "Whoever threatens or endangers Israel, threatens or endangers themselves. Israel will respond with its power also to the north!"

Syria is deep in Russia's sphere of influence, almost a Russian protectorate.

Bear in mind that Russia is the now the principal power broker in Syria. President Vladimir Putin calls the shots after his military intervention saved the regime of Syrian President Bashar Asaad. In effect, today Syria is deep in Russia's sphere of influence, almost a Russian protectorate.

Israeli PM Netanyahu and Russian PM Putin (photo by: Avi Ohayon, CC GPO National Photo Collection)

So what does Vladimir think of Israel and Iran fighting it out on Syrian soil, not far from his own Russian troops and aircraft? For starters, Putin is not that happy about the Ayatollah's in Tehran trying to hone in on his territory. Therefore, this left some room for Netanyahu to use his diplomatic skills to persuade the Russian leader to permit Israel to stop the Iranians in their tracks. Credit where credit is due - Bibi won over the approval of Putin, who is no pushover. To the surprise of many, the Russian leader gave Israel the green light to clobber the Iranian drive to Israel's border on condition that the Israeli airstrikes did not endanger Russian personnel stationed in Syria. This is easier said than done. And, to his credit, Netanyahu was even able to persuade Putin to continue their modus operandi even after a Syrian missile mistakenly shot down a Russian airplane last September, believing it to be an Israeli fighter. Naturally, all this does not go unnoticed by Israeli voters.

Bibi's savvy stepping also applies to other vital security developments. Not less importantly, Netanyahu also has gained the ear of Donald Trump in Washington. Donald chipped in just days before the election by recognizing the Golan Heights, Israel's northern shield, as Israeli territory, and designated Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, which they are. Should there be any doubt about Netanyahu's case to Trump about the Nuclear Iranian Deal? Add to that America's recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital and its steps in international forums to counter the Palestinian diplomatic warfare being waged against the Jewish state. And these are some significant reasons why so many Israeli voters and the right-wing and religious parties back Bibi, who may yet be officially indicted and even found guilty.

As for "it's the economy, stupid" school of thought, it is fair to say that a majority of Israelis get by, and in an international survey Israeli scored high on the question of how happy citizens were about living in their country.

Then there's the other side of the balance sheet ...

Benny Gantz, a former respected IDF Chief of Staff, has absolutely no political experience.

Benny Gantz, a former respected IDF Chief of Staff, has absolutely no political experience. This was evidenced by his ludicrous victory speech before the final results showed that he had lost. So, just imagine a totally inexperienced Israeli Prime Minister going head-to-head with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. An entirely new Prime Minister of a country in a semi-state of war that involves the Super Powers is not for "learning on the job."

Then there's Gaza - although, under severe domestic pressure, Netanyahu decided not to launch another war against Hamas, despite an entire year of terrorist firebombing and periodic rocketing. Military experts said this would have required a ground operation. The last such war in the summer of 2014 cost the lives of 70 IDF soldiers and seven civilians. Another 450 were wounded. This is not to speak of the Palestinian casualties, which were far higher. At the time, Israeli public opinion, and some right-wing politicians demanded that the IDF be ordered to halt the Hamas attacks - however, Netanyahu kept his cool and, by hook and by crook, reached an agreement with the aid of Egypt. This, despite his bluster and harsh rhetoric.

Trump told Netanyahu public to "hold off on settlement building."

To date, Bibi has Trump in his corner, and there's no question that he influenced the US President to abort the nuclear deal with Tehran. But now coming up is Trump's "deal of the century" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Also, bear in mind this oft-forgotten point: at their initial meeting in the White House, Trump told Netanyahu public to "hold off on settlement building." In fact, Bibi has done just that and has not built new settlements on the West Bank; something that has aroused the ire of Israel's right-wing.

My bottom line is that Trump's plan obviously must include some concessions from Israel. To what extent is still unclear, but the situation is this: Netanyahu's base, both in his own Likud Party and his future far-right coalition partners, totally opposes conceding West Bank territory to the Palestinians, let alone a Palestinian state. So, from an Israeli national point of view, it makes for a popular right-wing leader like Netanyahu to be in charge rather than Benny Gantz, but Bibi will also face the wrath of the far-right settlement camp that opposes any kind of territorial compromises with the Palestinians.





Political Analyst David Essing

 

David Essing

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