April 11, 2019

Bibi Wins Re-election

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“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on Wednesday, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority and his main challenger conceding defeat… The close and often vitriolic contest was widely seen in Israel as a referendum on Netanyahu’s character and record in the face of corruption allegations. He faces possible indictment in three graft cases, and has denied wrongdoing in all of them.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is concerned about the implications of the election results for the prospects of a peace deal with Palestine, and US politics.

“Gantz may have campaigned as the anti-Netanyahu, but his disagreements mostly focused on the corruption investigation and domestic issues. On the Palestinian question and Israel's relations with its neighbors, the former commander of the formidable Israeli military came down quite close to Bibi's positions, and he maintains close ties to sharply hawkish members of the Knesset… No matter what happens in the coming days and weeks, the right in Israel holds most of the cards, the center is its only opposition and viable alternative, and the left is well and truly dead.”
Damon Linker, The Week

“When the history of Israeli elections is written, this elections will go down as a tremendous personal victory for Netanyahu—as it was fundamentally a referendum on whether or not he should remain Prime Minister. What this election was not about, was what the future of the state of Israel should look like. None of the parties, neither right nor left presented a coherent picture of what they envision for the country. One can only hope that by the next election, parties will be prepared to present thoughtful, articulate visions of the future.”
Marc Schulman, Newsweek

“It’s conceivable that Netanyahu could trade annexation [of West Bank settlements] for immunity [from corruption charges]: offer hard-right parties a guarantee that annexation will happen if they vote to pass an immunity bill. If that happens, it would be a double disaster for Israel: Not only would the prime minister be shielding himself from facing justice for the foreseeable future, undermining a basic tenet of democratic accountability, he’d also be moving toward turning what’s supposed to be a temporary occupation of Palestinian land into permanent seizure.”
Zach Beauchamp, Vox

In normal times, such rash moves would be met by strident opposition from Washington, but these are not normal times in Washington. Without a brake from abroad, a new coalition may be the victim of both its own worst impulses and the hour of extreme vulnerability of its seemingly mighty leader, five-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Natan Sachs, The Atlantic

Netanyahu has laid a road map for how a scandal-tainted leader under existential threat from political and criminal probes can ride a scorched-earth strategy to win re-election… Netanyahu succeeded partly with a sharp shift to the right in the waning days of the campaign and adopted divide-and-rule scare tactics that Trump had already perfected in his own election win in 2016. Afraid of losing out on right-wing votes, Netanyahu also courted a far-right party with extremist elements.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

“His victory contains a warning for any Democrat still imagining that the 2020 election will bring an easy victory over Donald Trump. The Netanyahu playbook will be President Trump’s next year. Gather nationalist and religious voters in your camp, add in a strong economy, dose with fear, sprinkle with strongman appeal, inject a dash of racism and victory is yours — whatever indictments are looming.”
Roger Cohen, New York Times

Some argue that, “paradoxically, Netanyahu’s victory may end up being good news for the Democrats vying to challenge Trump. The party is currently contending with both an activist left wing (including a few vocal newly elected members of Congress), which is critical of Israel no matter who is in power, and an establishment core (including a few senior members of Congress) that is broadly supportive of Israel no matter who is in power. Netanyahu has become so objectionable to a wide swath of American Democrats—Jewish and gentile—that he opens up a safe middle-ground position for candidates: broadly ‘pro-Israel’ while highly critical of the [current] Israeli government.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

From the Right

The right sees this as a resounding triumph for Netanyahu.

The right sees this as a resounding triumph for Netanyahu.

“The Israeli people are largely content with Netanyahu’s conduct in office. On his watch, Israel’s economy has prospered and the country has never been more secure or less diplomatically isolated. While his opponents warned that Israel could not thrive or escape being made an international pariah without a peace deal, Netanyahu has proved them wrong. With no credible rivals on the right and the country’s left-wing parties in shambles, Netanyahu has succeeded not just in winning elections but also in making himself appear to be the country’s one indispensable man.”
Jonathan Tobin, National Review

“With peace and security dominating the race, Netanyahu had a formidable record on which to run: isolation of the Palestinian Authority, containment of the Hamas threat in Gaza and growing alliances, once unthinkable, with Arab states. He also had a powerful and none-too-subtle ally in President Trump, who has taken great pains to strengthen the US-Israeli relationship that had become frayed under President Barack Obama.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

Now it is time for Netanyahu to prove himself the ally Trump needs, especially when it comes to curbing China's malicious global influence and advancing Trump's Middle East peace plan… Netanyahu has got to get a little less cozy with Beijing. Israel's technology sector is a crown jewel of its economy and thus a central source of export value and foreign investment appeal, but China's growing footprint in Israel is greatly problematic for U.S. national security… Trump should ask Netanyahu to restrict China's access to value-added technologies capable of dual-use manipulation and to present safeguards in relation to China's construction of Haifa Port…

“Netanyahu [also] owes it to Trump and himself to keep an open mind about any proposed peace plan and to signal a willingness to make concessions under the right circumstances… By treating the Trump proposal seriously, Netanyahu will demonstrate that future American presidents can get further by fostering closer ties and creating more trust between the U.S. and Israel.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“The end of the Syrian civil war will, sooner or later, bring Iranian forces to the foot of the Golan. The stand-off with Hamas in Gaza contains no prospect beyond another short and costly war. And a combination of factors — the annexationist mood of Netanyahu’s coalition, the enduring Israeli Jewish distrust of the PLO after the Second Intifada, the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, the popularity of Hamas — all threaten the relatively peaceful status quo in the West Bank…

“There is no guarantee that the next US president will be a Republican, and after the Obama years, Netanyahu knows he can expect little from an incoming Democratic president. The next two years are the window of opportunity for shaping his legacy.”
Dominic Green, Spectator USA

“The press loves to liken Netanyahu to Donald Trump, and there is a resemblance — and one that Bibi took pains to emphasize in his campaign. Both are brash, both are politically incorrect, both are despised by the establishment, and if we are to believe the fourth estate and prosecutors, both are crooked…

“We do not know whether Netanyahu will seek a unity government with Blue and White, or cobble his own right-wing coalition together. Nor do we know the course of the legal charges against him. Pundits are already declaring that this government will fall sooner rather than later. Perhaps. But in the meantime, consider: Decisiveness, security-mindedness, bluntness, and economic well-being trumped political correctness, character assassination, and hand-outs in Israel. The Democratic Party should take note.”
Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute

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