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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The biggest loser of the Israeli elections?

The Algemeiner's Arik Elman argues that President Hussein Obama is going to be the biggest loser in the Israeli elections.
Nobody can predict whether Obama’s intervention will indeed help Netanyahu or that the centrifugal effect of the Israeli political system will win over. The proportional structure of the Israeli parliamentary system does not encourage unity.  So long as the voters of the Right believe that Netanyahu will remain the Prime Minister whomever they vote for, they feel themselves free to vote for other parties within the block – Bennett first and foremost. Netanyahu is also struggling against the decade-old memory of the Israeli public– in 2003, Ariel Sharon brought Likud to 38 mandates, which grew to 40 after the absorption of Nathan Sharansky’s “Yisrael B’Aliya,” and a year later he used all this might to set in motion the “disengagement” plan, which ended in the uprooting of ten thousand Jews from the Gaza Strip, the creation of the Hamas enclave on Israel’s Southern border and thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians. Moreover, for the majority of Israelis the most pressing concerns are economic – Netanyahu himself just recognized this when in a brilliant but slightly desperate move he appointed Moshe Kahlon, the hero of the Israeli middle class, the conqueror of the fat cats of the mobile communications industry, as the Chairman of the Israeli Lands Authority, and charged him with lowering housing prices.
Nevertheless, Obama’s standing in Israel is so low, that his disapproval of Netanyahu and his indirect endorsement of Tzipi Livni (whose standing in the polls went into a free fall immediately after its publication) may yet help Likud Beitenu. One proof of that can be found on Naftali Bennett’s Facebook page. Trying to seize the new opportunity, Bennett cheerfully updated his friends that the White House is apparently very concerned with his meteoric rise. “We will hear what America has to say,” – he promised – “but we’ll do what’s best for Israel.” Obama’s monumental arrogance, his apparent lack of belief in the intelligence of the Israeli voter, his disgraceful treatment of Netanyahu and, more than everything else – his disastrous courting of the Islamist movements throughout the Middle East, has brought American influence and prestige to a new low in the one place where it was never considered possible to happen. Any proposed settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the Israeli public to have full and complete trust in the American President. The results of the elections on January 22nd will show just how much this trust is now absent.
He's got Israelis' views on Obama pegged, but I'm not convinced that Netanyahu is a shoo-in to win, let alone to be the first one offered a chance to form the next government. I'll breath a lot easier when the results are in.

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