Things are going Netanyahu’s way: his campaign against the Iran deal seems to have influenced Trump’s decision to pull out; Israel seems to be humiliating its arch-enemy Iran; the most important country in the world – the United States of America – is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by bringing its embassy, and other countries may follow. All this is likely to give Netanyahu’s Likud party even more mandates than polls predict. He’ll be tempted to call elections ahead of schedule under one pretext or another and stay in office for another few years, if not forever.
His standing as a world statesman is remarkable. Trump likes what his friend Bibi stands for. Even Putin seems to approve, despite Israel’s attacks on Iranian installations in Syria – or perhaps because of them. Though the prime minister of Japan was offended by the shoe-shaped dessert he was served when he came to dinner the other day, he’ll remain an ally. As will many other national leaders, including East European anti-Semites. And Saudi Arabia (with some Gulf States) has become an ally on the principle that the enemy of my enemy (Iran) is my friend.
Israel’s covert operation in Iran has helped to derail the nuclear deal by displaying the alleged evidence that “Iran lied.” Israel’s overt military operation has, according to Defense Minister Lieberman, virtually wiped out Iranian military presence in Syria. The Jewish state seems almost invincible – to the despair of the Palestinians.
All this is likely to persuade the attorney general to stall indefinitely the criminal investigations against the Netanyahu family, perhaps with the exception of making Mrs. Netanyahu repay the state some of the extravagant expenses she incurred.
Of course, Likud will again need seemingly like-minded partners to form a coalition government. They’ll demand more concessions. The Orthodox will want more control over the lives of Israelis as well as over conversions in the Diaspora. The nationalist-religious right-wingers will this time try to make sure that the power of the Supreme Court is further curtailed. Avigdor Lieberman, whose party isn’t going to do well according to the polls, will nevertheless demand a position far above his station – and probably get it.
Because of what looks like Israel’s good relations with foreign powers, the relationship to the Diaspora appears to be much less significant nowadays. Israel no longer seems to need neither its financial nor its moral support. For example, American Jewish leaders seem to have much less access to Trump – despite his daughter and son-in-law – than Israeli politicians. As Jews in most other countries are being diminished by growing anti-Semitism, Israel looks forward to welcoming them as immigrants..
But despite all the favourable signs, elections can be risky because we now know that opinion polls are notoriously unreliable. Moreover, some of the coalition partners fear that Likud’s gains will be at their expense and therefore they’ll try to restrain the prime minister or play tricks on him during the campaign and afterwards.
However, even those who believe that another Netanyahu government is bad news fear that alternatives may be worse, for none of his rivals within his own party and outside seem to be up to it. Which leaves us little choice but to expect his continued success.
Jerusalem 10.5.18 Dow Marmur