Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is This The End Of Benjamin Netanyahu?
This blog has been predicting the-end-of-Netanyahu for years. I have come to conclude that this failing on my part involves my wish-fulfillment obscuring my crystal ball. To his credit, Bibi is an incredibly tenacious politician, a survivalist of unparalleled skill. And it is such that the nature of Israeli politics keeps the same few players -- Barack, Netanyahu, Peres -- around for decades, until death or criminal prosecution (whichever comes first). That's the game even a democracy has to play over in that incredibly dangerous region of the world. Ancillary minor political players like Olmert and Livni have their brief turns directing the momentum of the carousel, but real power over long periods of time belongs, essentially, to a half dozen -- if even that.
Which brings us to the present moment. At no time other than right now has the recent incarnation of Netanyahu, Prime Minister, seemed so tense. From Foreign Policy:
"The short marriage between Israel's ruling Likud Party and Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, is ending as these lines are written. The official reason for the coalition's collapse -- a disagreement over a bill that would ensure the conscription of ultra-Orthodox youth -- is not the main reason it has come apart. The Likud-Kadima split was primarily the result of fear: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fear of losing his original coalition partners, and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz's fear of a looming political disaster.
"... Netanyahu will present himself as 'Mr. Security' -- the man who succeeded in ensuring peace and quiet, who did not make any concessions to his neighbors, and who kept Israel growing while the world economy faltered. Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich and Mofaz will compete amongst themselves over who has a better social agenda -- they will assail Netanyahu's government for the ever-growing wealth disparities, the ever-richer tycoons, and the ever-rising cost of living. Yair Lapid, a TV personality-turned-politician who has become the star of the moment, will emphasize the need for Israelis to bear the burdens of citizenship equally -- particularly when it comes to military service.
"Not a single Israeli leader will make the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians his or her flagship policy. Each believes that a majority of the public supports an agreement along the lines of the Clinton Parametersor the Geneva Accord -- but at the same time, all believe that such an agreement is impossible under current circumstances.
"If this is indeed how the campaign plays out, and there is no significant global or domestic upheaval, then Netanyahu's chances of winning are very good. But if Bibi's opponents shift the conversation to the burning issue of our time -- the possibility of a unilateral strike by Israel on Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities in the next few months -- that could all change."
Precisely. As we go into the home stretch of the 2012 Presidential campaign, September and October may be the last chance during a Presidential election cycle that Israel could conceiveably launch an attack to stop Iran from getting The Bomb. With romney planning a trip to Israel soon, President Obama -- who got 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008 -- would virtually be helpless to stop Netanyahu should the Prime Minister decide to make his stand. But this new weakness in Netanyahu is something to factor into the high stakes chess game that is being played between Tehran and Jerusalem and Washington (with featured players including the crumbling Assad regime and ever-patient Turkey).

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