Understanding Israel's January 22 Election
Third: Netanyahu made a distasteful alliance with the party of the demagogic Avigdor Lieberman. While Lieberman is corrupt and a poseur, his right-wing militancy was for show and he never actually did anything materially. At any rate, with Lieberman under indictment for corruption, the political careers of his faction’s parliamentarians now depend on keeping Netanyahu happy. Moreover, they represent more of a Soviet immigrant pressure group than right-wing militants.
This leaves the real fear regarding the rising star of Naftali Bennett, head of the genuinely far-right Habayit Hayehudi party. But the problem with the thesis, popular among Western journalists, that there will be a right-wing Netanyahu-Bennett coalition is that Netanyahu loathes Bennett and knows he would be a constant headache. Bennett’s party would attack every pragmatic step Netanyahu took -- including those needed to get along with an Obama-led America -- and ache for opportunities to threaten to walk out of the coalition or actually do so.
If such a coalition does happen, it will be because Netanyahu could find no way out. It is more likely that he will do everything possible to avoid this outcome and to work with some combination of other parties, including Labor. Of course, such an outcome isn’t certain, but is more likely than an all-right coalition.
The results will depend on the political math following the January 22 voting, with the key issue being how Netanyahu could assemble a parliamentary majority of 61 out of 120. Most likely would be an outcome in which the policies of the next government will be the same as the one ruling Israel for the last four years.
Right now, as Israelis realize, we live in an era when Israeli policy is necessarily more reactive and defensive. There is no diplomatic option for peace, and Israel has no influence over the Islamist direction of Egypt, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.
The big question, of course, is whether Netanyahu would ever attack Iran’s nuclear installations. I think the answer to that question is “no” for many reasons, only one of them being that this would lead to a confrontation with the Obama administration.
After decades of hearing American writers and alleged experts misunderstand Israeli politics and thinking, I can say that nothing has changed in this regard.
It is amazing to see how the election is being distorted: Bennett both demonized and made to seem more important than he is; Israel now being called anti-democratic because Netanyahu will win; etc.