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Netanyahu, Likud Stand To Gain from Early Elections

Contrary to frequent foreign perceptions, Netanyahu’s governing style is characterized in practice by extreme caution and a desire not to move far beyond the existing consensus. The last three years have witnessed an unfamiliar quiet on the security front and an economic stability currently rivaled by few countries in the West. A solid centrist consensus of Israelis has concluded that -- for the moment -- there is no real partner on the splintered Palestinian political scene for making diplomatic progress, and that there are deep concerns regarding the chaotic neighborhood emerging in the wake of the Arab upheavals of 2011. Iran and its ambitions are also a matter of grave import. In such an environment, it is not hard to see why a pragmatic hawk of Netanyahu’s stripe looks like a “safe pair of hands” to many voters.

Critics of the prime minister see Netanyahu’s caution as being accompanied by a tendency to vacillate and by an absence of clear vision. One government insider revealed that the ambition of all Cabinet members is to be the last person to speak to Netanyahu before an important vote, as his reputation is that he is easily swung.

Whatever the truth of this assertion, the current government has delivered security quiet and economic stability to Israelis in the midst of regional and global political and economic tumult. This is the main reason why Netanyahu can feel confident about elections, and why if they are to take place he is reported to want them as soon as possible. As things look, he is correct from his standpoint: general elections in Israel are unlikely to produce any major change in the balance of political forces.