|Netanyahu paints himself into a corner||
In the Israeli parliamentary election of January 22, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line bloc suffered an unprecedented drop in the number of seats it won, which clearly showed that the popularity of his alliance is dropping precipitously.
Netanyahu’s radical approach toward foreign policy, especially his intransigence on the Mideast peace process, and the worsening economic situation in Israel were two major factors behind his surprise setback. In other words, most of the Israeli settlers and the Arab Israelis have become fed up with Netanyahu’s overemphasis on foreign policy and his inattention to internal issues. Moreover, Netanyahu’s exaggeration of alleged security threats, including his fixation with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, and his adamant rejection of Palestine’s application for recognition of its statehood at the United Nations have caused numerous problems for Israel, most notably the rise in tension with its main ally, the United States.
Netanyahu called for early elections three months ago, expecting an easy victory that would increase the number of seats of his Likud Party and their allies in the Knesset. In fact, he thought he would form a coalition government with less friction with opposition parties. However, the results show that he will have to scramble to put together a coalition of parties, including center-left groups that have dramatically different views than Netanyahu on many polarizing issues.
Such a situation would largely benefit Iran, since Netanyahu’s rivals are determined to force him to change his stance on Iran as well as many other foreign policy issues. Israel’s center-left parties are mostly focused on internal issues, especially the economic situation and the controversial issue of conscription. If they join the government, Netanyahu will be compelled to tone down his rhetoric on Iran if he wants the coalition government to survive.
Given Israel’s economic situation and the political turmoil in the region, Netanyahu’s threats against Iran will be viewed as empty, and even the most obstinate Israeli hard-liners will not endorse his Iranophobia campaign.
Samad Ghaempanah is a political analyst and expert on Middle Eastern and African studies based in Tehran.
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