Tag Archives: Netanyahu

Trump and Netanyahu make me fear for a two-state solution and Middle East peace

Trump and Netanyahu make me fear for a two-state solution and Middle East peaceTrump acquiescence to West Bank annexation would threaten peace prospects, democracy, shared US-Israeli values and bipartisan support for Israel.



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'King Bibi': perennial survivor Netanyahu comes out ahead

'King Bibi': perennial survivor Netanyahu comes out aheadDespite corruption allegations and stiff opposition from a new centre party, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to boost his party’s share of the vote and looks set to keep power. While his right-wing Likud party and a centrist coalition appear set to have around the same number of parliamentary seats after Tuesday’s general elections, the man called ‘King Bibi’ by admirers has a clear path to forming a coalition. The 69-year-old is now likely to form another right-wing government and become the longest-serving Israeli prime minister later this year.



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Israel Elections a Cliffhanger for Netanyahu, New Hope for His Opposition

Israel Elections a Cliffhanger for Netanyahu, New Hope for His OppositionGALI TIBBONJERUSALEM–It will be a long night in Israel, where initial exit polls Tuesday evening indicated a close electoral victory for opposition head Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff. But the prognosis for his chances to form a winning coalition block against right-wing parties led by the Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has held office for 10 years, and dominated Israeli politics for a generation.Both candidates declared immediate victory, though Gantz’s declaration, issued jointly with his deputy, former finance minister Yair Lapid, had a more exuberant tone.“We won! The Israeli public has had their say!” the pair exulted in a statement. “Thank you to the thousands of activists and over a million voters. These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser. Netanyahu promised 40 seats and lost. The President [Reuven Rivlin] can see the picture and should call on the winner to form the next government. There is no other option!”A few minutes later, in a Hebrew-language tweet, Netanyahu declared victory on behalf of his political wing, not himself or his party: “The right-wing bloc led by the Likud won a clear victory. I thank the citizens of Israel for their trust. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners tonight.”Netanyahu’s position was weakened by news that he faces indictments for corruption, and, to all appearances, by a brutal campaign in which he attacked Gantz, without basis, for allying with Arabs, for supposedly celebrating the “martyrdom” of Islamist militants killed in fighting with Israel and allegedly concealing an a sex-tape putatively hacked by Iran.  While Netanyahu ran a mudslinging blitzkrieg against his Israeli opponents he basked in the extraordinary support of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump. Putin helped to return a long-lost Israeli casualty of the 1982 Lebanon War in a public ceremony with Netanyahu in Moscow just days before the vote.  And Trump over the last year has gone far to meet Netanyahu’s most hardline diplomatic demands: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closing the consulate there which handled Palestinian affairs, then announcing in recent days his support for Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while declaring the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is a terrorist organization.In truth, virtually all of Trump’s Middle East policy has been oriented toward, if not directed by, Netanyahu’s vision of the region, which often is coordinated with that of  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (the suspected murderer of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). In Israel on Tuesday night, the exit polls brought surprise figures showing a virtual dead heat between the two main political blocks in the raucous political arena. But figures are expected to shift as definitive results stream in overnight.Historically low turnout of under 70 percent appeared to be the one clear result of the bruising, incitement-filled campaign which was low on content or policy debates. The mixed results–and potential loss for Netanyahu–was relayed in televised exit polls and at a massive rally planned for Tel Aviv, where Likud activists faced the unimaginable: the possible scenario of President Rivlin having to choose between two more or less equal voting blocks of 60 and 60.In addition, a disengaged and disaffected Arab public, the brunt of constant attacks by Prime Minister Netanyahu, appeared reluctant to take part in the electoral process. Haaretz senior pollster Camil Fuchs, of Tel Aviv University, said that if the figures being reported from the Arab sector hold steady,  historically low participation rates such could “completely change the Knesset map.”Whichever man is chosen, the interim results indicate the Israeli populace may be thirsty for a change, and the country seems headed for a period of political instability. Even if Netanyahu is called upon to form the next government, he is likely to face stiff opposition from within his own political camp when indicted late this summer. NetanyahuIf Gantz is chosen, the quiet general with no political experience may go down in history as a dragon-slayer.While widely criticized for remaining a political cypher, the soft-spoken Gantz ran on two clear positions. He insisted that Netanyahu himself, with accusations of corruption trailing him, was the greatest danger facing Israel. This was the argument he used to explain the seemingly contradictory inclusion of right-wingers such as former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and left-leaning candidates such as Lapid. Gantz said it was a response to an “emergency”: Netanyahu. Gantz also launched his campaign with the promise he’d change the controversial Nation-State Law, a measure Netanyahu claimed as his principal legislative achievement demoting Arabic from its status as an official language of the state and granting a special, elevated status to Jewish communities. The law’s passage provoked the largest public protests Israel has seen in decades and prompted Rivlin to sign the measure in Arabic, an unprecedented act of protest by a sitting Israeli president.Netanyahu, an experienced master of Israel’s parliamentary maneuvering, cannot be dismissed and may yet form Israel’s next government, but he will be a chastened giant, unlikely to escape the clutches of indictment and confronted by a robust, invigorated opposition in the Knesset.Whatever results Israelis wake up to in the morning, King Bibi is no more. At a Tel Aviv rally, Gantz, the old commander, thanked Netanyahu for his service and declared the dawning of a new day in Israel. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here



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Netanyahu challenger halts Israel poll day drive to help biker

Netanyahu challenger halts Israel poll day drive to help bikerIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger, Benny Gantz, stopped his car on polling day on Tuesday to help an injured motorcyclist on a highway, local media reported. A video shows a jacketless Gantz, who was the chief of Israel’s military before joining politics, bending over the helmeted rider next to a crashed motorcycle, getting updates from people at the site before squatting down to exchange a few words. “Where does it hurt, if it hurts?” Gantz asked.



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Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu headed for record 5th term as Benny Gantz concedes

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu headed for record 5th term as Benny Gantz concedesIsrael's conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a record fifth term after a neck-and-neck finish in parliamentary elections.



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Israel's Netanyahu Retains Grip on Power Despite Graft Probes

Israel's Netanyahu Retains Grip on Power Despite Graft ProbesNetanyahu’s Likud party and retired general Benny Gantz’s Blue and White bloc each won 35 of parliament’s 120 seats. Shortly after polls closed, several of the prime minister’s current partners announced that they would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Netanyahu form the next government. “It will be a right-wing government but I intend to be the prime minister of all Israel,” the premier told cheering supporters in Tel Aviv, following a divisive campaign where alleged corruption and personal insult overshadowed policy differences.



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Netanyahu, main rival Gantz, claim victory in Israeli election

Netanyahu, main rival Gantz, claim victory in Israeli electionExit polls on two of Israel’s three main TV channels showed Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party won slightly more seats than Likud in the 120-member parliament, while a third survey forecast a tie. If he wins, Netanyahu, 69, will be on track to be the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s 71-year history. Gantz, 59, a former military chief, is a political novice.



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The Great Survivor: How Benjamin Netanyahu clung on to power in Israel again

The Great Survivor: How Benjamin Netanyahu clung on to power in Israel againIt was an election challenge that would unnerve even the most hardened political operative: Benjamin Netanyahu was asking Israelis to give him a fifth term as prime minister. But both he and his wife were facing criminal corruption charges. A majority of Israeli voters were telling pollsters they were tired of Mr Netanyahu after 10 years in office. And his opponent was a decorated former general, exactly the kind of man Israelis have historically chosen as their leader.    Yet a week before the election, the character playing Mr Netanyahu on Israel’s leading satire show, A Wonderful Country, delivered a monologue that would prove prescient. “I gave them a head start," the Netanyahu character mused. "Three indictments, 500 rockets from Gaza into Israel, shortages tens of thousands of hospital beds… And at the end, we will still win 30 seats.”    Mr Netanyahu, known in Israel as "Bibi", did even better in Tuesday's election. Early results showing winning 35 seats, the largest result for his party since 2003. His centrist challenger, Benny Gantz, also won 35 seats but Mr Netanyahu had the much clearer path to forming a coalition government.  He is arguably now the most successful election-winner in Israeli history. In July this year he will overtake David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, as the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.  Whether Mr Netanyahu can stay in office long-term in the face of the criminal indictments against him is another question. But for now it is worth asking: how did he win again?  Real achievements Even those Israelis who don’t like Mr Netanyahu’s brand of divisive Right-wing politics grudgingly acknowledge his achievements in the fields of security, diplomacy, and the economy.  His ten years in office have been some of the most peaceful in Israeli history. The suicide bombings that plagued the country in the early-2000s are a thing of the past. He kept Israel from being dragged into bloody Syrian war even though he has repeatedly ordered strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria.  And while Mr Netanyahu has failed to come up with any long-term solution to the situation in Gaza, the periodic fighting against Hamas has not resulted in large-scale casualties among Israeli soldiers or civilians.      On the diplomatic front, Mr Netanyahu has been proven correct in his thesis that he can refuse to move towards a Two-State solution with the Palestinians without paying any serious international cost.  Israeli jets have repeatedly struck in Syria Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo Instead of becoming more diplomatically isolated, Israel has increasingly open relations with the Gulf Arab countries, based on their shared opposition to Iran. Mr Netanyahu has brought security cooperation with Egypt, Israel’s former mortal enemy, to new heights. And he has boosted Israel’s diplomatic standing in Asia, Africa and Latin America while receiving unprecedented support from the Trump White House.   Israel’s economy has almost doubled in size since Mr Netanyahu came to power in 2009 and it has emerged as one of the world’s most innovative hi-tech nations. Its growth rate has consistently outstripped that of the UK and other developed countries.   L'état, c'est moi The main thrust of Mr Netanyahu’s election campaign was that he is an indispensable leader, without whom none of these achievements would be possible.  He argued that Israel’s successes abroad were down to his personal relationships with world leaders. One billboard showed him grinning alongside Donald Trump, with the caption: “Netanyahu: in a different league”. Implicit in his argument was that Israel would be committing an act of self-sabotage by not re-electing him, depriving itself of the man who personally holds the keys to unlocking success.   He underscored Israelis’ sense that the whole state depends on him by making himself foreign minister for the first three years of his premiership, and recently appointing himself defence minister.   The campaign seems to have worked. Many voters seem to have decided it was simply too risky not to re-elect Bibi. A little help from his friends Most leaders would spend the last weeks before an election vigorously campaigning at home. But Mr Netanyahu instead took his campaign abroad. He first went to Washington, where Mr Trump handed him a pre-election gift by recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.  Donald Trump and Mr Netanyahu after the US recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights Credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File Last week he went to Moscow, where Vladimir Putin helped him pull off another diplomatic coup: the return of the body of a missing Israeli soldier killed 37 years ago in Lebanon.    In between the two trips, Mr Netanyahu hosted Jair Bolsonaro, the far-Right president of Brazil, who had flown 6,500 miles to meet him in Jerusalem.    The world leaders all knowingly played along with Mr Netanyahu’s election campaign, helping him to project himself as a global statesman – one too busy with international affairs to worry about domestic politics.   Israel has moved to the Right Israel has moved staunchly to the Right in recent decades, giving an inbuilt advantage to any Right-wing leader trying to see off a challenge from the Left or Centre.  Nearly two-thirds of Israelis – 63 per cent – identify as Right-wing. Compare that to just 15 per cent who identify as on the Left and 18 per cent who consider themselves in the Centre.  There are many reasons for this Rightward shift but fundamentally Israelis have soured on the idea that peace with the Palestinians can be reached through negotiations based on a Two-State solution. Mr Netanyahu successfully stoked the fears and angers of Right-wing voters. He forged an electoral pact with a Jewish extremist group and presented himself as a champion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and a staunch opponent of a Palestinian state. People can argue whether Mr Netanyahu’s success is a cause or a symptom of this move to the Right. But it’s clear that in Israel’s current political environment, the wind was at his back.  Limp opposition Mr Netanyahu’s chief opponent, Benny Gantz, seemed like an ideal candidate.  He was a former general with vast military experience, the same pedigree as the last two prime ministers from the Centre-Left, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.   But Mr Gantz also had serious deficits. He had no experience in government or politics and his only position outside the military was at a technology start up which failed miserably. Benny Gantz could not match Mr Netanyahu's political skills Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images The ex-general often looked awkward on the campaign trail and could not match the prime minister’s political dexterity. His campaign had few policy specifics and its main message seemed to be its opposition to Mr Netanyahu, rather than real proposals of its own.   Some voters, even those sick of Mr Netanyahu, decided that Mr Gantz was simply too inexperienced and untested to go straight into the prime minister’s office.  A winning formula Mr Netanyahu repeated the same trick which helped him win the last election in 2015. In the final days before voters went to the polls, Mr Netanyahu began giving dozens of media interviews, where he appeared worried and anxious.  He warned that he was in serious danger of losing power and being replaced by a government of the Left. The only way to stop that, he said, was if Right-wing voters of all stripes rallied around his Likud party.  The tactic – known in Israel as “hitting the panic button” – worked in both 2015 and again in 2019.  Voters who had been planning to support one of the smaller Right-wing parties were frightened into supporting Mr Netanyahu’s Likud at the last minute. In doing so, they helped hand the prime minister victory once again.



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Israeli PM Netanyahu poised for 5th term as rival concedes

Israeli PM Netanyahu poised for 5th term as rival concedesJERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival conceded defeat Wednesday, promising to wage a robust battle from the opposition after the ruling Likud party and its nationalist allies won a solid majority in parliamentary elections.



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Israeli PM Netanyahu Appears Headed for Fifth Term after Close Race

Israeli PM Netanyahu Appears Headed for Fifth Term after Close RaceIn a race that had been too close to call for most of Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared headed for a record fifth term Wednesday morning.As of press time, with the unofficial vote tally nearly complete, Netanyahu's Likud party and its smaller nationalist and orthodox-religious coalition partners looked to have secured a comfortable majority in parliament, besting the Blue and White coalition led by centrist former army general Benny Gantz. Still, both candidates claimed victory with official results still to come in the days ahead."This is a night of great victory. I'm very touched that, for the fifth time, the people of Israel have believed in me," Netanyahu said Tuesday night at the Likud party election headquarters in Tel Aviv. "I will start forming a right-wing government with our natural partners as soon as tonight."Netanyahu and President Trump have cultivated a steady alliance since Trump took office in 2017, and Trump has awarded the prime minister with politically helpful decisions to move the U.S. Embassy in the country from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights."He's been a great ally and he's a friend, I'd like to congratulate him," Trump said of Netanyahu. "That was a well-thought out race I can tell you."The president added an optimistic prediction for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.“The fact that Bibi won, I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” Trump said. “Look, everyone said — and I never made it a promise — but everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians. I think we have a chance. I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won.”



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