Netanyahu: Controversy or Truth?

Newly re-elected Prime Minister Netanyahu won his campaign by a strong margin, but was his tactic fair? He alienated 20% of the electorate at the cost of severely impairing US-Israeli Relations. What does this all mean for peace in the region?
 
Where in the world?
By Janith Peiris
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Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election won’t be helpful for repairing relations with the US or Middle Eastern neighbours. (Photo: The Guardian)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considered a “Churchill among Chamberlains” among his radical right-wing supporters in the US Senate. He is the leader the GOP (Republicans) crave because he is so hawkish. His recent shift to the far right as well as his speech to Congress at the beginning of March have unsettled the White House and this could have long-term negative impacts for Israel, not least the withholding of arms, a veto in the UN and $3 billion dollars in ‘aid’. 
 
Netanyahu’s centre-right Likud party was widely-predicted to lose to the centre-left Zionist Union (the Israeli equivalent of Labour). But through a shock win, he pulled through with 30 seats in the Knesset to their 24 seats. Israeli politics has always been full of coalitions and complications so this isn’t a surprise, though his tactics for winning the vote were strange. 

 
Netanyahu began the most controversial part of his campaign two weeks before the election, when his address to the US Congress damaged relations with the White House as he did something unprecedented: coming to a foreign country before his own election. While addressing Congress, he received over 50 standing ovations with the longest lasting 8 minutes, despite preaching fear and war. He said Iran was within touching distance of getting a nuclear weapon when in fact the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that all uranium has been regulated efficiently and monitored by international standards. What was worse was the close critique he gave of the peace brokering with Iran, not only undermining the president of the USA, but also arrogantly dictating how the US should conduct its foreign policy. 
 
Democrats in the US have erupted in anger at the way he followed up the remarks when campaigning in his own elections. They were among the ones applauding his speech but became disheartened as soon as he turned his back on peace negotiations, the only way the US could effectively defend Israel’s record on the world stage. He rejected the two-state solution, retracted his statement at Bar Ilan University in 2009 in which he expressed support for creating a “demilitarized Palestinian state that would recognize the Jewish state,” and promised the right-wing hardliners in Israel that under his term, no division of the state would occur. This pulled into the question the USA’s conditional veto in the UN. There is even speculation as to whether the White House will retaliate by withholding it in the next resolution. 
 
Netanyahu has made it worse for himself by stating that “the right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going to vote in droves. Left Wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” This statement was obviously an attempt to stir tensions and muster the right-wing to vote. Sadly such fear mongering worked and he remains in power, clearly dissuaded from even considering a two state solution. 
 
So in light of Mr Netanyahu’s recent successful election campaign, one must reflect what impact it has had for Israel. Netanyahu has undoubtedly endangered the security and stability of Israel and indeed the wider region by:
  1. Angering the White House who provide him with unconditional support, for him only to undermine their foreign policy, leaking confidential agreements between the US and Israel about the Iranian negotiations to the papers;
  2. By withholding the tax money of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – $1billion in revenue was taken from the pockets of all civil servants and public sector workers plunging the PA into debt for over 3 months;
  3. Issuing inflammatory comments and undermining Israel’s legitimacy as a country as it refuses to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians probably leading to future conflicts;
  4. Angered his allies in Europe by urging European Jews to flee the anti-Semitism they face in Britain, France and the Netherlands and come to Israel. This has naturally caused a rift in relations especially after the Charlie Hebdo atrocities in January.

 

The Israeli PM has placed his country on the brink by angering not only his biggest donor, but also his Western allies. Netanyahu has since backtracked from the comments he made during the election campaign, but what he said in the election may be the truth; peace in the region won’t be reached soon and the White House’s support is wavering. 
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Janith Peiris
Janith Peiris

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