The Upcoming Israeli Election May Seem Like a Repeat, but Benjamin Netanyahu Has Changed His Tune

Oct. 12 2022

For the past 43 months, Israel has had a series of elections that produced either inconclusive results, or short-lived, unstable coalitions. Next month, Israelis will go to the polls for what they are calling “round five.” One thing, however, is different: Benjamin Netanyahu, after twelve years as prime minister, is no longer the incumbent. As a result, he is running a campaign very different from those he ran in the previous four elections. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Netanyahu has never won a majority in [opinion] polls that tested “fitness to be prime minister.” He leads the pack of party leaders, but never passes the 50-percent mark. A plurality is significant in a multiparty system, but it’s not enough if your opponents unite.

On August 3, for the first time in years, Netanyahu presented a detailed economic program that the party would be running on. The campaign wouldn’t be about Netanyahu himself or the danger posed by a sinister leftist-Arab alliance, but about a “return to stability” and a commitment to long-delayed reforms.

He laid out a wish list of said reforms: reducing tariffs and import regulations to allow cheap imports to drive down consumer prices; streamlining the housing-construction approval process; lowering the cost of electricity, gasoline, and water (apparently through subsidies or price controls); subsidizing land purchases for young people seeking to build homes; freezing municipal property taxes for a year to help offset inflation; and most dramatically, lowering the age of free public education from three years to zero and offering state-funded daycare from birth.

For the first time since the 2015 election, Likud wants to talk about substance. It has also, for the first time in memory, turned forcefully against its most aggressive and disreputable activists.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli economy, Israeli politics, Likud

The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship