MER – Netanyahu’s victory?

Netanyahu’s victory?Last week, in analyzing the letter, signed by 47 American senators, to the Iranian leadership I speculated about its potential impact on Israeli politics. The letter, in my opinion, was further evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had achieved his goal with his controversial speech on Iran in Washington in terms of him winning more votes from the Israeli right in the upcoming elections.

Well, since Netanyahu emerged victorious from yesterdayand#39s election, we can confirm that his Iran speech and the letter signed by American senators to Iran helped him to lure more voters from the right to his Likud Party. Yet, more important, perhaps, than the Iran issue was Netanyahuand#39s decision to move further to the right on the Palestinian issue.

After all, Hamas trumps Iran as an immediate threat in the eyes of most Israelis. The case is especially true in the eyes of the main demographic group that Netanyahu successfully targeted: the ultra-conservative and ultra-nationalist right.

Netanyahu is a masterful strategist when it comes to domestic politics. He quickly understood that his opponents on the left were gaining ground by emphasizing bread and butter issues such as cost of living, housing shortages, unemployment, etc.

Since his economic record is far being positive, Netanyahu made the decision to move his discourse further to the right on security issues. Iran was part of that strategy.

But Iran is a distant threat for most Israelis. What the Israeli right, and especially the growing number of Israeli settlers, considers as a andldquoclear and presentandrdquo danger is the prospect of a Palestinian state in the framework of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problemThis is why Netanyahu declared that there would be andldquono Palestinian state under his watch.

andrdquo This statement mobilized more voters from the Israeli far right to the ballot box and tipped the balance in Likudand#39s favor As The New York Times reported, David Axelrod, President Barack Obamaand#39s former senior aiser, said on Tuesday evening on Twitter that Netanyahuand#39s last-minute stand against a Palestinian state might have helped to ensure him another victory. andldquoTightness of exits in Israel suggests Bibiand#39s shameful 11th-hour demagoguery may have swayed enough votes to save him But at what cost?andrdquo he wrote.

The best answer to Axelrodand#39s question of andldquoat what cost?andrdquo is that in politics short-term gains always trump long-term costs. Moreover, on the question of Palestine and the peace process, time is on Netanyahuand#39s side because the Israeli demographics are rapidly moving to the right.

The fastest-growing population group in Israel is by far the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, also known as the Haredi. The Haredi population has grown almost fourfold in the past 25 years, from 3 percent of the population in 1990 to over 12 percent today.

Estimates suggest that by 2028, Haredim will represent a quarter of all children in Israel under 14 years old and roughly a third of Jewish children that age. Courting the demographic community that is most adamantly opposed to a two-state solution and a peace process with Arabs is a winning formula for Netanyahu.

Under such demographic circumstances it is impossible to see how the Israeli left can survive in the long run. If demography is destiny, the Israeli right seems destined to govern.

Finally, a few words about US-Israeli relations.Netanyahuand#39s victory is obviously a disappointment for Obama This victory will only confirm in the eyes of American policymakers that Israel is not interested in a new peace process with the Palestinians.

This result will also convince Palestinians and particularly Hamas that there is no hope on the political horizon. The US is already looking for opportunities to rebalance foreign policy from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Israeli election result and Bibiand#39s victory will only confirm the American view that the Middle East is beyond salvation.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman