JERUSALEM – Weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu won the election for his second term, to the tune of ardent political speculators on all sides. With this win under his belt, he is now on track to become the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s relatively brief history.
According to exit polling, the long-time leader was not slated to win this round as definitively as he did. The win cost him his commitment to renegotiate a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu accomplished his latest victory by taking a hard right stance in the last days of the election in order to intensify the contrast between himself and his opponent, Yitzhak Herzog. When the latter conceded the election to Netanyahu, he did it with the caveat that “nothing has changed; we will keep fighting for a just society.”
Herzog’s concessionary promise carries an echoic tone in its delivery. This may not be the first time that a lame duck candidate has attempted to step down with flair, but Israel’s recent history casts the message into an incendiary light.
Ben Sales of the Arizona Jewish Post claims that Netanyahu’s influence has led to Israel “shed[ding]much of its historic socialist character to emerge as one of the developed world’s most economically unequal countries.” On top of that, his detractors continue to point out that Netanyahu did not resolve Israel’s biggest foreign policy issues.
The nation has been steeped in conflict with local Palestinians ever since its inception. Any politician can have his failures brought into sharp relief under such contentious circumstances.
But asking one Prime Minister to resolve Israel’s biggest, most persistent problem is apt to be too tall an order. Even for a highly capable, intelligent, and motivated leader such as Netanyahu, who spent a number of years earning degrees at MIT and Harvard for management and political science respectively, the demand may be too grandiose to resolve during his tenure.
Having lived in both Israel and the United States during his childhood, Netanyahu’s loyalty to Israel was sealed with the death of his brother during Operation Entebbe in 1976. Additionally, many speculate that the relationship between him and Obama is strained, at best, causing both countries to suffer the lack of an easy alliance.
The strain in Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama is likely caused by their starkly opposing political views. One leans far to the right, the other far to the left. In fact, there was recent speculation over whether or not Netanyahu ought or ought not to have kept his recent speaking engagement with Obama in Washington D.C. for fear of worsening diplomatic relations even more than they already have been.
Now with talk of Iran’s nuclear arms on the proverbial table, whatever issues are remaining may explode. In the midst of the conflict sit two men of considerable power and capability. How they choose to handle that power, both individually and as uncomfortable political bedmates, will determine crucial outcomes for both Israel and the United States for a long time, possibly for the rest of the foreseeable future.
– Leah Zazofsky