- Special Pages
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call elections is a calculated move and means that in January next year, a new American president will be inaugurated shortly ahead of a new Israeli government. The political winds in Israel are blowing in Netanyahu’s favour and current predictions are that he will be reelected. At the same time, the outcome of the US presidential election is unpredictable, with Democratic candidate President Barack Obama faltering and stumbling after his dismal performance in the first debate with the Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Much can change before the election in the US. But whatever the outcome, Netanyahu is likely to emerge stronger. He will work either with Obama or Romney; if it’s with the former, he will try to bulldoze his way to make him fall in line and if it’s with the latter, things will be easy for him as Romney already agrees with the Israeli premier on all contentious issues in the Middle East. And that will mean a bleak future for Palestinians. Netanyahu, with a track record of killing the peace process, will do all he can to make sure that the peace process doesn’t come alive again.
While Romney will be happy to work with Netanyahu, Obama may hope that the latter is unseated. The relations between two are strained and Obama has not visited Israel after taking office. Also, the US president never succeeded in pushing the Israeli government to make concessions to restart the peace process and the Israeli government never listened to Washington, especially on the issue of settlements which was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the peace process. Obama sought to publicly distance himself from Israel early in his term.
Netanyahu will be going to the voters trumpeting the stability and security he has achieved for the Jewish nation. Security is the number one priority for Israelis and all other issues are secondary. At the same time, Netanyahu’s critics point out an erosion in the democratic values of the state under his rule, which the left and the secular forces consider a serious issue. Netanyahu’s re-election means Israel will become less democratic.
The Iran nuclear issue will be a priority for new leaders in Tel Aviv and Washington. Despite the hawkish stance which Romney has adopted on Iran, there is a chance he will tone down his jingoism if elected. Dragging America into another war will not be easy and the consequences will be disastrous. During an interview with CNN, Romney was quoted as saying that the US has “a long way to go before military action may be necessary”. That shows he is coming to grips with the reality.