Middle east

Netanyahu’s Win Means Israelis Aren’t US Administration’s Vassals, Author Says

Former Israeli Prime Minister and the head of Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara gesture after first exit poll results for the Israeli Parliamentary election at his party’s headquarters in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition won 64 seats in the 120-seat parliament last week, paving the way for his political comeback. On November 6, Netanyahu urged his fellow lawmakers to unite in order to serve the people of Israel.”By choosing Netanyahu despite pressure from the American administration and the EU, the Israeli society has shown independence and sovereignty,” Nelly Gutina, an Israeli author and political commentator, told Sputnik. “We do not know how the geopolitical puzzle will unfold during the current global confrontation, but we can be sure that today Israel is headed by a competent and experienced player in the geopolitical field, and not a vassal of the American administration.”When Netanyahu had to step down last year and was replaced by Naftali Bennett, there was a lot of speculation in the US mainstream press that “adults” had taken the reins again both in the White House and Beit Aghion.The Bennett Cabinet appeared willing to improve ties with the Biden administration. On June 2021, Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid promised US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “fix mistakes” made “in the past few years” and adhere to a “no surprises” policy, i.e. informing the US government of any major actions beforehand. The move prompted fierce criticism from Netanyahu, who accused the Bennett-Lapid government of endangering the Jewish state’s sovereignty.In August 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held his first meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House, to “open a new chapter in US-Israel relations.” Bennett said at the time that he had brought a “new spirit” with him. However, this bromance did not last long. Israeli publicist and political commentator Avigdor Eskin told Sputnik in July 2021 that “although Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is no less right-wing than Benjamin Netanyahu and he is a religious person, President Biden feels more comfortable with him than with his predecessor [Netanyahu],” adding that Bennett “does not have the same record of cordial relations with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.” Still, Eskin pointed to obvious vulnerabilities of the Bennett coalition, which comprised conservatives, liberals, and Arabs, and predicted that it could crumble, opening the door to Netanyahu’s comeback. On November 1, a majority of Israelis voted for Netanyahu’s coalition, thus turning Eskin’s forecast into reality.Opinion & AnalysisWill Netanyahu Make a Comeback and How Could It Pan Out for Israel & World?1 November, 16:30 GMT

Netanyahu to Rely on Religious Zionism

According to the Israeli media, Likud chairman Netanyahu began informal talks on forming his next government on November 6, even though he has not yet been officially handed the mandate by President Isaac Herzog. He met with party leaders of his bloc to discuss their demands for entering the government coalition.Israeli and American liberal media are bemoaning the fact that the new government is hard conservative and citing the growing influence of the Religious Zionism party and its Otzma Yehudit faction, led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, respectively.Some media even pointed to Ben Gvir’s former membership in the youth movement with the nationalist group Kach. However, the Otzma Yehudit leader shrugged off their criticism and stressed in one of his interviews: “I’ve grown up, I’ve moderated and I’ve come to understand that life is more complicated.”

"Netanyahu's coalition will rely on what has become the third largest party, which liberals inside Israel and in the West have identified as 'supremacist' and 'nationalist,'" Gutina noted. "Well, nationalist parties are a trend today even in calm liberal Sweden."

According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu met with Smotrich in Jerusalem on Sunday and sat with Ben Gvir on Monday. Previously, the latter said that he might get the position of public security minister, responsible for the police, if Netanyahu takes the reins.WorldUS-Israeli Relations: Why Biden-Bennett Bromance May End and Open Door to Netanyahu’s Comeback10 July 2021, 16:12 GMT

Netanyahu’s Foreign Strategy

"The Biden administration has yet to take a clear stance on Netanyahu's victory, but American Jewish organizations, that are mostly pro-Democrats, are now 'in mourning,'" Gutina remarked.

Meanwhile, Jewish journalists are wondering whether Biden and Netanyahu will get along and or whether the US and Israel will face bumpy relations in the vein of the Obama years.As of Sunday evening, Biden hadn’t called Netanyahu to congratulate him. Israeli observers have admitted that the US president called former Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid much sooner.Still, Israeli publicist Avigdor Eskin argued while speaking to Sputnik on November 1 that Netanyahu is likely to maintain good working relations with both the White House and the US Congress, were he to win the vote. It was reported on November 5 that a US envoy had told Netanyahu that the US president was a bit busy due to the midterms, but that he would call the incoming Israeli prime minister soon.According to Gutina, the victory of Netanyahu’s conservative coalition also means that Israel will double down on implementing the Abraham Accords, a series of joint normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, brokered by the Trump administration in 2020. The accords were not in focus of the Bennett-Lapid government, the Israeli commentator remarked.In addition to that, Israel is likely to increase pressure on Iran and its nuclear program, according to the author. Citing Netanyahu’s ally Tzachi Hanegbi, a longtime Likud MK and former minister, the Israeli press suggested that the incoming prime minister could resort to the military option against Tehran.Russia’s strengthened cooperation with Iran could be a “game changer,” according to Gutina, who suggests that the upcoming balance of power in the region depends on Moscow’s art of diplomacy.


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