Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, he made an effort to bring about peace in the Middle East.
What Obama ended up accomplishing instead was repeatedly and inadvertently strengthening his nemesis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the polls. Unlike with US president Bill Clinton, whose clashes with Netanyahu weakened the prime minister in his first term, whenever Obama and Netanyahu publicly sparred, Netanyahu’s support rose.
After failing to help Shimon Peres defeat Netanyahu in 1996, Clinton sent his campaign strategists to defeat Netanyahu in the 1999 election. Obama might have wished he could bring Netanyahu down, but every step he took boomeranged against him.
US President Donald Trump has also helped Netanyahu politically. Their positive meetings have made Netanyahu look good to his constituents. Trump’s successful visit to Israel was another pick-me-up for the prime minister.
But nothing has helped Netanyahu more than Trump not only nixing the Iran deal but also giving Israeli intelligence credit for his decision in his speech on Tuesday. Trump changed Netanyahu’s “fixed or nixed” demand to “renegotiated or terminated,” but other than that, adopted Netanyahu’s policies on Iran.
Trump’s speech proved successful not only Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress in March 2015 but also his first speech there in 1996.
A Midgam poll broadcast Wednesday night on Channel 2 found that if an election were held now, Netanyahu’s Likud party would rise from its current 30 Knesset seats to 35, up from the 28 predicted by the same pollster on April 23 and the best the Likud has fared in Midgam polls in a decade.
It is possible that if Midgam takes another poll after Monday’s ceremony moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem at Trump’s behest, Netanyahu will rise even higher. If both of Trump decisions lead to security tensions, that could boost Netanyahu even more.
Polls have indicated that Netanyahu is the only man Israelis trust with their security. His success in persuading the US president on the Iran issue reinforces the message that Netanyahu is head and shoulders above any potential political rival, that the current Knesset is Netanyahu and the 119 dwarfs.
It is no wonder that Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was rattled in the aftermath of Trump’s speech, putting out a statement saying the opposite of what he said on the radio hours earlier. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay sounded even more confused, releasing a statement that was virtually incomprehensible.
A previous Midgam poll had indicated that the Likud was losing its luster in the aftermath of a petty dispute over speeches at the Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl. The criminal probes of the prime minister could have caused him to plummet politically.
But last week sent a message to the voters that Netanyahu is irreplaceable. Netanyahu can only hope the message was heard by the man who has the only vote on the investigations, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
It is still unclear when Mandelblit will be making his decision whether to issue indictments. But an election in 2018 look more unlikely than ever.
And if Mandelblit surprises by expediting his determination of the prime minister’s fate, perhaps Obama can come back to the Middle East.
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