Analysis: Playing into Netanyahu's hands

Europeans allegedly attempting to harm PM ahead of election are actually strengthening his hand.

Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Israeli officials were quoted Monday morning as saying that the European decision to summon ambassadors to be scolded over Israeli building in the West Bank was an attempt to intervene in the Jewish state’s politics.
The officials suggested that the Europeans were trying to harm Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu politically ahead of the January 22 election, and help former foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s new party.
If that was their intention, they clearly do not understand Israeli politics.
Had Netanyahu gone against the world to take a step seen as controversial in the eyes of the Israeli public, perhaps it could have harmed him politically.
Israeli prime ministers have been punished in the past for thumbing their nose at the international community.
But building in settlement blocs and planning to develop the area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim is as close to consensus as it gets.
Netanyahu responding in such a way to the Palestinians breaking their commitments in the Oslo Accords with the world’s support was very much a populist move, especially in an election when the excess of Center-Left parties provides the prime minister with an interest in pursuing the reservoir of votes on the Right.
The Europeans condemning Netanyahu for taking that step only magnifies it, and helps him reap the political benefits of the move even more.
Every time Europe shouts, chances are Netanyahu will win a few more votes.
A Panels poll broadcast on the Knesset Channel on Monday found that 69 percent of first-time voters said they identified with the Right. That number could be alarming to the Europeans who want Israel to make compromises with the Palestinians.
But a poll published Sunday by renowned pollster Stanley Greenberg balances that poll out. The Greenberg poll found that the top priority of Israelis is the socioeconomic issue.
It is no coincidence that Greenberg works for Labor, which is trying to capitalize on the popularity of the socioeconomic issue, especially among young people who filled the streets in the summer 2011 protests.
Hopes on the Left that Israelis will finally vote on the socioeconomic issue rather than on war and peace – a change that could potentially make the next Knesset more moderate on the Palestinian issue – are now being threatened by politicians.
Not Tzipi Livni. Polls show her impact since her return has been negligible. She gobbled up votes that once belonged to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence Party and Kadima – but not much else.
The politicians who are harming the Israeli Left and helping Netanyahu are British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and their Scandinavian counterparts who sent their staff to grill Israeli diplomats.
If they continue to make such mistakes, after January 22 they could end up dealing with a larger Likud-Beytenu – with less of a mandate to make concessions that the Europeans deem so integral to making peace.