Jannus TH Siahaan

Bad Boy is Back

Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won a total of 64 seats out of the 120 seat Israeli parliament in the election the other day.

His Likud party won 32 seats, while the ultra-Orthodox party won 18 seats, and other right-wing alliances won 14 seats.

On the other hand, Yair Lapid and his allies were only able to win 51 seats, which put them back on the path of the opposition.

So the longest serving prime minister in the Abrahamic lands is back in his post as the leader of what is branded by many as the most right wing government in Israel’s 74-year history.

Even though the international community’s response was not very positive, in general they said they were willing to cooperate with the new government formed by Netanyahu because of the fruits of democratic elections.

However, Israel, United States, and the European Union will find it increasingly difficult to find agreement on two key issues related to Israel, namely the issue of Palestine and Iran.

On the one hand, US under the Biden administration and the European Union still believe that a “two states solution” is the best way for Israel to achieve a permanent balance point with Palestine.

For this reason, the direction and spirit of the US and European Union’s strategic policies will give more portions to diplomacy and negotiations that will open up opportunities for the establishment of a Palestinian state that will coexist with the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, the direction and spirit of Netanyahu’s strategic policy is the opposite. The “Abraham Accord” agreement that was successfully inscribed in the previous Netanyahu era is clear evidence of Netanyahu’s direction.

Although the agreement does not explicitly eliminate the existence of Palestine, the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab and African Muslim countries de facto strengthens international recognition of the sovereignty of the state of Israel on the one hand and reduces the possibility of realizing a “two states solution” on the other.

However, this was eventually realized by Netanyahu due to the full support of Donald Trump and the Republican Government in United States.

Now the situation is not at all the same. Joe Biden, who spent eight years with Obama almost always opposite Netanyahu, is currently “incharge” at the White House. That is, the “two states solution” is also being “on the table” in Washington.

Likewise with Netanyahu’s strategic policy direction towards Iran. The combination of frontal, confrontational narratives and non-diplomatic approaches with Israeli intelligence style cowboy actions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons will color relations between the two countries as long as Netanyahu is in power.

Actually it is not too different from the interests of the western world (US and the European Union), which do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons. What makes the difference is the approach. Netanyahu will close the diplomatic option with Iran, while the European Union and America still believe that an agreement can be reached through diplomacy.

Netanyahu is well aware of these international constraints. Surely he had carefully calculated the possible reactions from the western world regarding these two issues.

But as usual, Netanyahu will always find an opening to play his cards. One of them is taking advantage of the disharmony of the Biden administration with Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries on the one hand and Russia on the other, which has also been very disharmonious with Washington since the war with Ukraine.

This is one of the classic but “brilliant” steps from Netanyahu in taking advantage of the situation. Netanyahu will strengthen cooperation with Arab countries threatened by Iran’s nuclear weapons plan to gain international legitimacy for Israel’s strong rejection, with concessions on the Palestinian issue.

On the one hand, Israel will be a key ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in opposing Iran’s dominance in the Middle East. On the other hand, Israel will also try to lead them to ignore the “two states solution” offered by Washington and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu will diplomatically and rhetorically maintain that his administration is the main partner of the United States and the European Union in the Middle East, at least to keep Israel’s aid budget included in every budget plan submitted by the White House.

And as usual, US and the European Union too, could not do much to prevent Netanyahu from maneuvering. Especially at a time when the relationship between the White House and the Saudis is deteriorating. The best course for Washington is to stay with Israel, regardless of who is in power.

This means that no matter how bad the developments on the issue of Iran and Palestine are, Israel will still be America’s strategic partner in the Middle East. And in Netanyahu’s hands, Isreal will become a “golden boy” as well as a “bad boy” for Washington.

Netanyahu will exploit every inch of opportunity that exists in the midst of this dilemma. Of all the leaders and potential leaders in Israel today, only Netanyahu has this ability.

About the Author
Doctor of Sociology from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia. Defense and Environment Observer.