With the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel, questions are raised as to whether support for Israel will decrease.
Bibi is unquestionably a damaged politician. He engaged in several actions that either due to clumsiness or due to political opportunism, have unnecessarily exposed Israel to criticism.
Bibi allowed the bi-partisan support enjoyed by Israel in the United States to be weakened. Whether this is due to mishandling of the relationship by Bibi or by U.S. President Barack Obama, or (most likely) both, the Israel/U.S. relationship is not as strong today as it should be, and Israel’s prime minister has to be accountable for that. In a world that is increasingly antisemitic, Israel can ill afford to alienate its strongest and most consistent ally.
During the campaign, Bibi challenged the concept of two-state solution by saying, “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel”. What he should have said is, “I support the concept of a two-state solution, but only if it does not result in terrorists being given an area from which to attack the State of Israel”.
The difference between what Bibi said and what he should have said is subtle but one statement will be used by anti-Zionists to claim that Israel is against the two-state solution that is touted by the world’s democracies, while the second statement would be much harder to exploit. It is very likely that Bibi knew this and simply wanted to attract right-wing votes regardless of potential negative consequences.
The reality however is that no Israeli government, whether it is led by Bibi or anyone else, would refuse a two-state solution that provides a peaceful Palestine next to Israel, even if any reasonable person also knows that this is extremely unlikely to happen in the current Palestinian circumstances. In fact, shortly after winning the election, Bibi confirmed that he does in fact support a two-state solution!
Bibi also made the anti-Zionists’ task easier during the election with statements about Arab voters that many could consider to be incitement to racism. Again, in this case too Bibi likely knew what he was doing but wanted to attract right-wing voters.
Bibi’s tactics seem to have worked since his party won the most seats and will likely form a coalition to govern Israel again. Bibi is not a warmonger or a racist, and he is clearly a good friend of the United States; however, in a tight race against a strong center-left coalition, he chose to engage in right-wing electioneering rather than to emphasize his centrist track record.
But despite Bibi’s missteps, before the election Israel was an imperfect democracy surrounded by tyrannical regimes, and after the election Israel is still an imperfect democracy surrounded by tyrannical regimes. Israel is no less democratic, and its neighbors are no less tyrannical. Before the election, Israel’s enemies relied on lies and half-truths for their antisemitic assault on the Jewish state, and after the election, they will do the same. Nothing much has changed.
Every country in the world is led by a damaged and imperfect politician, especially after that politician has been in power for a few years.