Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and its political allies ensured his survival by winning the majority of seats in the parliamentary elections. Mr Netanyahu’s election campaign was overshadowed by corruption scandals, which he condemned as a “witch hunt” by the media and the left. Netanyahu is set to become the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history. However, this does not mean that Mr Netanyahu can be sure the Knesset will pass legislation protecting him from prosecution.
Key factors in his election success are his relationships with world leaders, primarily with US President Donald Trump, his promises to annex settlements in the West Bank and incorporate them into Israel, and his political alliances with right-wing parties. Another factor is the growing existential Iranian threat to Israel via Syria and Lebanon. Benjamin Netanyahu considers himself the Winston Churchill of Israel who warned the world about the Iranian danger and showed the way to prevent the diplomatic mistakes of pre-World War Two, which allowed the rise of Hitler. He opposes the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, initiated by then President Obama, on the basis that it does not ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon, nor does it address Tehran’s regional expansionist policies. Like Churchill he proved to be on the right side of history in his rejection of the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran with the beneficial JCPOA agreement. Now that the Islamic Republic finds its influence in the region encircled and faces growing dissatisfaction inside the country as a result of economic sanctions, it looks as though the tides have turned against the Iranian regime globally.
Strong Message to Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic fifth term win is a strong message by the people of Israel to Iran’s leadership which hoped to see him lose the election. Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and its right-wing political partners won the elections with a 10 seat lead over the left coalition in a contest which was a matter of political survival to him personally. Netanyahu’s reelection is going to boost his position as he faces the possibility of criminal charges over a serious corruption scandal.
The Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei and other representatives of the system have been counting on the downfall of some arch rivals: in Riyadh following the the Khashoggi incident and in Jerusalem following yesterday’s elections. Perhaps the Iranian leadership’s main expectation was President Trump’s “impeachment” by the US Congress based on the allegations of “Russian collusion” which turned out to be baseless accusations. This could have been used as a way to revive the Iran nuclear deal with new compromises in the long term. Iran’s three major geopolitical expectations failed and the growing economic sanctions and mismanagement are already increasing domestic pressure on its political system. Public anger at the failure to protect Iranian cities and villages from floods is visible in footage on social media.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s decision to designate the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization has been welcomed by the Iranian opposition members abroad. Opposition activists accuse the Guards of breaching human rights and facilitating the torture of dissidents over the past three decades. In addition, the IRGC covert terrorist attacks in the region through Shia militias, Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthis were contributing factors in President Trump’s decision. The Guards have heavily invested in Syria: sending military instructors, channeling militias, coordinating operations against the Syrian opposition, setting up military bases and channeling weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah via Syria. It is believed that the IRGC Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani is the man with the Syria portfolio. Overall, the Revolutionary Guards have a large share of the Iranian economy as well as foreign policy decision making. With Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory the regional alliance against the Islamic Republic has survived once again and even grown in power to a certain extent.