ALL the pollsters say that the party led by Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s incumbent prime minister, is set to win the most seats in a general election on January 22nd, and that he will probably, after the haggling that usually lasts several weeks, keep his post at the head of a nationalist-religious coalition government. Given Israel’s system of extreme proportional representation, whereby any party winning 2% of the national vote gets a seat in the 120-member parliament, new combinations may yet appear that could alter the shape and thrust of government. But, if the pollsters are right, the odds are that a revamped coalition led by Mr Netanyahu will be even less keen than the outgoing one was on a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
EVEN before the firing between Israel and Hamas had fully died away in the wake of the ceasefire announced on the night of November 21st, two new/old battle-fronts had opened up for Binyamin Netanyahu and his ministers. The first is over public and governmental opinion in the region; the second over the support of the Israeli voter, with elections looming on January 22nd. The issue is the same on both of them: Who won?
Mr Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, quickly convened a press conference in Tel Aviv to proclaim victory and fulsomely congratulate the nation, themselves and each other for achieving it. No sooner were they off the region’s TV screens than Khalid Meshal, the Hamas leader, came on in Cairo, suggesting to assembled newsmen there that the three Israeli leaders looked glum, which proved, he said, that they knew they’d lost.
ISRAEL‘S prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, suffered not one but two vicarious electoral defeats on Tuesday. Twice this week he has had to swallow hard and congratulate candidates he hoped would lose. The winners were equally cordial to him on the phone. If they enjoyed his discomfiture, they concealed it well. Politics is about interests, not likes and dislikes, and Mr Netanyahu is firmly on course to victory in Israel’s upcoming election, on January 22.
Bibi’s more famous wrong horse, of course, was Barack Obama. The Israeli leader is taking flak at home and abroad for his unconcealed preference for Mitt Romney, an old friend and political kindred spirit.
BINYAMIN NETANYAHU’S fixation with Iran’s nuclear programme has had one positive side-effect—for the Israeli prime minister, at least. While Iran occupies centre-stage, fewer people badger him about the long-stalled Israel-Palestine peace process. Meanwhile, more homes are being built in Israeli settlements deep within the Palestinian West Bank, placed there deliberately to thwart the possibility of a two-state solution.