Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-ruling prime minister in Israel’s history, aims to regain power in the legislative next Tuesday, after being defeated in 2021 by a coalition of parties of all persuasions.
After 14 years in power in the country (1996-1999 and 2009-2021), Netanyahu, christened “Rei Bibi” by his most ardent supporters, was relegated to opposition leader in June last year, leading the Likud party, in what many predicted would be the end of his political career, but he then promised to regain power – a hypothesis that is now gaining more and more strength.
His popularity did not suffer: polls confirm him as the candidate with the most voting intentions in the November 1 elections, although it is not clear whether he will be able to obtain a sufficient majority in the Knesset (of 120 seats) to form a stable government, as has happened in the last four elections since 2019.
A skilful politician, tough negotiator and charismatic leader, Netanyahu is the mainstay of a right-wing bloc that is gathering more and more voters and which, in the last ballot, made it possible for extremist, openly racist and homophobic parties to enter the Knesset, with which the ” Rei Bibi” has no qualms about negotiating to regain his throne.
His campaign focused on presenting himself as the only candidate capable of leading a country with multiple security challenges.: dealing with increasing violence with the Palestinians, the perpetual threat from Iran and tensions with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
But his main adversary, the current acting prime minister, Yair Lapid, has not only made great strides in the area of diplomacy — deepening the Abraham Accords (peace with the United Arab Emirates); reconciling with the European Union, Turkey and Jordan; and signing a maritime border agreement with Lebanon – as well as adopting an “iron fist” strategy similar to Netanyahu’s towards the Palestinians, without closing the door to dialogue, and being relentless about the nuclear deal with Iran.
In addition to strategies, ideologies and parties, Israel’s political landscape continues to be organized around his figure and, once again, these elections are divided between the pro-Netanyahu bloc (his party, Likud, ultra-Orthodox parties and the Zionism movement). Religious) and anti-Netanyahu (an amalgamation of left, center and right parties united almost exclusively by the desire to remove him from power), which includes politicians with ideological affinities with him, but united by an animosity towards his authoritarian tics. and corruption charges.
Many analysts attribute Israel’s political paralysis since 2019 to his unfulfilled promises, manipulations and tricks to stay in power, with four elections – and probably the Thursday next Tuesday – in which Netanyahu was the most voted candidate. , but failed to obtain a sufficient majority to form stable Governments in an increasingly fragmented electoral system and an increasingly polarized country, part of its legacy.
It presents itself as an example of a “tough hand” in terms of security
Not only does Netanyahu have the clear conviction that he is the most qualified politician to lead Israel, but one of the main reasons why he wants to regain the post of prime minister is to control, with the resources that the position provides him, his ongoing trial by corruption, which could land you in prison.
Fraud, bribery and breach of trust, in three different cases, are slowly advancing in a justice that both he and his faithful right-wing allies shamelessly attack, and whose action could be limited in a parliament favorable to Netanyahu.
Presenting himself as an example of his “tough hand” in terms of security and his diplomatic experience from a young age, he also considers himself responsible for Israel’s economic growth during its many years in power, when the country became an economic power through of the “startup nation” model and with neoliberal policies.
As for the Palestinians, it fervently opposed the Oslo Peace Accords (1993-1994) and moved away from the solution of the coexistence of two states and the creation of an independent Palestinian state, in favor of policies of settlement and annexation. of their territories, while working to maintain Israel’s Jewish identity and superiority.
Beginning of his career as “number two” of the diplomatic representation of Israel in the USA
Although some predicted its end, Netanyahu’s career still has breath, which began in 1982 as “number two” of the diplomatic representation of Israel in the United States, where he carried out his university studies.
He quickly became ambassador to the UN, a position he would leave in 1988 to start his political career in Likud, Israel’s most popular party and which he led for most of the last 30 years.
In 1996, at age 46, he became the country’s youngest prime minister, a position he held for three years before being defeated by then Labor leader Ehud Barak. After a break in business, he returned to the political front in 2002, first as Minister of Foreign Affairs and then of Finance.
His second period as head of government began in 2009 and, since then, he has managed to be re-elected to the position in every election until, in June 2021, the coalition that formed the “Government of Change” removed him from office. .
This time, in addition to the return or not to power of the controversial Benjamin Netanyahu, the rise of the extreme right, openly racist, and the unpredictable Arab vote (about a fifth of Israeli citizens) marked the electoral campaign in the country, where the high cost of life worries voters even more than the classic security problem.
After the scrutiny, the parties have almost three months to negotiate a new coalition that will guarantee them a majority in Parliament, that is, 61 seats. If they failed to do so, Israel will return to the polls early next year and repeat the entire process once more.
In addition to costing millions of shekels, five legislative elections in less than four years have tired citizens and reduced their confidence in the country’s democratic institutions.