Against all predictions, Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu have come out on top in Israel’s parliamentary elections, winning 30 seats in the Knesset to the Zionist Union’s 24. Mr Netanyahu is likely therefore to form the next government with partners on the right and from the centre.
The poll’s outcome demonstrates the sheer force of Mr Netanyahu’s personality. But it also emphasises the degree to which paranoia is now the dominant undercurrent in Israeli politics. The Likud leader plays on people’s fears, not their hopes. Yet there is little on Mr Netanyahu’s policy agenda which is likely to make Israel safer in the long term. His insistence that there will be no Palestinian state is not only provocative; it is mindless folly. While the creation of a Palestinian homeland is no guarantor of peace, its denial assures the continuation of conflict.
Perhaps of most concern to Israelis ought to be the increasing hostility which faces Mr Netanyahu from those traditionally regarded as Israel’s friends. He and Barack Obama do not get on and he has antagonised European leaders by questioning the safety of Jews living in the West. If he follows through on his election pledges, it is hard to see those relationships improving.
Israel undoubtedly faces many threats in an ever more disordered Middle East. But whether its situation can be improved by a bully masquerading as a statesman is uncertain at best.
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