If he wins Tuesday’s election, Benjamin Netanyahu is set to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But as his tricks have grown hoarier and his persona more outsize than Trump himself, he risks becoming a self-caricature.
Final polls on Friday showed that his right-wing coalition was favored to reach the magic number of the 61 seats that would give them a majority in the Knesset, even if the prime minister’s own Likud party was not likely to be the biggest individual faction.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu has, predictably, been in his customary scuttling underdog mode. On Monday, he called an “emergency” cabinet meeting to declare that victory in the parliamentary election was not assured. So far no bombshells, like the homemade-quality video released on election day four years ago, in which he looked his voters in the eye, and warned them that left-wing opponents were “bussing in Arabs” to vote for them and that there was still time.
The ace up his sleeve was the announcement that he was considering annexing the Jewish-settled parts of the West Bank – an idea that was long considered beyond the pale, and a sure death knell for the comatose peace process. The vague wording left it unclear if he is serious or just pandering to the Zionist parties that he will need for his majority.
Bibi vs. Benny
But, by and large, the bitter and vigorous campaign has not been fought on Palestinian issues, or on policy at all, but rather on which man Israel trusts to lead it through an always-volatile future. In stating his case, Netanyahu, whose election-trail skills are perhaps his strongest suit, has been as ubiquitous and domineering as ever. In fact, knowing his biblical self-belief, after two stints at the top, totaling 13 years, the 69-year-old would argue that he is more qualified now than at any time before.
And perhaps this is the twin problem. Bibi is both the status quo, but also Bibi is more Bibi than ever. Israel has reached Peak Bibi.'
Read more: Netanyahu has snake-charmed Israel for a decade, but have voters had enough of ‘King Bibi’?
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4 June 2019
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