BLOG 388 March 26, 2014
Anyone who follows the news from Israel knows that the papers are full of the stories about the charges against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara. Yaakov Katz in the Jerusalem Post reported that after losing the 1999 election to Ehud Barak, Bib’s conclusion was that to be Prime Minister he needed to have one newspaper under his control. He didn’t end up buying one, but may wish he had.
While the story is barely covered by American media, it remains the major story in Israel. However, the polls show the majority of the public still support Netanyahu. Even with the bad press he has received in Israel over the past few years, the polls give him a healthy position.
A number of factors may well keep demonstrators home for the time being.
Israel currently has a strong economy with record tourism and low unemployment. I have been in Israel during years when this was not the case. From those experiences, I know how important the decreasing cost of housing can be. President Bill Clinton avoided impeachment basically because the economy was so strong near the end of his presidency. People didn’t want to rock the money boat. When people have a good job, they can be forgiving, or at least, look the other way.
Safety is paramount in Israel. Bombing of buses and personal attacks has kept the country on edge. Currently, Netanyahu has pushed the idea that only he can protect the country in the face of the nuclearization of Iran. Many citizens believe this option. I have also been in the Gaza area and observed how radical Israel’s enemy can be. As long as Netanyahu appears to be the one to keep the country secure, he has an edge.
And who’s going to replace him? The choices seem to be lacking. At the least, there does not appear to be a strong man on the horizon. Former defense ministry Moshe Ya’alon made a political mistake when he left the Likud party because he could have been a significant candidate for the job. Possibly no other world leader has met as many international leaders as Netanyahu has. Such a record is substantial. Without a clear choice for who will follow Netanyahu, many voters are willing to look the other way – at least for a while.
With the charges against Bibi and his wife Sara coming on two different fronts, the issue is serious and will continue to simmer. What’s next?