Binyamin Netanyahu is in a commanding position
THESE should be the best of times for Binyamin Netanyahu. At no point in the Israeli prime minister’s almost 11 years in office has he enjoyed such supremacy at home, coupled with an absence of any serious difficulties or pressure from abroad. In the past few months he has expanded his coalition’s majority from only one to six; tamed his most ferocious critic, Avigdor Lieberman, by giving him responsibility for the defence ministry; and purged his own Likud party of several rivals. The Knesset (parliament) is about to pass a two-year budget which should ensure political stability until 2019. The economy is growing at a sprightly 3.2% a year.
The opposition is in tatters. The main opposition grouping is the Zionist Union; its hapless leader, Yitzhak Herzog, has seen his credibility with his colleagues, and according to the polls with many of his voters, seep away towards Yair Lapid’s small Yesh Atid party.
No progress is being made on the peace process with the Palestinians, but no one seems to care very much. Israel’s relationship with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has shifted to one of cautious coexistence; the West Bank is mostly quiescent, with last year’s “knife intifada” having fizzled out. Not long ago, Mr Netanyahu’s critics were predicting a diplomatic assault if Israel didn’t start talking to the Palestinians. Instead, the supposedly furious Europeans seem consumed by their own problems and have little appetite for Middle Eastern diplomacy; the most they have been able to manage is a weedy insistence that products from