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.

 These are sunny days, too, for Israel’s foreign relations. Boosted by trade in technology and arms, ties with African and Asian nations are flourishing. Mr Netanyahu has met Russia’s president Vladimir Putin four times in the past 14 months, reaching quiet arrangements safeguarding Israel’s interests in Syria, while continuing to insulate it from the bloody war across its border. Beneath the radar, Israel is working closely with its neighbours Egypt and Jordan to counter Islamic State. Farther afield, there is barely concealed close co-operation with the Sunni Gulf states on resisting Iran’s influence in the region. In recent months a rapprochement has also been brokered with the prickly President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. China is keen to do ever more business with Israel.

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

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