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We may not have Netanyahu to kick around anymore

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In the last 24 hours, the conventional wisdom inside the journalism community has solidified: people are whispering that it’s bedtime for Bibi, Benjamin Netanyahu is fading in the Israeli elections. That he made a historic blunder by trying to go over Obama’s head and address both Houses of Congress last week, that Israeli Jews are wise to the damage he has done to the US-Israel relationship that is the lifeline of the Jewish state, and they want him gone, and they are abandoning Likud.

Liberal Zionists cannot contain themselves over these predictions. Gershom Gorenberg has been tracking Netanyahu’s rapidly changing fortunes with glee. He picked up the foto of Likud’s offices in Netivot, above, which are supposedly shuttered.

the Haaretz poll: Herzog 24 (up 2), Bibi 21 (down 1), right bloc loses 4 seats since last poll.

Peace Now says, The gap is widening, Likud can’t stop the tide, per Maariv.

Two separate polls, by Channel 2 and the Knesset Channel, give Herzog and Livni’s list 3-4 more seats than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The Forward says that Herzog could clobber Netanyahu by 27-21, or even more.

internal polls conducted by both the Likud and its opposition, the Labor-led Zionist Camp, show the Likud trailing the challenger far more dramatically than any of the published polls have shown…

A March 1 report in Haaretz (Hebrew, paywall) quoted unnamed Likud campaign sources who said their polling indicated that widespread apathy among Likud voters would depress turnout. They calculated that the Likud was on track to end up with as few as 18 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

Zionist Camp internal polling shows it leading Likud 27-21.

“Senior Likud minister” to Globes: Likud could drop to 17 seats

That was in Haaretz, which says the speech to Congress upset the applecart.

“Something isn’t going the way it should. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week should have created a turning point for us and strengthened Likud in the polls. It’s clear that we didn’t achieve the desired outcome,” a senior figure in Likud told Haaretz.

So Netanyahu did it to himself. Haaretz’s American correspondent Chemi Shalev:

Fmr. Mossad head [Shabtai] Shavit describes PM’s Iran policy as “one big mistake”. Instead of being in Int’l coalition, it fights its ally U.S.

Shavit spoke at a Tel Aviv press conference with others who bitterly denounced Netanyahu for playing around with the most important relationship Israel has.

Brigadier General (res) Asher Levi says Netanyahu’s handling of U.S. ties “endangers Israel’s security if not its existence”

For years people have been telling Israel this part:

Shavit says: Europe hates us. They’re fed up with us.

But in Haaretz, Netanyahu blamed an international conspiracy.

“There is a huge global effort to bring down the Likud government,” Netanyahu told supporters at a meeting Monday in the Haifa Bay suburb of Kiryat Motzkin. “This is a very close battle,” he added. “Nothing is assured.”

Over the past few days members of Netanyahu’s inner circle have echoed his charges, citing foreign businesspeople who have invested funds to bring about a change of government in Israel, by funding organizations like V15, which is conducting a campaign against Netanyahu, or One Million Hands, the group that organized the anti-Netanyahu protest in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Allison Kaplan Sommer at Haaretz notes that Israel faces political disarray: “Bibi fatigue: Israelis are sick of Netanyahu, but can’t agree on his replacement,”

The tide may be turning against Netanyahu, but it is turning in many directions and the Israeli public just can’t agree on a suitable alternative.

Gorenberg says that smaller centrist parties are running away from Netanyahu as kiss of political death.

[Yair] Lapid now saying out loud won’t recommend Netanyahu as PM. Doesn’t want his voters to move to Herzog.

But Shas leader Aryeh Deri is moving to Herzog.

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Just watch other parties shift to Herzog

Liberal Zionists in the U.S. are egging on the trend. Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky called on Israelis to oust Netanyahu so as to repair the Israel-U.S. BFF relationship. The Forward:

“Obviously one thing that would help…if the prime minister were to lose the elections and a different government would be set up, that would change the dynamic between the United States and Israel.” Schakowsky said that this new dynamic would “without a doubt” be a positive change for Democrats.

Peter Beinart in Haaretz also warns Israelis that if you reelect Netanyahu you alienate the United States.

If you are, in any way, factoring Israel’s relationship with the United States into your vote, then please know this: By reelecting Bibi, you put that relationship at risk.

To understand why, it’s crucial to understand that the United States is becoming, in important ways, a different country. Benjamin Netanyahu does not like Barack Obama; you may not either. But Obama is not an aberration; he is not a passing phase. He is the face of 21st century America. He will leave office in two years, but the coalition that elected him – minorities and Millennials – will grow in strength. In all likelihood, it will shape American politics for decades to come…

But by entrenching Israeli control over the West Bank, and moving Israel ever closer to what Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and now Meir Dagan have called an apartheid state, Bibi is putting Israel on an ideological collision course with the people who will likely dominate American politics in the years to come. He’s alienating the young and non-white voters who backed Obama not merely because he’s treated Obama with disrespect but, more fundamentally, because he flouts the values that led them to support Obama in the first place.

Laura Rozen kicks Netanyahu while he’s down.

Gallup: 3 times as many US Democrats (46%) have unfavorable view of Netanyahu as favorable (17%) after visit

Yes, why would Israelis vote for someone Americans despise? We hold the breathing tube for the Jewish state.

MJ Rosenberg has a dream of a center-left victory.

I have a dream. That on day after election, Prime Minister Herzog will accept President Obama’s congratulations at the White House.

Yousef Munayyer doesn’t share the dream. The Zionist Camp won’t make any difference to the peace process:

One of the grave dangers in the lead-up to this election is operating on the assumption that a defeat for Netanyahu and his replacement with a Herzog-led government would in fact improve the prospects for a renewed and successful peace process. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most effective challenges to the recent right-wing governments from within this portion of the electorate focus on economic issues and not on the question of peace or Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The foundational problem is that the Israeli electorate is simply not there, and there are no signs of internal change on the horizon. Catalysts for change will likely have to come from the outside. Both practically and normatively speaking U.S. policymakers with peace on the agenda should not weigh the outcome of the Israeli election, whatever direction it goes, in terms of peace and Palestinian rights.

Maariv reports that Herzog is reaching out to settlers. If I get to be premier, four out of five of you can stay. Peace Now:

Maariv reported that Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog said he supports Israeli sovereignty in the settlement blocs. “We need to make confidence-building measures such as freezing the settlements outside of the settlement blocs. I want (Israeli) sovereignty in the large blocs and we need to invest in them. It’s possible to contain 80% of the settlers there,” he said.  His remarks were made a few days after he said: “In any situation and in any agreement, Gush Etzion will remain an inseparable part of Israel, but in order to ensure security and in order to keep the large blocs we need to change direction and take responsibility for our fate.”

MJ Rosenberg says not much will change but the air freshener on the rear view mirror.

Herzog’s victory would not change all that much in terms of substance but it would help eliminate the shame & stench of the past month.

Writes Rania Khalek:

If Herzog beats Netanyahu, he will extend the lifespan of Israeli apartheid by appealing 2 western liberals w deceptive rhetoric about peace

Myself I will cheer to see Netanyahu’s back. Let alone his war crimes in Gaza, no one has done more to delegitimize the Israel lobby in U.S. politics than this unpleasant man, not even Walt and Mearsheimer. And what happened? The lobby performed cell division; and right now there’s a liberal Israel lobby and a rightwing one, and the rightwing neoconservative one will get tossed into the dustbin of history, discredited by the 47 Republican senators’ stunt; and the liberal one will take over, and AIPAC will pivot to align with Schakowsky and J Street and a left of center Israeli government.

Then the US discourse will clarify: it will turn into the liberal Zionists versus the anti-Zionists. Beinart talks all about the changing demographics of the U.S. hurting Israel, and he’s right. Ferguson has undoubtedly helped the Palestine movement. A young multicultural coalition will be pushing Palestinian rights, and an establishmentarian liberal/not-liberal Zionist (Beinart and Schumer) coalition will be talking about the revival of the peace process, with Rob Malley at the NSC and Yitzhak Herzog in whatever the Israelis have for 10 Downing Street. And folks will say, Give peace a chance. But can an Israeli Zionist government make any real concessions?

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“Ferguson has undoubtedly helped the Palestine movement. ” Please document this claim. I see no data to support it. “A young multicultural coalition will be pushing Palestinian rights” Not after they leave campus they won’t. Not any more than they’ll be pushing Tibetan rights. Remember that movement? How’s that cause… Read more »

”Myself I will cheer to see Netanyahu’s back” While I will of course take some schadenfreude out of seeing Bibi dumped, if indeed that does come to pass, I’ve explained on another post why I hope he is re-elected. A Herzog victory will only galvanise the moral hypocrites known as… Read more »

Myself I will cheer to see Netanyahu’s back. Let alone his war crimes in Gaza, no one has done more to delegitimize the Israel lobby in U.S. politics than this unpleasant man, not even Walt and Mearsheimer. Not sure what you mean here, Phil. Isn’t this a reason to hope… Read more »

What’s even more beautiful is that Lieberman’s party might only just make the threshhold if it makes it at all. Lieberman, who championed raising the threshhold in order to eliminate those pesky Arabs. And if that happens the schadenfreude will taste sweet, and with a long finish.

Herzhog, will first meet with his DM (??) and ask him /her , to pull out the instructions on how to stir up the Palestinians–you know, get the rockets firing again.It is always easier to manage the propaganda war when you are fighting a violent mob than a peaceful ,one… Read more »