I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m writing another endorsement for Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That being said, who would have ever believed that Israelis would head to the polls a mere months after the last election, with the likely result being that they will re-elect a government that never officially took power?
In April, Netanyahu’s Likud party won 35 out of 120 seats in the Israeli election. Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance won the same number of seats, but Netanyahu was seemingly able to hold the balance of power with a coalition of right-leaning and religious parties.
Or so we thought.
After a month of difficult negotiations, including massive disagreement over the contentious issue of national service for the ultra-Orthodox, the 35th government of Israel was unable to formally sit. Parliamentarians voted 74-45 in favour of disbursement, and a new election was called for Sept. 17.
The result was obviously an embarrassment for Netanyahu. While this scenario has played out in other countries, it’s rare for a political incumbent to win an election and be unable to maintain power. Regardless, he remains the best choice to lead Israel into the future.
Netanyahu has strongly advocated for fiscal prudence, privatization, trade liberalization and free markets as prime minister. He’s also encouraged more investment in Israeli-run businesses and initiatives, torn down state-run monopolies, slashed the bureaucracy and supported workfare, rather than welfare.
That’s why the late Jack Kemp, a former Republican congressman and 1996 vice-presidential candidate, once called him the “Israeli Ronald Reagan.” Netanyahu admired Reagan – the feeling was mutual, for the record – and modelled some of his political philosophies and policies along the lines of what the Great Communicator would have favoured.
Netanyahu has developed successful working relationships with other right-leaning leaders. This includes U.S. presidents like Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Other world leaders, including former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher, German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Canadian prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper, all thought highly of his abilities and valued his friendship and private counsel.
He’s also a skilled political bridge-builder, having established alliances with Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The Jewish left predictably erupted and claimed he was cavorting with racists and far-right anti-Semites. But having known several people who worked with both men in different capacities, I can say with certainty that they’re not – and Netanyahu knows this, too. Rather, his goal was to make common cause with two world leaders who have similar views about politics, economics and Israel. This helps reduce anti-Semitism in both countries, eases long-standing historical tensions and creates ties that will hopefully last for generations to come.
With respect to foreign policy, Netanyahu is a hawk who strongly opposes terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, despotic tyrannies like Iran and Arab extremists. Israel’s right to self-defence is a top priority for him, as is the safety and security of liberal democracies and Western values. He also believes in peace in the Middle East, but not peace at all costs.
Will Netanyahu succeed in his bid to be re-elected as Israel’s ninth prime minister for the second time this year?
Every opinion poll conducted between April and August has consistently shown Likud either slightly ahead of Blue and White, or tied with it, in a few instances. When combined with its natural political allies (Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina), and assuming the shaky relationship with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu can be rebuilt, it should be enough to keep Netanyahu in power.
If it’s not, Netanyahu and Likud would have to hope that the third time is the charm to forming government. But that’s a scenario that few Israeli voters would ever like to see.