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Netanyahu gains popularity as peace talks collapse

The prime minister’s personal popularity goes up, while the Likud and Habyait Hayehudi gain seven more seats between them if elections were tomorrow. The Left loses four seats. Coalition troubles aside, ‘peace’ remains electorally toxic. 

The biggest losers from the collapse of the peace talks are the pro-peace parties, a Haaretz weekend poll suggests – a finding unlikely to delight those hoping Netanyahu would swap his hard-right coalition partners for more moderate ones.

According to the poll, conducted soon after the peace talks went into a spiral due to a cancelled prisoner release and the newly announced settlement building plans – Kerry’s “poof” moment – Netanyahu’s personal approval rating went up from 40 percent to 45 percent since mid-February. His faction, Likud-Beitenu, would get five more seats if elections were tomorrow (37 seats instead of 32 in February). Habayit Hayehudi, openly annexationist and home to Construction Minister Uri Ariel whom Kerry indirectly blamed for scuttling the peace talks, would get 15 seats instead of 12.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

The main centrist block in the coalition, Yesh Atid, which neither did nor said anything of substance about the peace talks, manages to keep to the 14 seats it had in February, and the popularity of its chairman, Yair Lapid, improved a little bit from dismal to appalling (from 18 percent in February to 25 percent today). Lapid is still the most unpopular figure in Israeli politics (67 percent think he’s doing a lousy job as finance minister), with Yesh Atid continuing to be the Liberal Democrats to Netanayahu’s Tories – enablers and disposable lightning-rods.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

If anyone thought this was an opportune moment for the opposition parties to raise the Oslo flags once more and ride triumphantly into power / join demurely at the tail of Netanyhu’s train to the White House lawn, the  slump in popularity of all the remotely pro-peace parties would suggest otherwise: “pro peace” remains the single most toxic brand in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua goes from five seats in the February poll to three today (half of the six seats it actually has now), while Kadima is mercifully wiped out of existence – from two seats to none. Labor loses a seat (15 from 16 in the previous poll,) as does Shas (from 10 seats to nine.)  Even the steady rise of Meretz, the only dovish party to see a consistent rise in the polls since the election, appears to have been checked for now, as it slumps back from 10 seats in the previous poll to nine (but still gaining on the six seats it has today).

To cap it off, the men the poll names as most  popular in Israeli politics are the man of no influence over public opinion and the man with no publicly known opinion – President Shimon Peres  and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz,  respectively. As Peres is not expected to ever run for public office again (one hopes), Gantz has been the great benefactor of the poll, with much speculation about his political future this weekend. Gantz is known precisely for not having ever taken a stand on anything whatsoever, and his very appointment came as a compromise after an epically compromising, House-of-Cards-style dirty war between patrons of a dovish and hawkish candidates for chief of staff. Gantz was deemed to be neither; his lack of notoriety is in itself notorious, and helps more and more in Israel mistake him for a saint. So whatever his future might hold (Gantz is set to retire in 10 months, but would need to wait three years before he can run for office), it seems fair to assume he’ll continue the strategy most Israelis seem to prefer in relation to the peace talks.

Chief of staff Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Chief of staff Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

None of the above means, of course, that Netanyahu is unassailable. Israeli politics are rarely moved by public opinion polls alone or, indeed, by public opinion. (Recent legislation helped take care of that.) Netanayhu is at one of his weakest points, because his entire third premiership is built as a balancing act between the rightist and center-right blocks in his coalition, keeping both busy enough with the peace talks not to go after his own throat; Livni is a particularly useful buffer, and if she was to retire, the very delicate balance could well start unraveling; or, worse still, with Iran receding further and further as a real threat and the peace talks no longer keeping his rivals occupied, public opinion might well turn to the one issue where Netanyahu is indefensible – the socio-economic front. But whoever tries to snatch leadership away from Netanyahu will put ending the occupation as their very last talking point – and will do their best to keep it off their to-do list altogether. At least until external pressure turns Israeli heads once more.

The peace process needs a whole new outlook
Bennett’s response to Palestinian UN bid: Annexation
The rejectionist: Netanyahu and the peace talks

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    1. Rehmat

      David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

      “The West Bank and Gaza are our bantustans (South Africa), reserves of labour for Israel but no freedom of labour,” professor Israel Shahak quoted in World must deny legitimacy to Israel.


      Reply to Comment
    2. Tzutzik

      “we have taken their country”

      Ben Gurion just paraphrased the thinking of the majority of Arabs. He obviously did not agree with them.

      What country have we taken? How many people were in Palestine when the mass return of Jews began to it 150 years ago? Maybe about 350,000 to 400,000 of whom some (admittedly a minority) were Jews who lived there even before the Arab invasion of 634 AD.


      Was Palestine an Arab country? Of course NOT. For at least 1000 years, it was part of non Arab empires.


      Was every square inch of Palestine cultivated and settled by Arabs? Of course NOT. Vast areas of it were swamp lands and deserts owned by no one. Even today, with 10 million people in the area known as Palestine, there are empty uncultivated lands. So there was room for the returning Jewish people.

      So how can anybody claim that Jews usurped Palestine from the Arabs when it is obvious by any objective standards that Palestine was not owned by the Arabs for a very long time.

      The truth is that there was and still is room for Palestine for two states. One Jewish, one Arab. Each people has a claim to PART of Palestine but not to ALL of Palestine. The sooner the Arabs realise and accept this reality, the sooner there will be peace and the sooner their suffering will end. The converse is true too. If they don’t realise and accept this, the longer they will be subject to occupation and all that it entails.

      Reply to Comment
      • nahum

        The sooner the ARABS realize this? Abu Mazen is asking for 22%, Israel insists on 100%, and it’s the ARABS who need to accept reality? NO, it’s the JEWS that need to accept reality and get the hell out of the West Bank. What nationalistic-narcissistic PLANET, really, are you writing from, Tzutzik?? Typical right wing self-serving attitude and disconnect from reality. So typical.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          “The sooner the ARABS realize this? Abu Mazen is asking for 22%, Israel insists on 100%”

          Lets pretend that you are right about Bibi that he is not willing to compromise. Even then, you would be wrong. Why? Because Bibi has only been the prime minister of Israel since 2008. What happened before?

          In 2000/2001 the Palestinian Arabs were offered 97% of the West Bank. The Palestinians not only didn’t accept that but they started the Intifada.

          In 2008, again Olmert offered 100% of the West Bank with some land swaps. Again they (Abbas) ignored the offer.

          Why do you think? Because in both cases they also insisted on the right of return. So what did they really want?

          They wanted and still want all of the West Bank and half of Israel too. Of course even the leftist and centrist governments of Barak and Olmert could not agree to such a demand. Why? Because agreeing to the right of return demand would have led to the fall of Israel. In other words the Palestinian Arabs are still holding out for 100% of Israel too. Only you extreme leftists don’t see it. Or more likely don’t want to see it. When are you going to wake up from your stupor? Then again, maybe you too want what the Arabs want? Israel’s destruction?

          Reply to Comment
      • You know, I think some role reversal could be useful in all of this. What do you think a Palestinian would say, someone a bit like you, on the sidelines, a commentator of his times, passionate, resolved, yet wanting to find a road free of the past 40 or so years?

        I would ask the same of Rehmat.

        Reply to Comment
        • Samuel

          “You know, I think some role reversal could be useful in all of this. What do you think a Palestinian would say”

          No need to theorize about what the clever ones would have said. Have you heard of the Nashashibis, Greg? This is what they DID say:


          “The Nashashibi family was considered to be politically moderate when compared to the more militant views of the Husayni family. The Nashashibis favoured political, rather than violent, opposition to the British mandate and Zionism.[3] They were also willing to compromise in some areas that many Palestinians were not. For example, the Nashashibi family favoured the partition proposed by Britain in 1937 and reservedly accepted the 1939 White Paper,”

          Pity the Hussaini family outmanouvered and intimidated them. Had they won the power struggle, the Palestinian Arabs would not be in the predicament that they are in now.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Tomer

      Well, at least Ben-Gurion could appreciate the Arabs’ point of view – at least at some theoretical level anyway.

      But can any one name any Arab leader even considered the Jewish point of view?

      Reply to Comment
      • Mike Panzone

        Which point of view are you talking about? The Zionist/fascist point of view that God intended for Jews to rule over Palestine as a majority? Seeing that most Arabic countries hold to similar beliefs about Muslims ruling their countries, I’m sure that Arab leaders are very familiar with the Jewish point of view.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          Oh yea … right …

          And the rest of the civilised world are not familiar with that point of view?

          Italians don’t care whether Italy remains majority Italian?

          Greeks don’t care whether Greece remains majority Greek?

          The French don’t care whether France remains majority French?

          … not much. Yeah …. right … Mike. We are all Fascists now …

          Reply to Comment