Israel’s January Election – Affects Plans for Stopping Iran?

Prime Minister Netanyahu today made it official: instead of continuing for a full 4-year term until next October, his government will dissolve parliament.  A nationwide election will be held on January 22 — interestingly, just one day after the high-security, celebratory, probably very cold Presidential inauguration ceremonies in Washington.

Prime Minister Netanyahu

Israeli voters may be swayed by whether it is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney giving the inaugural address on Monday the 21st (one day after the official start of a presidential term, because January 20 falls on a Sunday).  Opinion polls in Israel suggest that most people there don’t trust Obama or feel that he is more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli.  Netanyahu is an old friend of Romney, so naturally there is the suspicion that the Israeli prime minister would prefer that the Republican win in America next month.

But Israelis (with the exception of dual citizens) don’t vote in America, and certainly Netanyahu doesn’t.  He will have his hands full with his own election campaign: running more than 90 days, which is longer than it really needs to or normally would in a parliamentary democracy.

Israeli won’t vote until January 22?  That allows plenty of time for surprises.

Dan Perry of the Associated Press today has a dispatch which points out several “wild cards” that could affect Netanyahu’s chances of building a stronger coalition.  The article includes the role of a popular TV talk show host and columnist, Yair Lapid, as well as other Israeli politicians perhaps more familiar to Americans who follow the subject.

The AP’s Perry also writes: “A Netanyahu re-election could make an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program more likely, risking regional war and global economic crisis.”

In addition, “Netanyahu’s circle is casting the election has a referendum on attacking Iran — or at least on Israel’s right to act militarily to prevent the Islamic Republic from achieving nuclear weapons capability.”  Perry points out that Israelis, at election time, tend to be more hawkish than in between elections.

It is ironic that the political calendar won’t move more quickly, because — as Netanyahu himself has said, when questioning whether sanctions against Iran will be effective — Iran’s uranium centrifuges keep spinning, and Western intelligence agencies believe nuclear weapons designers in Iran are still at work.

October 14, 2012

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