By Orlando Radice
October 12, 2012
For election-watchers, a cursory glance at the candidates likely to be battling it out in Israel next January is enough to make you roll over and go to sleep. But it’s not because Ehud Olmert (as yet undeclared), Shaul Mofaz, Avigdor Lieberman (if he survives his criminal indictment) or Shelly Yachimovich are especially monochrome political characters.
It’s just that, at the moment, the outcome looks entirely predictable. Assuming the candidates mentioned above run, none look like coming close to budging Benjamin Netanyahu.
While his opponents have spectacularly failed to capitalise on widespread anger about wealth distribution and lack of progress towards peace, Mr Netanyahu has been busy picking up votes in all areas of the political spectrum and on other issues. The Israeli religious right admire the way he has stood up to the secular, especially over the pared-down legislation to force Charedim to join the army, and his hard line on Iran has won him backing across the board. There is also considerable admiration for the respect he commands from the diaspora and beyond: it was reported this week that 97 per cent of his electoral campaign cash comes from foreign donors.
None of which is especially encouraging. While Mr Netanyahu is right to put Iran somewhere at the top of his agenda, continuing to ignore the peace process and a two-state solution will, ultimately, be a catastrophe for Israel. Olmert may be a convicted criminal but he understands the urgent need for two states – remember how close he came to unpicking the deadlock in 2008. Let’s hope he throws his tainted hat into the ring.