There are some striking similarities between Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi, including their cynical methods of staying in power. But there are also differences. One comes from a humble tea seller at the train station, the other is a military commando before becoming a right-wing demagogue. Unlikely lookalikes thrive on dividing people, polarizing them along religious or ethnic lines while manipulating political results to their advantage. They don’t always succeed, of course, but it’s the only method they know.
Consider the current surge in violence between Hamas and the IDF. It reads like a chapter of Balakot or Muzaffarnagar with a campaign launched to “reclaim” a Jewish temple from the site of a Muslim mosque.
In its pure form, Hamas-Israel violence is in fact unfolding in Netanyahu’s best interests, if not also in his will. Following an inconclusive election in March, the Israeli prime minister had to suppress the prospect of a corruption conviction. He was unable to muster a majority and President Reuven Rivlin, a Likud colleague but hostile to Netanyahu, gave up until June to his rivals to sew up a viable government. The coalition can work, but it needs the help of an Arab group that Netanyahu had courted in the past. This time around, he must reverse the prospects of a possible alliance of leftists, rightists and Arabs, not least because it would be opposed to him.
Modi like Netanyahu sowed distrust between communities for political ends.
Driving a wedge between Israeli Arabs (they don’t like to call them Palestinians) and Jewish parties would achieve the required result. The unnecessary police assault on Muslim worshipers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as an intensified campaign to evict Arab residents from their homes in East Jerusalem, have led to a repeat of history. Violence erupted not only between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank on one side and Israeli troops on the other, but Arab and Jewish residents of Israeli towns who have lived in relative peace for years have turned to one another. against others, not completely but enough. spoil the perspective of a rapprochement between communities now considered to be mutually hostile. He has nuances of the Modi formula, so much so that it cannot be ruled out that someone has exchanged notes on his behalf.
There was more bad news for Netanyahu. Like his soul mate in New Delhi, Netanyahu had sought to put a twist on his mismanagement of the pandemic. Modi lost a series of key elections, at least in part due to skyrocketing corps numbers, while the only major election he won in Assam came with the help of the local tribal leaders and congressional party setbacks. Israeli media cited polls suggesting that if an election were held now, Netanyahu’s Likud party would lose more than a quarter of the seats it won in March. Many would go to another right-wing party led by Naftali Bennett, his former aide. Will Hamas’ visual pounding improve Netanyahu’s grades?
In a small victory for Netanyahu, following politically-induced Jewish-Arab-Jewish violence, Bennett had to give up eyeing a government with Raam (United List) leader Mansour Abbas. He informed Opposition Leader Yair Lapid that the idea was no longer on the table. Lapid had been invited by the president to try to form the government. The problems did not abate for Netanyahu.
He still needs a way to get a stay of conviction and possibly jail time.
Speculation is rife that he could throw himself into the fray as a presidential candidate in the elections scheduled for June 2. The indirect election by the Knesset could produce the necessary immunity, but will it have the numbers in what is traditionally a secret ballot? It is possible that he will support a candidate who would give him immunity. So it all seems to be about Netanyahu fighting his conviction. But it has had an effect on the broader political architecture regarding the Middle East. It has forced President Joe Biden to take his eyes off China and find himself potentially sucked into a place where his political options do not necessarily merge with his Russia-specific agenda in Europe and his promise to revive the anti-China pivot. to the East. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati calling on his Hamas counterpart to extend his support for Israel – “the spider in his web” – the openings have widened.
Right now, Netanyahu is struggling to prove his credentials as a pugnacious leader with whom one cannot be lightly. If the need arises, he could even have a showdown with Barack Obama, remember? Will he win the battle with Hamas and at what cost? Israeli opponents have warned of civil war conditions in conflict-torn Israeli towns. As for Israel’s military superiority, everyone knows it has an enormous capacity to pound Hamas bases in Gaza at will. But not everyone knew that Israel’s so-called iron dome of missile protection, supposed to give the country its much-vaunted invincibility to incoming projectiles, could be so easily shattered. How this may impact Israel’s status as an international supplier of fault-proof weapons will be decided when the time comes, but, for now, it remains to be seen how far Netanyahu has been able. shoot the slightest political kilometer by provoking a new confrontation with Hamas.
Netanyahu has many advantages like Modi. They are both aided and encouraged in their quest for power by the assiduously loyal and influential media. But as recent elections in crucial Indian states have shown, the reality on the ground does not always lend itself to media manipulation.
Modi like Netanyahu sowed distrust between communities for political ends. But how long can chaos pass for politics, especially when people are choking to death with no help in sight? However, the two leaders have one great thing in common here, which calls into question easy speculation about their political demise – notoriously divided opposition.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
Posted in Dawn on May 18, 2021