CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
September 12, 2019
Faced with likely defeat, Netanyahu bets on politics of fear
Next week, Israelis will head to the polls in a snap election, where the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face off against Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White alliance. Netanyahu, who has failed to form a coalition after a narrow electoral victory in April, has mounted an aggressive campaign ahead of next week’s vote including pledging to annex additional parts of the West Bank.
Uriel Abulof, visiting professor at Cornell University’s Government Department and a senior lecturer of politics at Tel-Aviv University, says that despite Netanyahu’s unlikely chances at the polls next week, his influence as a populist may reach beyond Israel.
“Israelis are used to not getting used to anything, except perhaps to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi), and that too might soon change.
“For the first time ever, Israelis will visit the ballot box for a second time in one year. The reason: though appearing to win the April elections, Netanyahu failed to form a coalition, blaming everything and everyone who did not endorse him – including his former protégé, Avigdor Lieberman – for being leftists bent on ousting him in a putsch.
“Recent polls indicate that without Lieberman, or center-left runaways, Bibi has no government, and his reign, beginning soon after the 1995 assassination of Rabin, may end.
“But Bibi, facing indictment on corruption, will not go gently into that bad night. He still has a chance, not merely by re-writing the demagogic textbook, from one spin to the next, and by skillfully deploying the politics of fear. He is also pioneering the populist politics of happiness, a subversive challenge to liberalism, if ever there was one. The upcoming Israeli elections have much to tell us - not just about Israel.”