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The Roots of Right-Wing Dominance in Israel

Most commentators have focused on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s personal qualities to explain what looked to many to be an unlikely election victory. But there are important structural reasons for Likud’s durability in power, and a strong economy is just the start.

JERUSALEM – Binyamin Netanyahu’s latest electoral success, winning a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister, is by any measure a remarkable achievement for him and his right-wing Likud party. Serious corruption charges did not seem to diminish his popularity among his base, and his close relations with both US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin obviously enhanced his standing in the country.

Trump clearly helped Netanyahu’s campaign by scrapping decades of American policies. Not only did he withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama; he also moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and – just a few days before the election – recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Many may deplore Netanyahu’s own Trump-style tactics – instilling fear and hatred of real and imagined enemies, delegitimizing the press, and attacking the judicial system – but they worked. This, and Netanyahu’s undeniable campaign savvy, helped him beat back the challenge from the newly formed Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz, a respected but politically inexperienced former military chief.

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