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Daniel Gordis

The Party of Israel’s Past Languishes Without a Vision for the Future

Netanyahu isn’t loved, but his opposition hasn’t presented a strong alternative.

Got ’em right where I want ’em.

Got ’em right where I want ’em.

Photographer: Marc Israel Sellem/AFP/Getty Images

What is most striking about Israel’s election campaign is that virtually no one is debating issues. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t perceived as unbeatable, but the smart money is still on his prevailing — despite widespread dissatisfaction with him. The April 9 election, it seems, is more about jockeying for position in the next election, when, common wisdom has it, Netanyahu will no longer be a candidate.

This is an election about personalities, not issues, because there are no major policy matters about which Israelis are agitated. The economy is doing fine, and neither right nor left are urging major changes. Many Israelis don’t love how Netanyahu has cozied up to a variety of unsavory foreign leaders, but still admire the skill with which he has held Russian President Vladimir Putin at bay. He has also dealt with U.S. President Donald Trump’s shocking announcement to pull American troops out of Syria, and has successfully navigated the unchartable waters of a Trump presidency. Netanyahu is a pro, even his foes acknowledge, and his experience and smarts have served Israel well of late. With Israel and Iran increasing their saber-rattling, his experience will only matter more to Israelis.