Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated on Sunday that he may call elections as early as this September, as opposed to November 2013.
In most countries, this would just be fodder for horse-race journalism. (And you can get a good dose of obsessive backstage wrangling courtesy of Israeli online news site Ynet here.)
But this is Israel. Every bit of news has international implications. Some have speculated that Netanyahu wants to move the election date up so that it takes place before the U.S. elections in November. If Obama wins, he might up the pressure on Netanyahu to make a deal with the Palestinians.
On the other hand, if Romney wins, Netanyahu will have an old friend in the White House. The New York Times reported that the two have been friends since 1976, when both were corporate advisers for the Boston Consulting Group. Romney has said on the campaign trail that he would call his “friend Bibi Netanyahu” before making a statement about Israel and the Palestinians.
High-profile dissent on Iran
Also, Netanyahu is currently riding a wave of popularity with the Israeli public due largely to his tough stance on Iran. However, there’s been some high-profile dissent recently, from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who criticized Netanyahu’s saber rattling at a conference in Manhattan held by the Jerusalem Post. When the crowd booed his stance, he sarcastically praised the “courage of those who live 10,000 miles from the state of Israel.” In Israel, Yuval Diskin, who formerly led Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the FBI, said a strike on Iran would not stop the country from obtaining nuclear weapons. “”I don’t trust management that relies on messianic leadership,” he said, referring to the Netanyahu administration.
Where are the women?
One group that has been conspicuously absent from criticizing Netanyahu, says an editorial in Haaretz, are female politicians like Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich and former Kadima head Tzipi Livni. The author, Rivit Hecht, says that women are not seen as credible on security issues, and points out that “though the Israel Defense Forces is the only army in the world with compulsory conscription for women, a woman has never served in a senior operational position.”
Netanyahu says Orthodox should fight
Meanwhile, head hawk Netanyahu is taking on the one segment of Israeli society that doesn’t even serve in the army—the ultra-Orthodox. Israeli law allows them to avoid military service for religious reasons, which has stoked resentment among the rest of the population. Netanyahu has vowed to compel them to enlist, even if it means that members of his ruling coalition would bolt and force him to hold early elections.
So what do early elections in Israel mean for the United States? With Netanyahu facing increasing criticism at home over his threat to attack Iran, an impending election may mean he’ll hold off on any attack—at least until after he’s reelected.