JERUSALEM – In a stunning setback, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line bloc fared worse than expected in a parliamentary election Tuesday, exit polls showed, possibly forcing the incumbent Israeli leader to invite surprisingly strong moderate rivals into his government and soften his line toward the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has won praise at home for drawing the world’s attention to Iran’s suspect nuclear program and for keeping the economy on solid ground at a time of global turmoil.
But internationally, he has repeatedly clashed with allies over his handling of the peace process. Peace talks with the Palestinians have remained stalled throughout his term, in large part because of his continued construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu himself has only grudgingly voiced conditional support for a Palestinian state, and his own party is now dominated by hard-liners who oppose even this. A likely coalition partner, Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, which won 12 seats, has called for annexing large parts of the West Bank, the core of any future Palestinian state.
Major press agencies are making this seem as though it is a defeat. It is not. It is a win for Bibi Netanyahu. He still stands. And he stands — apparently — for a reason according to Israeli voters.
One thing few realize about the background of Benjamin Netanyahu: his brother was the only Israeli killed during Operation Entebbe on July 4th of 1976 — Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu.
Yoni the Blogger weighs in here.
First, rocket fire issued from the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas operatives into Israel, for days.
Then more than 50 Israeli air strikes were launched into Gaza, one of which killed Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari (his vehicle below) on Wednesday.
Egypt proceeded to back Hamas — no shock.
A Hamas rocket then killed three Israelis on Thursday, north of the Gaza Strip itself.
From the WashingtonPost.com:
Israeli officials ordered all residents living within 25 miles of the Gaza Strip to stay indoors, in shelters or in safe rooms. Israel also dropped leaflets overnight into Gaza warning residents to “stay away from Hamas and other terror organizations, operatives and facilities that pose a risk to their safety.”
If drawn out, the Israeli campaign could paralyze the crowded Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, trigger barrages of retaliatory attacks from the organization and its regional allies, and upend already cool relations between Israel and Egypt.
Is this the match flare that lights the true candle?
UPDATE: MISSILES IN TEL AVIV
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak signaled that Israel is ready to escalate its military operations against Gaza after at least one long-range missile was fired at Tel Aviv by Palestinian militants.
The missile attack and the volume of fire in general toward Israel “is an escalation and there will be a price to pay,” Barak said on Channel 2 television yesterday. It was the first such attack on Israel’s commercial hub since Iraqi missiles in 1991 during the Gulf War.