Bibi ramps up the rhetoric as he continues to sink in the polls
It looks like President Obama's blatant interference in the Israeli elections scheduled for Tuesday may be paying off. The latest polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party trailinjg the Zionist Union party of Isaac Herzog.
In response to his predicament, Neanyahu is criticizing what he says are left wing elements abroad who have spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat him.
Over social media and broadcast interviews, the three-term leader has accused unspecified foreign governments and tycoons of funneling "tens of millions of dollars" to opposition activists working to undermine his Likud party and boost the Zionist Union joint list led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
"Right-wing rule is in danger. Leftist elements and the media in this country and abroad have joined forces to illegitimately bring Tzipi and Bougie (Herzog) to power," Netanyahu said on Facebook on Friday.
The Zionist Union dismissed the rhetorical fusillade as a bid by Netanyahu to shift voters' attention from socio-economic problems to security challenges like the Palestinians' drive for statehood and Iran's nuclear program, on which the prime minister argues he alone can resist foreign pressure to yield.
"I want to make clear that all of this Likud spin is not something that we do," Herzog said in a speech on Saturday. "The public is fed up with Likud and with Benjamin Netanyahu."
The latest opinion polls predict the Zionist Union taking between 24 and 26 of parliament's 120 seats in the election, compared to 20-22 seats for Likud. That could empower Netanyahu's challengers to build the next coalition government.
He could scrape into a fourth term, however, if the Zionist Union fails to muster enough support in an Israeli political spectrum where right-leaning parties are predominant.
For now, Likud's ideological allies in parliament are a threat as they sap votes from the ruling party, Netanyahu said.
"The right-wing is splitting," he told Voice of the South radio. "The right-wing must unite behind me and vote Likud."
That message is unlikely to be well-received among other nationalist leaders with whom Netanyahu is expected to speak at a demonstration on Sunday in Tel Aviv's main Rabin square, where tens of thousands of opposition voters rallied last week.
No doubt President Obama will do some gloating if Netanyahu is defeated. But if he expects Zionist Union to give into Hamas and the PA on settlements or right of return, or UN recognition, he's even more delusional than he has shown. On security issues and the peace process, the Israeli electorate is generally united and while there might be a noticeable change in the tone coming from the Israeli government, there will be little change in policy.
But Bibi isn't defeated yet. He may be able to snatch victory from defeat if Zionist Union is unable to cobble together a coalition to govern.If Likud wins more seats than expected, and Zionist Union wins fewer than predicted, it will be a rough slog for the opposition to create a majority in the Knesset.