Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister, has played up his conservative, security-first credentials in the face of inexperienced rivals in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, reports Reuters.
Here are some of Netanyahu’s key policy positions.
With US-sponsored peace talks having collapsed in 2014 and showing no sign of revival, Netanyahu has dispensed with his past professed willingness to negotiate on the creation of a Palestinian state in Israeli-occupied land. He has been buoyed by the support of US President Donald Trump, who has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Golan Heights as Israeli. Israel captured the Golan from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed and settled it – moves not accepted by most world powers, who deem it to be occupied Syrian territory.
With an eye on rallying rightist support, Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he plans to declare Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements – a likely precursor to their annexation – and has announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the West Bank, if re-elected. The plan drew condemnation from Arab leaders and from Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in all of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, Netanyahu has overseen several inconclusive military confrontations that have not put paid to occasional cross-border rocket attacks on Israel. In the run-up to the election, he has threatened to escalate the fight against the Islamist movement Hamas which is dominant in Gaza.
Israel’s attorney-general has announced his intention to indict Netanyahu in three long-running corruption cases, pending a pre-trial hearing next month. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and has cast the allegations against him as a media-abetted witch-hunt by political enemies.
SYNAGOGUE AND STATE
Netanyahu’s rightist tack has meant he had relied on religious Jewish coalition partners. That has spelled concessions to ultra-Orthodox Jews on their welfare payouts and exemptions from mandatory military service – a hot-button issue for many secular, middle-class Israelis.
Netanyahu‘s overriding national security worry is Iran, its nuclear programme and regional clout. He has crafted a so-called “campaign between wars” strategy of cross-border strikes, many of them clandestine, designed to foil Iranian entrenchment in Syria and, according to some sources in the region, Lebanon and Iraq, without spiralling into open conflict.
Netanyahu has also taken some of the credit for the United States’ firm stance, under Trump, against Tehran and for an increasingly public entente with Israel by Gulf Arab states that share its fears about Iran.
Israel’s economy is performing solidly, something Netanyahu has attributed to free-market policies he established while finance minister.