Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has bobbed up again. He rises like a cork which comes up regardless of the forces by which it gets pushed down like, in his case, electoral politics and graft cases that seem to lie suspended in keeping with the slowness with which the wheels of justice are known to move. He has risen again in the electoral waves of an Israel that has been swinging to the right for two decades now, but with a definitive recent shift propelled by the will of youth voters who will be more dominant in the polls in the years to come.
The whole of Latin America has been seen swinging to the left marking a distinct movement that should prove fascinating to students of politics. But just as the liberals may have been taking heart from such a development, Europe has seen a rightward shift in a clutch of countries like Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Hungary while the centrists have just managed to cling to power like in France.
The signals from Bibi’s latest comeback carry dangerous portents because of the rise of some of those on whom he has leant on. The rise of the 46-year-old Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Jewish Power Party as the kingmaker in the prevailing equation means that whatever little chance remained of a lasting solution to the “Palestinian issue” has evaporated. So too was any prospect of tensions easing among Israeli Arabs and in Gaza, which in any case were minimal after the disturbances in the wake of an Israeli raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last April.
The importance of Mr Ben-Gvir in the current dispensation points to the increasing attractiveness of a Jewish ethno-nationalism, worship of the creation of Israel and adoration of the power of armed forces, and not only in the electoral scene. With his claims to representing the far-right as well as the Israeli mainstream, his projection of himself as a future Prime Minister of Israel is not to be dismissed lightly.
Grateful as Bibi must be to the far-right elements for another term as PM, he may be unable to do the balancing act like before. It may be a very different Israel with which allies and friends will be dealing though this bigger swing to the right might make little difference to the India-Israel ties that have progressively strengthened in the time of Bibi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi....