Bibi goes to the Congress: between applauses and scepticism

The Israeli Prime Minister’s visit to Washington D.C. is not only a foreign policy strategy mechanism towards Iran and the West, but also a tool for the upcoming domestic elections.

netanyahu_congressThe debated State of Israel is approaching its parliamentary election, scheduled for 17th March 2015, and Netanyahu, Chairman of the Likud Party and present PM, wants to reconfirm himself as the only representative of the Jewish people.

During his former years in power, he gained the reputation of “Mr. Security”, by giving to his country the shape of a Fortress. The lion’s share of the internal budget has financed the reinforcement of the security strategy, which has taken the shape of the Iron Dome, among others security tools. This process of securitization has stopped the peace negotiation with the Palestinians, also because of the internal rift between Hamas and Fatah.

Therefore, Netanyahu’s electoral campaign aims at strengthening again the fortress. To seal this promise of protection, in this case against the Iran, the Likud Chairman did a trip to Washington D.C. “I will be the messenger of all the people of Israel, including those who agree with me and those who don’t agree.” – “I’ll do anything I can to ensure the security of the future.” he said. “Anything”, meant to enter the prestigious US Congress, to recall its members Iran’s threat, in the framework of Geneva talks. Netanyahu’s goal has been to convince Congress to torpedo the US-led Iranian negotiations, which he thinks will pave the way to Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal.

Bibi’s journey to the US capital has two shadows behind it: first, the Israeli preference relations with the American counterpart; secondly the Israeli domestic elections.

Considering the first point, if the special relation between US and Israel is widely recognised, Obama-Netanyahu relationship cannot be seen as relaxed: the US President did not embrace positively Bibi’s visit, which created a diplomatic thunderstorm. Obama has admitted that Netanyahu’s speech, notwithstanding its master technique of coherency and flawless choice of words, has not presented any viable offers or alternatives, for a possible veer in the route towards Iran. Moreover, to confirm Israel’s preferential relation with the Republicans, 58 Democratic Members skipped the speech. Therefore, a journalist of Haaretz underlined that Netanyahu speaks good English, not only with an American accent, but also with a republican one.

Turning to the second point, the Israeli PM also decided to go to Washington, for mainly political reasons: despite of his declaration of maintaining Israel-USA alliance above politics, he was prevented from doing so, since he needed to use it as a strategic tool for domestic elections. Netanyahu wanted to show his public opinion that he still is the seal between Israel and the US. Recent polls showed that the Zionist Union, an alliance of the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni, has a slight lead over Netanyahu’s Likud. As a consequence, the latter had to embark on an unexpected and courageous action to gain the electorate back.

However, the final outcome has been far from what was expected: the divided opinions at home over Netanyahu’s speech have confirmed that those ones who supported the Likud Chairman before Washington, continue to do so after, and vice versa. After the speech, “life goes on” and negotiations over Iran, too – without Israeli input.

Neither the speech has been, nor the elections are expected to be a game changer.

Giulia Formichetti

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