Just two days after announcing an early election in January 2013, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu topped all the local media opinion surveys of Thursday, Oct. 11 with a safe 57 percent at least of the vote. Trailing far behind were former foreign minister Tzipi Livni with 29 percent. She retired from politics after her defeat as leader of the opposition Kadima party. All the other visible contenders were in the teen range.
According to the same polls, the right-of-center-religious bloc which Netanyahu heads today can expect to gain strength from 62 Knesset seats (out of 120) to 68, at the expense of the left-of-center camp which faces a drop from 58 to 52 seats in parliament.
But it seems that Netanyahu’s post-election plans are very different from the scenario painted by the media and the lines drawn by their pollsters and pundits.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources in Washington publish here for the first time the gist of a message he relayed to US President Barack Obama and his rival, Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who face their test at the polls on Nov. 6.
Before his Sept. 27 UN speech, Netanyahu told them both that if he is reelected in January, he would jettison his current lineup and move from the right toward a centrist policy by the addition of the opposition Labor party, led by Shelly Yacimovitch, to his Likud-led coalition.
If Netanyahu accomplishes this – and according to all the opinion samplings, he will have a have a free hand in his choice of partners – his second term as prime minister will be distinguished by three major changes:
He can cut the budget and be more forthcoming to the Palestinians
1. He will be less dependent on his religious and right-wing allies and therefore enjoy greater freedom to effect the deep cuts in budget spending he failed to carry this year. He can also afford to be more accommodating in negotiations with the Palestinians without risking a ministers’ revolt.
For some months before calling a snap election, the prime minister kept a private line busy with confidential exchanges with Yacimovich, using Likud Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar for liaison.
The Likud and Labor leaders reached enough common ground to synchronize their campaign messages and for the former to secretly help the latter out with funding.
2. A successful alliance between them would strike the death knell for the prime minister’s long political partnership with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Labor breakaway splinter called Independence established by Barak has little hope of scraping past the threshold in the national election.
The leading contender for the vacant defense portfolio would be Likud’s Moshe Yaalon, former IDF chief of staff and incumbent Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs.
This job would place him solidly in line as Netanyahu’s heir apparent. The scene for his rising fortunes was set by the personal campaign Likud and the prime minister launched against Barak in mid-September, accusing him of betraying Netanyahu’s trust.
Obama-Romney-Netanyahu deal on March deadline for Iran
3. Iran: Netanyahu, Obama and Romney, our sources reveal, have agreed that in March, 2013, Washington will submit to Tehran the “End of the Game Document,” to which the White House is now putting the finishing touches.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 558 of Sept. 28: Obama Drafts New “End of the Road” Benchmarks for Iran.)
A January election would give Prime Minister Netanyahu two months to slap together a new government and get it working smoothly. By March 2013, the US president, whoever is elected, should also be ready for that decision.
“Obama, Romney and Netanyahu all agree that if Tehran rejects this document, or jumps its nuclear program or uranium enrichment output forward unexpectedly, bringing it close to breakout, the US will weigh military action against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said one informed American source.
But all these careful, rational political calculations don’t take into account the volatility typically shaking the region. The unexpected may well burst upon them all without notice in the space of days or hours in any part of the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf, or elsewhere, throwing the best-laid plans off-course.