By Linda Gradstein
The Media Line 

Israelis positive about Netanyahu's speech


Israeli media say that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress could give him an extra seat or two in Israel’s upcoming election. But with just under two weeks to the poll, any advantage he gained could fade away.

“It could have at least a short-term effect on the electorate,” Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations at Bar Ilan University told The Media Line.

“Netanyahu is hoping to bring back voters who have left him for the center parties. But it’s still more than a week and a half before the election, and in Israel that’s like a year and a half anywhere else.”

New polls will come out this weekend but the most recent ones taken before Netanyahu’s speech showed his Likud party trailing the center-left Zionist Union of Yitzhak Herzog and Tzippi Livni by one or two seats. Israeli analysts say that polls often under-report support for Likud and they still believe that Netanyahu has the best chance of forming a majority coalition of 61 out of 120 seats in the Knesset.

Palestinians who watched the speech, which focused on the dangers of Iran becoming a nuclear power, dismissed it as electioneering.

“I think it’s election propaganda because it did not add anything that we didn’t know before,” Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Bir Zeit University and a former government spokesman told The Media Line. “It might help him a little. Netanyahu is desperate and he is looking for any way possible to increase his chances.”

On the streets of Jerusalem, however, most supported Netanyahu in his feud with President Obama, although some were not sure it would change anything on the ground.

“Bibi Netanyahu gave a very good speech but I don’t think it will change anything on the ground,” Effi Hazut, a Jerusalem resident told The Media Line. “Iran is very determined to develop nuclear weapons. We should have done something a few years ago but we didn’t and now it’s too late.”

“There’s no one better than him and there won’t be anyone better,” said Or, another Jerusalem resident. “Bibi Netanyahu is number one,” he said using the prime minister’s nickname.

“He spoke very well and he put a lot of effort into his speech,” said another man in downtown Jerusalem named Carmel. “I think Bibi has the right intensions. He wants to protect the country and us.”

“He is right. We can’t let history repeat itself,” Avraham Nakash, a new immigrant from France said.

The speech became part of Israel’s election campaign.

“There is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows how to deliver a speech,” challenger Yitzhak Herzog said. “But let’s face it. The speech we heard today, impressive as it is, will not stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

Herzog, whose televised remarks were cut off for violation of Israeli electioneering rules, charged Netanyahu with damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

“The painful truth is that after the applause, Netanyahu was left alone. Israel was left isolated. And the negotiations with Iran will continue without Israeli participation. This speech greatly damaged the U.S.-Israel relationship. It won’t change the government’s stance and will only widen the rift with our biggest friend and strategic ally. A rift that will carry a price we will all pay,” said Herzog.


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