Yesterday Netanyahu claimed he’d identified a third secret nuclear site in Iran where Iran allegedly “conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons.” Yet, despite the hyperbole no one seemed to take Netanyahu seriously: the Israeli press was amused by the desperate election stunt. His political rivals mocked the Israeli PM and a few hours after Netanyahu’s press conference his best ally, President Trump, expressed his wish to meet President Hassan Rouhani. Somehow, world leaders were entertained by seeing the Israeli PM, who threatens the entire region with his country’s nuclear arsenal, performing his victim spiel over Iran’s nuclear enthusiasms.
One week before the Israeli elections, Netanyahu is in a state of despair. He knows that as things stand he can’t form a right wing coalition and without such a coalition he is destined to be indicted for a number of criminal activities and will probably end up behind bars like his predecessor, former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert.
How does Netanyahu deal with this looming threat? He presents himself as the nation’s saviour. For the last few weeks Mr Benjamin Securityahu has launched attacks against Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and, allegedly, Iraq. He seeks an engagement with Iran that could easily escalate into a regional, if not a global, war.
It is easy to grasp the Israeli PM’s likely reasoning. If Netanyahu’s foreseeable future includes imprisonment and humiliation, a global war might provide a way out of his personal and political dilemma. A war would postpone the election indefinitely. If Israel survives such a war, Netanyahu could well emerge as a heroic figure of bible proportions. And if Israel loses such a conflict, there won’t be much left of the Zionist project anyway. According to Israeli military analysts, in the next war Israel’s cities will be targeted by thousands of rockets. Devastation is inevitable and in such a scenario, they predict that little will be left of Israel’s power of deterrence.
This is a dark and scary scenario, but we have to bear in mind that Netanyahu is not an unfamiliar figure in Middle East politics. Arab and Iranian leaders know that while Bibi likes to brag about Israel’s capabilities, he is reluctant to test its strength. Netanyahu doesn’t start wars. He isn’t as confident and assertive as he pretends. Like his friend Trump, who regularly threatens the universe with American military aggression but is repeatedly caught backpedaling, looking for an exit from situations he himself created, Netanyahu is not sanguine about Israel’s military force. He is likely scared of the war he seems to push for and this is not necessarily a bad thing.