Bibi watching

A new Israeli poll shows that Benjamin Netanyahu is more popular than Prime Minister Sharon among members of their party. Actually, neither seems particularly well-liked. According to the poll, 42 percent of Likud voters support Netanyahu, while only 27.7% favor Sharon. Over 15% said they were still undecided, while 10.8% declared they do not intend to vote in the next party primaries. The poll did not include Uzi Landau, who is more hard-line than Netanyahu, and who plans to chalenge Sharon and Netanyahu for leadership of the party.
Netanyahu has a big-time reputation as an opportunist. That’s always been my impression too, although I don’t follow Israeli politics very closely and my impression may be unduly influenced by the views of others. By opposing Sharon’s withdrawal plans after voting for them in the cabinet, Netanyahu’s reputation as an opportunist will grow, especially since the media both here and in Israel disagree with his position. But Netanyahu’s opportunism or lack thereof is irrelevant to the merits of the withdrawal; I believe his opposition is well-justified.
Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post argues that Netanyahu’s decision to leave the government hurts him politically, and that his decision to stay as long as he did was the responsible thing to do because it enabled him to implement unprecedentd economic reforms that will empower Israelis at the expense of the state bureaucracy. Her first point is speculative, but her second seems hard to dispute.

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