Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his trip to Washington, D.C. to deal with a rocket attack in central Israel on Monday. Following the attack, heavy fire has been exchanged between Israeli and Hamas forces in the Gaza region.
The attacks are a political problem for Netanyahu. The Israeli elections are scheduled for Tuesday, April 9, a mere two weeks away. The Prime Minister is currently dealing with a series of scandals from bribery and fraud charges, most notably arranging to get positive coverage from a national media giant in exchange for legislation targeting the media company’s competition.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced on Thursday his decision to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, pending a hearing.Haaretz
The other scandal he’s dealing with is the Submarine Affair, in which Israel dropped its opposition to a sale of submarines by Germany to Egypt. According to the Jerusalem Post, the action is seen as endangering Israel’s safety and the reason seems to be personal gain.
Netanyahu’s Likud party is facing significant opposition from the Blue and White party of Benny Gantz. Gantz is a former leader of the Army who has been attacking the established Likud on a variety of subjects including national security.
President Trump’s statements regarding the Israeli embassy and, recently, the Golan Heights have been presenting Netanyahu with poll bumps. Netanyahu’s strategy has been to ride out the scandals by focusing on his established relationships with world leaders, particularly America’s Trump, and pointing out the benefits Israel receives for them.
Until recently, that strategy has been working, albeit weakly. Likud has been evenly matched with the newcomer Blue-and-White, despite the issues with its leadership. In recent weeks, however, Likud has been losing ground. Current polling puts the Blue-and-White party firmly ahead.
Because of Israel’s coalition system, however, the Likud is still likely to hold power if it has a small election loss. The Blue-and-White party is seen as more firmly right-wing in the classical American sense, while Likud, under Netanyahu, is seen as more centrist, particularly on the issue of dealings with Islamic states.
If the polls tilt more toward Blue-and-White, however, Netanyahu will be in danger of losing his position.
The rocket attacks overnight undermine the Likud position that Hamas has been muzzled by the political and military actions of Netanyahu. Continued fighting risks eroding Likud’s support heading into the election.