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The roots of right-wing dominance in Israel

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JERUSALEM - Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest electoral success, winning a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister, is by any measure a remarkable achievement for him and his right-wing Likud party. Serious corruption charges did not seem to diminish his popularity among his base, and his close relations with both U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin obviously enhanced his standing in the country.

Trump clearly helped Netanyahu’s campaign by scrapping decades of American policies. Not only did he withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama; he also moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and — just a few days before the election — recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Many may deplore Netanyahu’s own Trump-style tactics — instilling fear and hatred of real and imagined enemies, delegitimizing the press and attacking the judicial system — but they worked. This, and Netanyahu’s undeniable campaign savvy, helped him beat back the challenge from the newly formed Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz, a respected but politically inexperienced former military chief.

Not surprisingly, most commentators have focused on Netanyahu’s personal qualities to explain what looked to many to be an unlikely victory. But there are important structural reasons for Likud’s durability in power: Israel’s economy is thriving, inflation is under 2 percent and unemployment is at historic lows.

And there are some deeper trends at work as well, beyond politics and economics. The historical liberal and social-democratic........

© The Japan Times