Israel's Iran Debate Takes New Turn (Page 2 of 2)

But use of the Holocaust isn’t the only thing that risks undermining Netanyahu’s hard line strategy – the success of the United States and European Union in imposing wide ranging sanctions against Iran’s banking and oil industry is also creating a backlash against the prime minister and defense minister.

For most Israelis, Iran just isn’t the number one issue, and would have been unlikely to be even had elections been held in September as scheduled, before they were called off this week after the opposition Kadima party, headed by Shaul Mofaz, joined Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Interestingly, Mofaz has been one of the biggest public critics of the Netanyahu government’s Iran narrative and policies, so it will be interesting to see what effect his joining the government will have. Will he have a significant moderating effect? This seems unlikely given that Mofaz has already extracted two concessions in return for joining the coalition: Netanyahu’s support for Mofaz’s proposal to replace the current Tal Law, which enables ultra Orthodox youths to defer national service, as well as changes to Israel’s electoral system.

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No mention has been made of Iran.

The reality is that Mofaz enters the current coalition from a position of weakness. According to recent polls, if elections were held as planned, Kadima could have lost more than half its parliamentary seats – 17 to be exact, from its current 28. Netanyahu’s Likud, in contrast, was on course to fare better, and was set to increase its seats from 27 to 31, according to one poll.

Such weakness, and the fact that Iran policy doesn’t seem to have been part of the deal, means it’s unlikely that Mofaz will bring about much change in the government’s position on Iran, and nor would he be able to restrain it if it decides to go ahead with a unilateral strike.

It is, of course, by no means certain that Israel will decide to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. What is clearer, though, is that despite the formation of a new coalition, the intense debate over – and the unprecedented criticism of – the government’s Iran policy is likely to continue.

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