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Netanyahu plays Iran threat at his convenience

Guided by election campaign considerations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a Russian-American deal for pulling Iranian forces out of Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a bilateral meeting during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RC1720F3A620

In two weeks’ time, that is less than two months prior to Israel’s April 9 elections, the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can expect a rating-boosting campaign contribution. On Feb. 13, Netanyahu’s friends in Washington and Warsaw are convening an international conference on “peace and security in the Middle East,” to which 70 world leaders, including from Arab countries, have been invited. Unsurprisingly, Israel’s prime minister has decided to accept the American-Polish invitation. In fact, behind the seemingly bland conference title — "Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East" — hides Netanyahu’s magic word, which is also the key word of his re-election campaign: Iran. The magical qualities of the word are a proven fact: Reports about an Israeli air force bombing of Iranian positions in Syria push aside the latest news item about new evidence of Netanyahu’s alleged involvement in bribery.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, one photo-op with Arab leaders at the anti-Iran conference is worth tens of thousands of words about how Israel is missing the opportunity of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a road map that offers it an opportunity to rid itself of the occupation and to isolate radical Islamist forces led by Iran and Hezbollah. One photo showing an Israeli Iron Dome missile intercepting a missile fired from Syria in the skies over Mount Hermon (near the Syrian border) is stronger than a thousand words about the constant threat hanging over the heads of Gaza border area residents from Hamas-fired rockets. In an election season, when the candidate for prime minister (Netanyahu) is also the minister of defense, the value of such photos is even greater.

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