Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to leave for Japan and South Korea on July 27. The top headline for his five-day state visit is planned for Seoul, where Israel will sign a historic free trade agreement with South Korea estimated to be worth billions of shekels for the Israeli economy.
The timing of this visit, in the heat of an election campaign, will certainly help cement Netanyahu’s position as a serious statesman, particularly when compared with his rivals. Yet Netanyahu has spent the past two days deciding whether to postpone his trip. The reason is that it means he would be out of the country Aug. 1, the date on which the parties are required to submit their final lists for the Knesset to the election board. The timing is critical for him politically. The prime minister wants to prevent a major merger of all the parties on the right (apart from the Likud) in an initiative led by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who became head of the New Right party July 21.