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Did Netanyahu find his legacy with UAE deal?

The announcement yesterday on normalizing ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates reflects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s realization that he must abandon his annexation plan.
TOPSHOT - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Photo by ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The feelings are mixed. On the one hand, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally found his historic legacy: Peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On the other hand, the breakthrough was not the achievement to which he aspired. What he — and his voters — really wanted was to implement historic Israeli sovereignty over a significant part of the West Bank. That will no longer happen. The agreement with the UAE is a candy to dispel spreading bitterness, a pain relief tablet to ease the hangover plaguing Netanyahu’s electoral base since the heady White House event in late January at which the upcoming annexation was declared.

As strange as it sounds, the agreement with the UAE makes a fourth round of Israeli elections less likely. Netanyahu, who continues to decline in the polls — a Maariv media outlet poll gave his Likud party a record low of 27 Knesset seats Aug. 13 — knows the deal with the Emirates will not improve his standing within the center-left by a single vote, but could well deprive him of many right-wing votes.

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