Lilach Weissman-Globes).For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this has been his most successful week since the election. He has not enjoyed such a level of public approval since February 2009. In fact, even then he didn't win the kind of support he has now.
According to all the opinion polls carried out after Netanyahu's speech in the US Congress, the Likud would win over 30 Knesset seats if an election were held now, and support for the party is soaring to heights it hasn't known for years. The prime minister has found the winning formula: as his personal approval rating rises, the number of seats for Likud rises in train.
The dramatic turnaround in Netanyahu's status began when the public in Israel learned of the severe confrontation between him and President Obama at the White House. The prime minister, who, in two and half years in office, had never shown the boldness of a leader, had not produced a peace plan or done anything much in the economic or social spheres, plucked up his courage and stood tall against the US president.
The tough exchange of words between the two led to a strengthening of his standing first of all on the right, which cheered his courage in saying to the president "that's far enough." It seems it touched people emotionally and stirred Israeli pride, and that found expression in the numbers. The Israeli public, particularly on the right, love it when their prime minister emerges a hero. Even if he comes to blows with his boss, with the main sponsor.
A public opinion survey by Rafi Smith for "Globes" shows that half the public believes that Netanyahu did not harm Israeli interests. Among Likud voters that figure rises to 80%, and it is similar among traditional and religious Jews and those with a right-wing outlook. Only 29% of those surveyed think that the way the prime minister behaved towards the president of the US damaged the State of Israel's interests. 21% expressed no opinion. Israelis have an ambivalent attitude towards Obama: the US is our greatest friend, but, on the other hand, the current president is not always easy for Israel to deal with.
The speech Netanyahu made in Congress strengthened support for him even more. He managed to speak to everybody: he stroked right-wing sympathies when he said that Judea and Samaria were ours by right from our forefathers, something no Israeli prime minister has said before, and he also stroked the political center when a second afterwards he said that reality compels us to compromise on some of these places. Just as in the 1999 election campaign, in an instant, and in the US Congress of all places, Netanyahu became everyone's prime minister.
Even though he deviated from his ideology and that of the Likud, only a few twitters were heard from those who tried to raise the banner of rebellion. The polls showing that the prime minister emerged victorious in this round, and the high public support for him, succeeded in silencing, or at least muffling, those on his right flank and his opposition. No-one wants to attack a popular prime minister. On the contrary. Netanyahu's regular chorus of support has been joined by new voices. It's no longer just Ofir Akunis, Yuval Steinitz, and Gilad Erdan. It's also Yisrael Katz, Gidon Sa'ar, Yuli Edelstein, and Limor Livnat. All were interviewed by the media this week, stormed the television studios, flooded the radio programs.
The opposition also realized that it wasn't worthwhile swimming against the tide, and only a light stammering was heard from that direction. The main problem facing Netanyahu at the moment is how to keep the following wind he is enjoying from the public, and how to break the barrier of repugnance many Kadima voters feel towards him. It's not certain that press releases about romantic strolls in Washington are the solution.
It turns out that the word "No" and the number "1967" were all that Netanyahu had to say to hit the target with an overwhelming majority of public opinion. Asked whether they agree that in a peace agreement with the Palestinians the borders should be based on the 1967 lines with agreed exchanges of territory, which reflects Obama's stance, 66% of Israelis responded that they did not agree.