Friday, July 8, 2011

Magician or succesfull Leader? Bibi/Israel coalition gallops on

(Jeffrey Heller-Reuters)...Now, for the first time since Menachem Begin's right-wing government completed its 1977-1981 term, another Likud party leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears to be on course to defy the odds, riding on strong economic indicators.

Past the mid-way point after a 2009 election, Netanyahu's Likud-led bonding of religious and right-wing parties as well as legislators who broke away from center-left Labor, shows few signs of fracture before the next vote due in 2013.

A paucity of opinion polls in the third year of the Netanyahu government is arguably one of the clearest signs that Israelis are not about to bid farewell to 'Bibi' any time soon.

A rare poll last week forecast that if elections were held now, Likud would win 32 of parliament's 120 seats -- up from 27 in the 2009 vote but still short of a governing majority -- compared with 29 for the main opposition centrist Kadima party.

Assuming Netanyahu could keep his current coalition partners, he would emerge from the ballot with about 66 parliamentary seats, the same number his government now controls, according to the survey.

"The political system hasn't had such a period in ages," said commentary accompanying the poll conducted by the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, often supportive of Netanyahu, and Hagal Hahadash polling company.

"After the relentless maelstroms that characterized previous governments, which worsened after two years in power, Netanyahu's government is characterized primarily by a lull, a political lull, a diplomatic lull, a security lull."

Economics also tell the story: the economy grew 4.8 percent in 2010 and is forecast by the central bank to grow 5.2 percent this year. Unemployment is at an all-time low of 5.8 percent.

"You may love or hate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but there is no arguing with his success," commentator Aluf Benn, citing economic growth and political stability, wrote in Haaretz, a left-wing daily.

At home and abroad, Netanyahu has cultivated an image of a pro-active leader who is not afraid of taking on challenges, embracing Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to highlight his work.