(Reuters) - For Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to expand Israeli settlements may risk a diplomatic crisis with Europe but could prove a good bet at the ballot box.
Tamir Sheafer, a political scientist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said Netanyahu's settlement move was "what his voters expect of him" and stemmed from internal political considerations."Maybe they are worried in (Netanyahu's) Likud that right-wing voters will opt instead for (the far-right religious)Habayit Hayehudi party," Sheafer said.
So far, European anger over the settlement plan has not led to any sanctions against Israel. Any punitive measures before the election would fuel arguments made by Netanyahu's political opponents that he was deepening its diplomatic isolation.
"I think there are electoral considerations (behind Netanyahu's settlement moves)," said Gideon Rahat, a Hebrew University political scientist. "But he's also used to (Europe and the United States) not bothering him much and now they seem to have changed the rules of the game."