Some thoughts on the situation
1. Silvan Shalom, the Likud’s number 2 man, had no idea that PM Netanyahu was planning to bring forward the Likud primaries date. He was caught completely by surprise. And just for that, he doesn’t deserve to be Likud leader. In this profession, and in this neighborhood, if you’re not constantly trying to politically or militarily outmaneuver your opponents, chances are they will get you. The wolf and the sheep have not laid down together yet here. If Shalom doesn’t know that by now, he’ll never know it, and he can’t lead the Likud, or this country.
2. In any case, Netanyahu’s real political target is not his traditional number two in the Likud, the happless Silvan Shalom, but rather US President Barack Obama, who seems, at this stage of the game, to have a clearer shot at a second Presidential term than any of the Republican candidates. My thinking is that by bringing forward the Likud primaries, and perhaps the next general elections before a possible Obama re-election, Netanyahu hopes to win his own mandate [his third term] and thus be able to easier withstand pressure by Obama by arguing that the nation has spoken, the nation has reelected Bibi, and thus has given the Israeli PM a mandate to stand by his policies. It will be harder for Obama, even in his second term, to pressure Bibi to make concessions to the Palestinians if Netanyahu has acquired a clear second mandate from the Israeli people. By the way, almost all of the Republican candidates seem to me to be rather flimsy. Netanyahu and his circle abhors Obama, and see a second term for America’s president as something akin to a catastrophe, a Nakba, if you will. For his first term, Obama served up a slew of comments and policy positions which Netanyahu and his Republican [and Jewish supporters in the US] saw as crossing red lines. These comments culminated in Obama’s ‘famous’ return to negotiations along the 1967 borders [with agreed-upon land swaps] speech. In Netanyahu’s circle, Obama is considered just as dangerous to Israel’s security, if not more so, than Iran’s Ahmadinejad. This is no exaggeration. And now that the Republican contenders are falling by the wayside, one after the other, Bibi must start learning to live with the idea of an Obama second term. In Obama’s circle, Bibi is considered dangerous for Israel’s long-term security, and even the security and interests of the US. It’s not just Gutman, Pannetta and Clinton who have recently voiced their concerns, but before that Obama himself [who told Sarkozy that he has to deal with Bibi more than he probably wanted to] but even before that, Pannetta’s predecessor Robert Gates said pretty much the same thing. Obama knows who he’s up against in Bibi and his American forward base, so is making huge efforts to connect with American Jewry. So for Obama, the real electoral adversary is not Mitt Romney, it’s Bibi Netanyahu. And for Bibi, it’s not Silvan Shalom or Tzippi Livni, but Barack Obama. May the best man win, and may both countries win.
3. The other thing Bibi will have to learn to live with, most likely, is a new dispensation in which Iran possesses a military nuclear arsenal. It’s sad but true, Israel and the West have failed to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Even a massive military strike will not destroy the program, but only slow it down “for a year at best,” as US Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta has said. And he should know. But the Telegraph reports that Iran is getting ready to absorb a military strike. Don’t worry Iran. Israel does not want to attack. And it is quite doubtful if Israel can attack effectively. Those tricky Iranians have spread their program too deep and too wide for it to be targeted effectively. Israel and America prefer a covert war, which, as you don’t need to be an intelligence expert to see, is very much well under way. Just in the past few weeks, two massive explosions have targeted Iranian nuclear and missile facilities. Iran has managed to shoot down and capture a sophisticated US spy drone. Hezbollah has uncovered a large electronic surveillance array in southern Lebanon belonging to the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence before the IDF managed to destroy it. Over the past several months, somebody infected Iran’s nuclear program computers with the world’s most sophisticated virus, and last year several Iranian nuclear scientists found violent deaths at the hands of assassins. This is the preferred way for now. We don’t even have to wait for the movie to come out, as some of these things are taking place out in the open [think Mabhouh assassination]. This action-packed spy thriller is the best show in town folks.