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After 12 years in power, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the verge of being ousted. Though he’s hit a low point in his historic career, experts and former US diplomats say Netanyahu will remain a force to be reckoned with and his political demise could actually push the Israeli leader to become more involved in US politics and elections. 

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, has an outsized influence in the US — particularly with Republicans and Evangelicals. He garnered an especially close relationship with former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly took controversial steps on US-Israel relations that were in line with Netanyahu’s agenda and helped boost the Israeli leader’s profile. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if [Netanyahu] starts intervening in our own elections at a personal level and links himself to Trump more and Trumpism, and plays the Republican card,” Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, told Insider.

“Don’t underestimate that, because he’s not just going to focus on Israeli politics — he thinks he has a card to play in American politics. And I think he does, especially given our polarized political environment,” Telhami added. 

Telhami said that people on the far right in the US looking for allies against the Biden administration could see Netanyahu as a top candidate in that regard. With the Democratic party increasingly divided over US-Israel relations, and progressives pushing for an approach that shows more concern for Palestinians, Netanyahu could look to the exploit the situation. 

Netanyahu sees American politics as “part of his legitimization,” Telhami said, and “because he’s linked himself so tightly to Republican politics and even to Trump personally — and certainly Trump’s people like Jared Kushner and David Friedman — he’s going to be rooting for Republicans to win.”

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The Israeli leader has already inserted himself into US affairs in ways that other world leaders wouldn’t dare to. As the Obama administration worked to finalize the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, for example, Netanyahu gave a speech before a joint session of Congress with the aim of torpedoing the agreement. Congressional Republicans invited Netanyahu to give the speech without consulting the White House, and the address was perceived as a major insult to then-President Barack Obama. 

No longer being prime minister could potentially free Netanyahu up to be even more interventionist in the US, Telhami said, in the sense that he won’t have to be as mindful of the implications of his actions.  

If the deal to form a new government made by a fragile coalition of eight opposition parties is ratified in the Knesset — Israel’s parliament — on Sunday, Netanyahu will be replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett, his former chief of staff and the head of the right-wing Yamina party.

Bennett is considered to be even further to the right than Netanyahu.

He supports expanding Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and annexing most of the Palestinian territory — both considered illegal under international law. Bennett is also …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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