Two of the Israeli government’s most reliable critics of an Iran strike were swept out of power during Monday’s Likud party primary, replaced by hard-right members of the Knesset (MKs) on both Iran and Israeli West Bank settlements. According to a Reuters report, the defeated members, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, were staunch opponents of a strike on Iran, and “their likely ouster could point to a strategic shift closer to confrontation.” Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf notes that hardliners now make up almost all of the MK candidates in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party:
All the so-called Likud “moderates,” except for Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, were pushed out of the top seed and will probably be out of the Knesset; that includes ministers Benny Begin, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor. The most vocal backbenchers – those behind attacks on the left, Arabs and human rights NGOs – won the day. The Likud looks right now like the Tea Party’s dream team.
Another analyst of Israeli politics, Michael Koplow, argues that the Likud primary “makes an Israeli strike on Iran a lot more likely” because the “security cabinet [may flip] from being divided down the middle to being nearly unanimous in favor of a strike.” Likud, which for the first time this year is forming a joint party with the conservative nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, is widely expected to be the big winners in Israel’s general election in January.
High-ranking Israeli officials have recently indicated that the pressure-and-negotiations approach currently employed by the Obama administration could lead to a successful diplomatic resolution of the nuclear crisis. There is some tentative evidence Iran might be open to a negotiated solution. Given the terrible consequences of war, the U.S. government believes diplomacy is “the best and most permanent” way to resolve the nuclear issue.