“Netanyahu, in a different league,” says a 12-story high billboard on the northern façade of Likud’s historic headquarters of Metzudat Ze'ev in Tel Aviv. Given recent events in the international arena, one can only conclude that at least this declaration by the ruling party is accurate.
The timing of the return of Sultan Yaaqub missing soldier Zachary Baumel’s remains, six days before the polls open, can’t be a coincidence. There are no such coincidences. Just as the American recognition of Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights didn’t emerge from nowhere. Everything was planned and perfectly timed.
Only Netanyahu, whose status in the global arena is extraordinary, is capable of enlisting the heads of great powers and “third-party countries” to help him in his election campaign. So it was with U.S. President Donald Trump and the Golan, and so it is with his trip Thursday to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, who reportedly contributed to the success of the “intelligence and operational” action that advanced the return of the body.
That was also presumably the aim of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Israel this week. All these developments took place on the diplomatic playing field, where there is only one player skillfully maneuvering the ball toward an empty goalpost and scoring spectacular goals one after the other.
This impressive global mobilization is intended to divert the public agenda in the final days of the election campaign to Netanyahu’s only remaining undeniable strength: international diplomacy. In the security realm he’s suffered several blows recently. The confrontation in Gaza ended, again, with a bitter disappointment and a blow to Israeli morale. The response to the rockets fired at the center of the country was mild. Hamas in Gaza is now getting lots of concessions from Israel, a fitting Zionist reward for firing at Tel Aviv, Hasharon and Gaza border communities.
To paraphrase one of Netanyahu’s old slogans, Hamas’ strategy proves itself over and over – if you fire, you’ll get (or alternatively “If you don’t fire, you don’t get,” as in “If it’s not Bibi, they don’t investigate.”)
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The prime minister will now spend the next two days making up for this with the great drama of the body of a fallen IDF soldier being returned home 37 years after he was killed in the first Lebanon War. His rivals can do nothing but welcome the development, basically suspend their election campaigns, and clear the news cycle for the man from whom they still have a lot to learn.