Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have secured his re-election in March with a strong display on the world stage at last weekend’s anti-terror march in Paris. Though his critics on the left accused Bibi of exploiting the tragedy, and said that he drew attention to himself, Netanyahu bolstered his image as a world leader, and a steady hand in turbulent times. With the Obama administration absent from the march, he also–once again–struck a contrast in Israel’s favor.
Initially, Netanyahu had decided not to attend the rally in Paris, at the request of French President François Hollande. However, after some of his rivals on the right announced that they were attending, Netanyahu changed his mind. The French government obliged with a formal invitation, but drew attention to the fact that they would also be inviting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the event, despite Abbas’s long and ongoing support for terrorism.
The fiasco invited criticism from Netanyahu’s left-wing challengers, who said that the entire episode was an example of how Netanyahu had alienated the world from Israel. Yet that criticism looked petty after Bibi’s warm welcome by Jews in Paris, who greeted him at a memorial service at the Great Synagogue with loud cheers. A left-wing media meme accusing Bibi of having elbowed his way to the front of the anti-terror rally proved to be overblown, as former French President Nicholas Sarkozy was shown to be the real culprit–prompting a new hashtag, “#JeSuisNico,” making fun of Sarkozy.
With Netanyahu playing the statesman, his rivals–at least on the left–were left grasping for traction after they failed to take the high road. The impression that was reinforced for Israeli voters is that Netanyahu’s main opponents, including Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, lack the gravitas to lead. While March is still far away, Expect Bibi’s fortunes to improve.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak