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Will Netanyahu stay obsessed with Iran or use his new coalition to help Israel?

Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy has been dangerously transfixed on Iran, neglecting the myriad other issues threatening Israel and Middle East stability. The new coalition government sets up a rare opportunity to reshape Israel’s domestic institutions and strengthen its regional standing.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of parliament in Jerusalem, where his new coalition partner Shaul Mofaz was sworn in as a cabinet minister May 9. Op-ed contributor Nir Eisikovits says 'The new centrist coalition frees Netanyahu from the chokehold of...extreme right parties' but he wonders whether 'Bibi' will seize the opportunity to make dramatic changes or 'simply use his broadened parliamentary support to secure the legitimacy of a future attack on Iran.'

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

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Love him or hate him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a stargazer, a strategic thinker. 

The son of the late Benzion Netanyahu, one of the state’s most preeminent historians, Mr. Netanyahu seems focused on nothing less than the ability of Jews to survive as a people and on Israel’s role in their survival. His insistence on producing Holocaust-related documents during his speeches is not exclusively the result of bad taste or cheap fear-mongering. Rather, the crux of Netanyahu’s strategic vision appears to be the imperative to prevent a second Shoa.

This is why he appears to be especially proud to have recently changed the international conversation about the Middle East. In large part because of his prodding, posturing, and threatening, much of the world has fully turned its attention to the threat posed by Iran’s reported nuclear weapons program. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, this marks a shift from the tactical nuisance that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – troublesome but utterly manageable – to a fundamental question that threatens the very existence of the Jewish state.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s sense of strategy has been dangerously limited, remaining transfixed on Iran, without expending equal effort or public appeal on the myriad other issues threatening Israel and Middle East stability. It remains to be seen whether this week’s dramatic reshuffling of his coalition makes a difference. But the new partnership with the centrist Kadima party could provide Netanyahu with the political cover necessary to address a broader range of questions.

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