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Israel's Netanyahu banks on tough guy image to win early elections

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Since Netanyahu began his second term in the wake of Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas in Gaza, he has steered Israel through some dicey waters, including the blistering Goldstone Report that accused Israel of human rights abuses in Gaza; the fatal attack on a Turkish-supported flotilla challenging Israel’s blockade of Gaza in May 2010; the Arab Spring; and mounting concern about Iran’s nuclear program as it significantly added to its stockpile of enriched uranium.

“What [Netanyahu] said was … there were storms, and look at us, we’re doing very well,” says political scientist Abraham Diskin, professor emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He points out in particular Netanyahu’s influence on the Iran issue. While some say Israel has become more isolated under the tough-talking prime minister, Netanyahu has also largely succeeded in getting the widespread international support Israel sought for far-ranging sanctions against Iran.

“About Iran, of course he made many mistakes – maybe he was too tough at the time,” says Prof. Diskin, noting that even his Defense Minister Ehud Barak had publicly aired misgivings in recent weeks. “But internationally … he really had his way. Just yesterday, there was the EU decision to toughen sanctions … and I look at how both sides [in the US presidential race] are talking about that – they really compete on who is closer to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli position. That is really the name of the game in US politics now.”

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