(Published Feb. 28): With so much American news focused on the new coronavirus and the Democratic presidential primaries, far less attention has attended Israel’s March 2 elections than the contests merit. Here’s hoping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu somehow wins reelection for one, and only one, final term.

Israel always is far more important than its size, both for cultural and religious reasons, and because it is a bulwark of liberty and a source of vital intelligence in a region dangerously hostile, historically, to the West. Israel’s internal politics may be particularly important now, because a growing de facto alliance between Israel and moderate Arab or Muslim states increasingly is boxing in Iran’s mullahs and providing the greatest chance in more than a century for regional peace and stability.

If Israel can stay its course for a few more years, the emerging-but-tenuous peace and stability could solidify. A change in Israel’s leadership, contrarily, could make those possibilities frustratingly evanescent.

That’s why Americans should hope for a clear victory by Netanyahu, rather than a third consecutive parliamentary stalemate. Netanyahu’s adept stewardship of an entrepreneurial economy has given his nation internal strength just as his canny diplomacy, tough-minded but flexible, has made Israel a more trusted semi-ally to many of its Arab neighbors, rather than a pariah.

Even with some character flaws, Netanyahu has proved to be one of the most remarkably talented statesmen in modern world history. His leadership has taken a nation of fewer than 9 million people and with an area smaller than New Hampshire, a nation that for 60 years had reason to fear every day for its very existence, and made it a virtual diplomatic colossus.

None of this is to render judgment on his guilt or innocence under Israeli law for the bribery-related charges for which he faces trial on March 17. I am no expert on Israeli law. The charges, though, should worry every lover of freedom, because they effectively would criminalize a free press….

[The full column is here.]


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