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Netanyahu Claims Foreign Conspiracy Is Trying to Depose Him

Trailing in the polls, Israel's prime minister casts about for someone to blame for his sinking political fortunes.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s general elections in Israel, things are not looking good for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in polls trails his opponents, and now the Israeli leader has taken to a timeworn tactic to revive his fortunes: blaming an international conspiracy for his political travails.

In a Facebook post Friday, Netanyahu claimed that foreign money is being funneled to his opponents in a bid to unseat the Likud leader. “The rule of the right is in danger. Left-wing supporters and the media in Israel and outside of Israel have joined forces to raise Tzipi and Bougie to power in a way that is not legitimate,” he wrote, referring to his opponents Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

The consequences, he said, would be dire: “withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the division of Jerusalem, [and] the establishment of a second Hamas-stan on the hills overlooking Tel Aviv and the Ben Gurion International Airport.” Netanyahu first used the term “Hamas-stan” years ago to warn about what he thought would result from Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The Jewish state removed its settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 — though it controversially retained control of its airspace and coastline — and the region is now governed by Hamas.

More broadly, Netanyahu used the Facebook post to assert that he and his party were facing a vast left-wing conspiracy of foreign governments, journalists from the mass-circulation Yediot Ahronot newspaper and “tycoons from Israel and abroad.”

Elsewhere on Friday, Netanyahu elaborated on the identities of those foreign governments. “Scandinavian governments have spent millions of dollars on a campaign to remove me from power,” he told the radio station Kol Israel.

While relations between Sweden and Israel have grown chilly in recent months over Sweden’s decision to recognize the state of Palestine, there is no evidence the Nordic country is funneling money into the Israeli election.

On Friday, Yediot Ahronot polling showed Netanyahu’s Likud party trailing Herzog and Livni’s Zionist Union ahead of Tuesday’s election. That poll had the Zionist Union winning 26 Knesset seats to Likud’s 22. A Channel 10 poll published Friday gave Likud 20 seats to the Zionist Union’s 24.

Even if his Likud party finishes second to the Zionist Union, Netanyahu may still be able to hold on to power. Winning the premiership requires cobbling together at minimum a 61-seat coalition in the 120 seat Knesset, and Netanyahu may be better positioned than his rivals to secure such a parliamentary bloc.

And with his perilous position in the polls, Netanyahu has been quick to blame a vague foreign influence on his decline. On Tuesday, the Israeli leader told Army Radio that there is “a tremendous effort, worldwide, to topple” him. With election day approaching, Netanyahu has gotten only slightly more specific in his accusations toward foreign meddlers.

For Netanyahu, the appropriate response to this foreign conspiracy is, of course, obvious: Vote Likud.

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll

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