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Netanyahu has become more extreme but shouldn’t overplay his hand

Netanyahu is set to return to power in Israel backed by right-wing extremists in his government. But younger Americans are warming up to his sworn enemy.


With Benjamin Netanyahu en route to return to power as Israel’s prime minister, the far-right political movement he’s empowering is riding high on its reclaimed strength. 

My MSNBC colleague Mehdi Hasan put together a great explainer on Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Netanyahu ally known for personally stoking violence against Palestinians and decrying Arab lawmakers’ mere presence in the Israeli parliament as criminal. 

But Netanyahu and his extremist allies would do well to tread lightly and not overplay their hands when it comes to military and legislative offensives against Palestinians. Polling suggests most Americans still show solid support for Israel, though young people are much more even-handed in their views.

A Pew Research survey from May found that 67% of American adults viewed Israelis very or somewhat favorably, compared with 52% when it comes to Palestinians. As for Americans’ views of the two governments, 48% had a very or somewhat favorable view of Israel’s government, compared with just 28% when it comes to the Palestinian government. 

But the survey also found that “U.S. adults under 30 view the Palestinian people at least as warmly (61% very or somewhat favorable) as the Israeli people (56%) and rate the Palestinian government as favorably (35%) as the Israeli government (34%).” 

Although Netanyahu cozied up with authoritarian leaders during his time as Israeli prime minister, there hasn’t been a complete realignment of global powers such that Israel can comfortably spurn the United States. 

Thus far. 

Which is to say, given Israel is heavily reliant on U.S. aid, it would behoove Netanyahu not to alienate an ally whose younger voters seem to be increasingly skeptical of the current power dynamic between the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

That is, if he’s operating from a logical and not merely ideological position.