Arab-Israeli Knesset Member (MK) Yousef Jabareen has claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using tensions with Iran to stay in power ahead of the country’s general election.
Speaking to British newspaper the Express, Jabareen explained that Netanyahu “will do anything to survive” Israel’s upcoming general election on 17 September, including overstating tensions with Iran and conducting “military attacks” on the already-besieged Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s prospects of re-election as yet remain uncertain, with the latest polls showing he could face a repeat of April’s outcome, when he failed to form a government after deadlocked coalition talks. Having been told he can only cancel September’s election in the event of extreme circumstances such as war, there is now speculation that Netanyahu could take drastic steps to avoid electoral defeat.
“Netanyahu wants Iran to be the main issue in the Middle East,” Jabareen told the UK daily, adding that the prime minister “has been reaching out to Arab states, arguing that Iran is a common enemy for Israel and for all countries in the region.”
Tensions with Iran have been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks in the wake of several attacks on oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and the downing of a US drone. The US, as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel, have blamed Iran for these attacks, a claim which Iran vehemently denies.
“There is clear manipulation of the issue of Iran to serve his own interest,” Jabareen concluded of Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has been keen to emphasise the alleged Iranian threat to further his normalisation drive with Arab states, particularly major Gulf powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite criticism from the Palestinian factions, recent months have seen high profile Israeli ministers visit a series of Gulf countries, the Bahraini foreign minister call for Israel to be accepted in the Middle East, and Israel claim it plans to open a diplomatic mission in Oman.
The veteran MK – who is running for Knesset on 17 September as part of the recently-reformed Joint List – this weekend attended London’s Palestine Expo, Europe’s biggest Palestine exhibition which shed light on the plight of Palestinian refugees and those living under Israel’s occupation.
Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, had tried to ban Jabareen from attending the event. The minister sent a letter to the Knesset’s legal advisor, Eyal Yennon, demanding that he not approve Jabareen’s participation in the exhibition, citing the organiser’s support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Erdan named MEMO in the letter, saying “the Middle East Monitor [MEMO], which invited MP Jabarin to the conference and organized it, along with the Friends of Al Aqsa Organization and other Palestinian, Arab and international organizations sponsoring the conference, supports the boycott of Israel and works to discredit its reputation.”
Jabareen slammed Erdan’s attempt to prevent his attendance, vowing he “will not be discouraged, and will continue [his] activities to expose Israel’s racist policies and occupation to the world, as well as the reality of the discrimination we face living as second-class citizens in this state [Israel].”