TIME Israel

Scenes from Election Day in Israel

Millions of Israelis voted in parliamentary elections March 17, in a contest widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is hoping to be granted a fourth term in office

TIME Israel

Everything You Need to Know About Israel’s Elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position may be on the line Tuesday

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections in December, amid opposition within his coalition government, he was poised to comfortably win a new mandate. The three-term premier rode a wave of home support during Israel’s 50-day summer war in Gaza, and though his approval ratings had since dipped, his job appeared safe.

A lot can change in three months, let alone weeks. In early March, Bibi, as he is popularly known, addressed a joint meeting of Congress and blasted an emerging nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers, saying it “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” The speech left Israel divided two weeks before the vote.

When Israelis go to the polls Tuesday, Netanyahu will face an empowered opposition that threatens to displace him. Recent polling shows his conservative Likud Party trailing the Zionist Union, a hybrid of the center-left Labor and the small centrist Hatnua. Still, Netanyahu has a good shot at staying in power if he can cobble together at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats and form a coalition government, but there’s no guarantee.

Here’s what you have to know about the elections.

Who’s running?

Netanyahu, 65, would become Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister if he wins a fourth term and serves until July 2019. His campaign has largely focused on national security issues, playing into the concerns of the country’s right-wing majority. On Monday, on the eve of the vote, he withdrew his support for a two-state solution, saying a Palestinian state would provide “attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”

His strongest challenger is Isaac Herzog, the son of a former President, a longtime politician who leads the Labor Party. Days after Netanyahu called for the early elections, Herzog, 54, announced an alliance with Hatnua’s Tzipi Livni, formerly of Netanyahu’s cabinet, giving the combined Zionist Union a lead over Likud. The alliance’s campaign has largely skirted security issues and instead focused on domestic worries like housing shortages and the high cost of living, which surveys show high on Israelis’ list of concerns. Herzog and Livni had agreed to rotate the premiership if their Zionist Union comes out ahead but, in a sign of Herzog’s rising popularity, the leadership agreed to drop that plan and back the soft-spoken Labor leader for premier.

In a surprise move, Israel’s four Arab parties joined forces for the first time (despite a host of internal divisions). Led by Ayman Odeh, a 40-year-old lawyer from Haifa, the Joint List is poised to become the third-largest faction in the Knesset on the vote of Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens. Odeh has said his alliance won’t join any government, but he could tip the balance if he recommends that the President nominate Herzog to form a government.

Neither of the leading parties is polling more than 25 seats out of the 120, so the next government will largely hinge on smaller parties that might link up for a broader coalition. Look for both Netanyahu and Herzog to court Moshe Kahlon, whose centrist Kulanu party has seen a surge in support over the last month and is now polling around 10 seats. Though he was a former Netanyahu ally in Likud, Kahlon hasn’t ruled out backing the Zionist alliance.

What do the opinion polls say?

The Zionist alliance holds a slight lead over Likud, with 25 seats to Likud’s 21 (the exact numbers vary, depending on which poll you look at).

Netanyahu is losing in the opinion polls. Does that mean he’s out?

Far from it. For one, polling has been notoriously unreliable in Israel, where up to 20% of voters may still be undecided.

But the elections are also only the first step in forming the next government. Since no party will win a majority of seats (nor has one since 1949), the leading parties will likely have to compose a coalition government—that’s where the smaller parties come in. Going by the Israeli system, current President Reuven Rivlin will consult with all parties to nominate a member of the Knesset with the best chance of forming a coalition as Prime Minister.

Netanyahu appears to have a better chance at forming a government, if the current polling holds, thanks to the presumed support of the substantial bloc of right-wing and religious parties. But a Herzog government, with help from Kulanu, could also theoretically align itself with others from across the spectrum to come out ahead.

The leading parties could also conceivably come together to assemble what’s known as a National Unity government. Herzog and Netanyahu might decide to shelve their differences and participate in a shared government, rotating the premiership, as Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir did from 1984 to 1988.

What if Netanyahu loses?

A Herzog-led government would likely focus on the Zionist Union’s campaign pledge to tackle the rising cost of living. While the alliance has pledged to resume talks with the Palestinians after the last round of negotiations on statehood collapsed in April, the economy would remain its priority.

What if he wins?

If Netanyahu aligns with the right-wing and religious parties to forge a fourth term, his government is expected to continue its focus on national security issues, emphasizing the rise and threat of Islamist militants along Israel’s borders, just as he did when declaring that he no longer supported a Palestinian state. Netanyahu will also face an uphill battle repairing ties with President Barack Obama after his controversial address to Congress, during which he criticized the emerging “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.

So when will we know?

Israeli television will begin to broadcast exit polls after 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET).

Once Rivlin nominates someone to form a government, they will have 42 days to do so before the President selects someone else to try. If he or she fails, anyone in the parliament can propose a majority coalition. In the unlikely (and unprecedented) scenario both attempts come up short, it’s back to the polls.

Read next: Netanyahu Vows No Palestinian State While He’s Prime Minister

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Vows No Palestinian State While He’s Prime Minister

ISRAEL-POLITICS-VOTE-NETANYAHU-FRANCE-JEWS
Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a campaign meeting with members of Israel's French-Jewish community on March 10, 2015, in Netanya, Israel

Reverses earlier support of two-state solution on eve of general elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared there will be not be a Palestinian state so long as he is Prime Minister, reversing his prior support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the eve of Israel’s parliamentary elections.

“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” the three-term Prime Minister said, according to the New York Times translation of the interview posted to website NRG on Monday.

When the reporter asked if that meant he would not establish a Palestinian state were he to win re-election, Netanyahu replied, “Correct.”

Netanyahu, whose Likud party is trailing behind the center-left Zionist Union alliance, once expressed support for the idea of two-state solution in a 2009 speech.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME Israel

Is This the Man Who Could Beat Netanyahu and Become Israel’s Next PM?

Isaac Herzog has maintained a lead in opinion polls but winning the election is not enough to become prime minister

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to dissolve his government last November and call for new elections he didn’t expect a formidable challenge from the Labor party leader Isaac Herzog.

Herzog is the closest thing Israel has to a patrician politician. His father, Chaim Herzog, was an Israeli army general and the sixth president of Israel and his grandfather was the first chief rabbi of Ireland. And while the 54-year-old Isaac Herzog has served four times as a government minister since 2004, few have seen him as having the charisma some believe is necessary to be Israel’s prime minister.

But opinion polls show Herzog, who heads an electoral list which combines the Labor and Hatnua parties, with a clear lead. At least three polls released Friday—the last day polling can be released before the March 17 vote—showed Herzog’s Zionist Union with a four-seat lead in the Knesset over Netanyahu and his Likud party.

If these numbers remain true on election day, it will be a major achievement for Labor, which has not won an election in 16 years despite dominating Israeli politics before that.

Herzog appears confident that he can beat Netanyahu. He is attacking the three-term prime minister on his foreign policy; Netanyahu’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue, tensions with the Obama administration and lack of progress with the Palestinians. And on economic problems that trouble average Israelis as much as foreign policy.

“Housing costs have risen 70%. How come the social gaps have grown so substantially?” Herzog said in a press conference with foreign journalists in Jerusalem. “Netanyahu has failed on security, and on all these economic issues. He has to answer these questions, but he hasn’t. He’s run away from any debate with me.”

Election ads pump up Herzog’s wide-ranging experience in government and his service as a major in the Intelligence Corps; a history in an elite unit of the Israeli army is still considered vital for anyone who would serve as prime minister. Eyal Zisser, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Tel Aviv University, served with Herzog in the army. In those days, he was considered a “mensch,” says Zisser – Yiddish for a good guy – who was modest despite his political family.

“In many cases, when someone is from a well-known family, you know it,” says Zisser. “But in his case, no one could observe it because he didn’t show it off. He was always trying to prove himself not based on family affiliation but on his own merits, and people liked that about him.”

Unlike his father, who rose to the rank of general, Herzog left the army after four years to study law and then joined the family law firm. The pedigree aside, he didn’t necessarily act like someone who was destined to be prime minister. “He’s not full of charisma, and still, in his own quiet way, he’s a very smart politician,” says Zisser.

Herzog’s advisors have tried to turn his lack of charisma into an advantage. Herzog has focused on issues rather than trying to get ‘Bougie’ — as he’s popularly know here — to compete with the charisma of ‘Bibi’, as the prime minister is nicknamed.

“People are outgrowing that notion[the need for a charismatic prime minister],” says Asaf Eisin, a campaign strategist for Herzog’s Zionist Union. “We’ve heard people asking over and over again where did all those charismatic leaders bring them, and longing for a leader who works for them. It’s not about making speeches, it’s about actions. People have identified in Herzog a man who works for the country first, not himself. He can put his ego aside, and people want that.”

Herzog told reporters he is interested in resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians, which collapsed last April. He said he would halt all West Bank construction outside of the major “settlements blocs” that Israel would like be annexed to Israel in a peace deal. But success in resuming talks would depend on how ready the Palestinian Authority is to negotiate with him. “I do not know what kind of mood I’ll find after the 17th of March,” he said.

Even if he emerges as the winner of the general election, Herzog is not guaranteed the job of prime minister. He still has to create a coalition by uniting a group of parties with sometimes contradictory positions. And that takes different skills from winning an election. In the 2009 election, Herzog’s running mate Tzipi Livni emerged as the leader of the largest party but only Netanyahu could form a government.

But Herzog will have an added advantage this time. He hails from an Irish family and the election takes place on St Patrick’s Day.

TIME Israel

Israeli Cave Explorers Find Hidden Alexander the Great–Era Treasure

ISRAEL-ALEXANDER THE GREAT-COINS-JEWELRY-DISCOVERY
Clara Amit—Israel Antiquities Authority/Xinhua/Sipa USA Ancient coins and other objects that were found by chance in a cave in northern Israel.

The silver coins and jewelry are believed to be 2,300 years old

Cave explorers in northern Israel stumbled upon a secret stash of silver coins and jewelry that date back to the time of Alexander the Great.

“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement reported by CNN. “Presumably, the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it.”

The items, found in a small crevice of stalactite cave in Israel’s Galilee region, are believed to be 2,300 years old. They are the first artifacts of their kind from this period of ancient Israeli history, NBC reports.

After the cave explorers reported their discovery, antiquities authorities visited the site and found even more artifacts, some of which were 6,000 years old.

[CNN]

TIME Israel

5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress
Win McNamee—Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The numbers behind Netanyahu's speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress during crunch time for Israeli elections—and amidst turbulence in U.S.-Israel relations. Here are 5 stats that reveal the politics behind the speech and the state of play between Israel and the U.S.

1. Who tuned in?

Even though more than 50 congressional Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, it seems that just about everyone else was knocking down the doors. John Boehner’s office received requests for 10 times the number of available seats in the gallery. In Israel, the speech hit Israeli networks during primetime… but on a five-minute delay. That was because an election watchdog ruled that any content viewed as electioneering on behalf of the Prime Minister needed to be edited out.

(Huffington Post, New York Times, New York Times, The Telegraph)

2. The Iran threat

With all the applause in Congress for Netanyahu’s hardline stance against Iran, the American public’s actual stance might seem surprising. According to a recent poll, only 9% of Americans view Iran as “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” Three years ago, roughly a third of Americans did. (And you can’t just chalk up the difference to a more bellicose Russia: Iran fell from first place to fourth place). Over 60% of Americans support an agreement with Iran “that would include a limited enrichment capacity”—something Netanyahu pushed back against in his speech. There is a stark difference between Israeli and American opinion on Iran. In a 2013 survey, 75% of Israelis had “a very unfavorable view of Iran,” compared to just 42% of Americans. 85% of Israelis and 54% of Americans said “Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat.”

(Vox, Program for Public Consultation, New York Times, Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic)

3. A tale of two approval ratings

In Israel, public support for Prime Minister Netanyahu has decreased; his Likud party is in a tight race against the opposition party. But even if his support is waning at home, Netanyahu’s approval in the United States has grown. Almost twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably as unfavorably (45% v. 25%), a gain of 10 points since 2012.

(Haaretz, Gallup, i24 news)

4. Arab-Israeli Politics

Although Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arabs do not vote. (In 2013, only 56% voted compared to a Jewish turnout of 70%). But Arabs are gaining ground in Israeli electoral politics. Recently three small Arab parties united to create the “Joint List.” The new party includes Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Communist candidates. Recent polls indicate the new party could win 14 Knesset seats in the upcoming election. 78% of the Arab public was “very satisfied or moderately satisfied” with the creation of the new Arab bloc, while 19% of the Jewish public shared those feelings.

(The Economist, Daily Mail, Haaretz)

5. Emigration

In February, Netanyahu dubbed himself a “representative to the entire Jewish people”—and encouraged Jews to leave Europe for Israel. Immigration to Israel is on the rise. In 2014, Jews came to Israel in higher numbers than we’ve seen in a decade. But totaling just 26,500, last year’s Jewish immigration to Israel only accounted for 0.3% of the total diaspora. About half of all Jews live outside Israel. In a recent poll, 45% of Israeli Jewish respondents said Jews in America are safer than those in Israel—compared to just 28% who said the opposite.

(Haaretz, The Economist, The Telegraph, Israel Democracy Institute)

TIME Religion

See Photos of Children Celebrating Purim in the 1950s

As the Jewish holiday is celebrated around the world, here is a selection of never-published photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt

In a 24-page feature on Judaism in 1955, part of a multi-issue series on world religions, LIFE Magazine introduced the religion’s holidays to readers in order of their spiritual importance. First came the high holy days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, followed by Passover (which Charlton Heston would bring to the silver screen the following year) and Simchat Torah (which celebrates the end of the annual cycle of reading the Torah). Fifth on the list, just edging out Hanukkah’s festival of lights, was Purim.

“Purim (February or March) finds the children dancing and dressing up, recalling how beautiful Queen Esther saved the Jews from persecution at the hands of a politician named Haman.” That’s all the real estate the holiday received, accompanied by a black and white photo of a Hasidic man dancing in Jerusalem. Left on the cutting room floor were a number of color photographs made by Alfred Eisenstaedt of Israeli children wearing costumes for the celebration. Some dress as the characters in the Purim story (Esther, no surprise, is a crowd favorite), while others, like one little Lone Ranger, draw from popular culture.

The celebration itself centers around the reading of the Book of Esther, which begins with the Persian King Ahasuerus banishing his wife Vashti for disobeying orders. He arranges a beauty pageant to find a new wife and selects Esther, who keeps her Judaism a secret. Esther’s cousin Mordechai, leader of the Jews, gains Ahasuerus’ favor by alerting him to an assassination plot, but incurs the wrath of anti-Semitic prime minister Haman, who issues a decree ordering all Jews to be killed. Esther valiantly stands up to Ahasuerus, disclosing her true identity and leading to Haman’s hanging on the gallows built for Mordechai.

Purim is a favorite among children, who for just one day are encouraged to indulge in several activities that might otherwise be frowned upon. Dress-up hour is extended to a full-day activity. Cookies are offered up in abundance, their triangular shape conjuring evil Haman’s hat. And noisemakers are distributed, with children instructed to exercise their full vocal capacity whenever Haman’s name is uttered.

But Purim is not just for the kids. Adult revelers are urged to drink until they can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman—Talmud’s orders.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME politics

The Art of the Deal

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

Benjamin Netanyahu offers stark warnings (and perhaps an assist) on a pact with Iran

Is there anybody here from Texas?” the Prime Minister of Israel asked the 16,000 assembled for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. Of course there were. Whoops and cheers erupted. It is one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s conceits that he knows how to do American politics, how to both present himself in a user-friendly way to the American public and play the back alleys of power in Washington. He has had some success with this, but not always. His attempt to intervene in the 2012 presidential campaign on Mitt Romney’s behalf was disastrous. His strong speech on March 3 to members of Congress, assailing the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, may be better received, both in America and, more to the point, in Israel, where he faces a difficult re-election campaign. “People are tired of Bibi. I’m tired of Bibi,” said an Israeli attending the AIPAC meeting. “But I have two sons in the military, and I have confidence that Netanyahu will make decisions that will keep them as safe as possible. I don’t feel the same about any of the opposition leaders.” Certainly no other potential Israeli leader could have made so powerful an appeal to Congress.

And despite the cheesy political context of the moment, there are aspects of Netanyahu’s speech that should be cheered even by those of us who believe that President Obama is pursuing the right course in seeking a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu’s bluster and bombing threats have been invaluable to the negotiating process. He’s been a great scary-tough cop to President Obama’s sorta-tough constable. And Obama has needed all the help he can get. “The Persians believe that the time to get really tough is just before a deal is cut,” an Israeli intelligence expert who favors the deal told me in December. “So tell me why your President is sending nice personal letters to the Supreme Leader at exactly the wrong time?”

On the very day that Netanyahu spoke, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “rejected” the 10-year restrictions on Iran’s nuclear-energy program that he’d spent the past few months negotiating. If the haggle were taking place in the bazaar in Tehran, this would be the time for the U.S. to “call their bluff,” as Netanyahu said, and perhaps even counter with a 15-year deal. There would be danger in hanging tough; the Iranians could easily walk away, even though this is a deal they desperately need. The Iranian people, not just the Ayatullah’s regime, are extremely sensitive to perceived humiliation by the West; a certain, often justified, paranoia is part of the Persian DNA. “They think they invented bargaining,” a South Asian diplomat told me. “They push it too far.”

So Netanyahu’s speech was, at least, a useful reminder about the art of the deal in the Middle East. It was also a useful reminder that Iran’s extremist Shi’ite leaders are no picnic, though nowhere near the threat to American security that Sunni radicals like ISIS are. It is easy, in the midst of the current near embrace, to overstate the case for Iran. It is the most middle-class, best-educated country in the region, aside from Israel and Turkey, with the best-educated and most professional women; it also has a cheerily pro-American populace. But it is, along with Cuba, the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world. The regime’s support for Hizballah, the Houthis in Yemen and other Shi’ite militant organizations is indefensible. A nuclear deal with Iran might grease the way for the diminution, through democracy, of the Supreme Leader’s regime–or it might further empower the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls at least 20% of the economy and would be enriched by the lifting of sanctions.

But here is what Netanyahu cannot argue: that his position represents a step forward. Indeed, it is in fact the exact opposite. Right now, under the interim agreement negotiated by the U.N. and U.S., Iran has stopped–in fact, it has reversed–the enrichment of highly enriched (20%) uranium. It has allowed extensive inspections of all its facilities. It has agreed to stop plans for a plutonium reactor. There is a good chance, if the deal is made, that it will continue in this mode, in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Netanyahu’s rhetoric that a deal would “pave” the way toward an Iranian bomb is a ridiculous overstatement; his “plan” would guarantee an Iranian rush to arms.

Revolutions grow old. It is difficult to sustain fanaticism. The Iranian people are tired of their global isolation. It may be that their semi-democratically elected leaders, as opposed to the theocratic military regime, are ready to rejoin the world. There is nothing to lose by testing that proposition–if the Iranians stop playing around and make the deal.

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This appears in the March 16, 2015 issue of TIME.

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TIME Television

Watch Jon Stewart Compare Republicans’ Welcome of Israel’s Leader to a Sex Act

Benjamin Netanyahu is "the leader they wished they had"

Jon Stewart poked fun at congressional Republicans’ very warm welcome of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, comparing it to a certain lewd sex act.

Netanyahu was speaking against the emerging nuclear deal President Obama is pursuing with Iran. Cheers from the majority-Republican Congress were so loud that they actually caused problems for C-SPAN’s sound equipment.

“It was the State of the Union address Republicans wanted, delivered by the leader they wished they had,” Stewart joked on The Daily Show.

Watch the full clip below:

TIME Israel

Israel is Left Divided By Netanyahu Address to Congress

Opposition attacked the Prime Minister for antagonising Obama while supporters say he has a point

After nearly two months in which the controversial address of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress has dominated the headlines here, Israelis received the long-awaited talk with a mix of reactions that demonstrated just how divided the country is two weeks before heading to national elections.

Much of the prime-time coverage of Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, which focused on what he calls an impending “bad deal” on Iran’s nuclear development program as being negotiated with the US and other Western nations, took a critical view of the premier’s decision to make the speech despite the unprecedented tensions it has sparked with the administration of President Barack Obama.

Israel’s main opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, gave a prime-time speech soon after the televised address, in which he said that Netanyahu had failed to shift policy — or make history as he’d promised — but had simply succeeded in angering the White House.

“There’s no doubt that that Netanyahu knows how to give an address. But his speech today didn’t stop the Iran nuclear program,” Herzog said. “It did not change US policy, and now Israel stands isolated and alone.”

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat and chief of staff to several Israeli foreign ministers, told Israel’s Channel One that Netanyahu focused his persuasive efforts in the wrong direction.

“It was too bad that this was a speech to Congress, because this talk needed to be held inside the White House,” Pinkas said. “All of the behavior that surrounded this speech has been a bit like a circus, which I don’t think serves Israel’s interests. There aren’t huge differences within Israel in terms of our outlook on Iran’s nuclear program,” he added, as many Israelis are troubled by Iran’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map.” But Netanyahu’s decision to defy the Obama administration’s wishes by accepting the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner has Israelis worried about damaging relations between Jerusalem and Washington, with few gains to show for it.

Ben Caspit, a widely followed analyst for Maariv and al-Monitor, wrote on Twitter that from the point of view of the polls — where Netanyahu is lagging slightly behind the Zionist Union headed by Herzog and Tzipi Livni — the speech to Congress is like the last bullet in a faulty gun. It could misfire — or might not fire at all.

Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper, said little if anything new was said by Netanyahu in Washington. “We can sum this up like this — one big nothing,” he said in a tweet. His colleague Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor of the left-leaning paper, was similarly unimpressed: “Don’t know how speech plays in Congress/America but most Israelis have heard this before and are already bored to tears.”

But not all of Israel’s opinion-makers were critical of Netanyahu, and some supporters called his speech powerful and moving. Some pundits argue that he has a point about the dangers of leaving Iran with so-called break-out capability — the ability to weaponize atomic material in a short period of time.

“Netanyahu is right,” tweeted Moav Vardi, the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10 news. “In another 10-15 years when this deal expires, Iran can manufacture as many bombs as it wants. To this argument, Obama doesn’t really have an answer.” He also predicted that the speech would not do either of the things Netanyahu’s friends and foes predict: It will neither stop a deal on Iran nor destroy relations with the U.S. Both of those things are beyond the power of a speech to Congress, Vardi noted.

Netanyahu was accompanied on his trip Washington by Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. Although the two men are competitors for votes in the March 17 ballot, Bennett touted his backing of Netanyahu on a critical mission for Israel’s defense, and suggested that those who stayed home were not sufficiently worried about the country’s survival. To the criticism that Netanyahu presented no alternative to the ongoing negotiations, Bennett tweeted that the answer was to increase sanctions against Iran.

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