Daniel Levy puts forth a plausible outcome for Netanyahu out of the Gaza situation:
Netanyahu is much happier fighting this election on the terrain of national security than on issues of social justice, inequality, and being in bed with “swinish capitalism” as his critics are prone to brand him. Netanyahu can rely on his election rivals all lining up to support his military surge against Gaza, which has indeed been the case in the past 48 hours. Shelly Yachimovich (Labour leader) and Yair Lapid (leader of new YeshAtid party) have looked like they were auditioning for cabinet seats in Netanyahu’s next government, which is very possibly what the future has in store for them. Netanyahu has been noticeably cautious and limited in the goals he has set for this military action, in contrast to the grandiose ambitions that his predecessor Olmert claimed at the launching of operation Cast Lead in 2008. It is not unreasonable to assume that a preferred scenario for the Israeli Prime Minster has him giving some variation of the following speech, ideally within a relatively short time (in 48 to 96 hours perhaps):
“As Prime Minister of Israel I set out realistic goals for this operation, unlike my irresponsible predecessor. We have achieved in Operation Pillar of Defence six important goals in preserving Israel’s national security. First, while Gilad Shalit is back at home with his family, his captor, the arch terrorist al-Jabari, has met the same fate as Osama Bin Laden. Second, our deterrence has been restored. Every Hamas leader and terrorist in Gaza knows that they are within reach of the long arm of the IDF and that rocket fire on Israelis will not go unpunished. Third, while rocket fire against any Israeli target and certainly Tel Aviv is unacceptable, it is also something we knew was possible, but the threat has now been significantly diminished by our success in hitting the stockpiles of weapons accumulated in Gaza. That particular mission will continue. Fourth, and contrary to the childish scare-mongering in some of our media suggesting that Israel is now more isolated internationally, we have conducted this operation with firm Western backing. I have personally spoken to President Obama and Western leaders and appreciate their recognition of Israel’s right to self-defence. And this time there will be no internal committees of enquiry or scurrilous UN Goldstone commissions. Fifth, we have proven we can navigate the choppy waters of a newly destabilised Middle East while retaining our freedom of military action. And finally, and perhaps most important, we have maintained national unity at home and I thank the leaders of the other responsible Zionist parties for standing together as one.”
There are some additional wins Netanyahu would like to secure without necessarily including them in his victory speech. For instance, this operation will possibly postpone or at least reduce the significance of any vote on upgrading Palestine’s status at the UNGA. Even if the vote happens, and even if Abbas secures a few more ‘yeses’ against the backdrop of operation Pillar of Defence, Netanyahu can reassure the Israeli public that what matters is that the Western powers stood by Israel during this military operation. Netanyahu could be sending a signal to Iran that his own track record of being circumspect regarding major military strikes cannot be counted on. And finally, he may have shrunk the space for Olmert, Livni and others to enter the election race, especially if he can show that his operation achieved better results than their Operation Cast Lead.