Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Israel's rising right wing, October 9, 2007

Together, an enigmatic billionaire and a resurgent Bibi Netanyahu could put Israel on the war path. Dick Cheney, AIPAC and Iran are all watching closely.

By Gregory Levey

One of this year's nominees for Israeli TV's "Man of the Year in Politics" award doesn't speak Hebrew. He has vast wealth and a shady past. He was once a circus worker. He isn't even a politician, at least not yet.

But over the past several years Arcadi Gaydamak, an enigmatic Russian-Israeli billionaire, has managed to become a widely influential figure in Israel. And he is now at the center of a right-wing political alliance -- featuring Israeli ├╝ber-hawk Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu -- that could dramatically influence the country's direction. If the rising alliance takes power in the next election, it could push Israel toward military confrontations with Iran, Syria or Hezbollah, while extinguishing any remaining flickers of hope in Israel's peace camp regarding the Palestinians.

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