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Fears Over Iran Buoy Netanyahu at Home. For Now.

WorldFears Over Iran Buoy Netanyahu at Home. For Now.

Since the Hamas-led attack on Israel last October, the deadliest in Israeli history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future has seemed bleak, with critics blaming him for the security failure and his poll ratings plummeting.

But a confrontation between Israel and Iran this week — including on Friday when Israel retaliated against last weekend’s missile barrage by Iran — may have helped change the dynamic, at least for the time being. Now, Mr. Netanyahu is in his strongest domestic position since the October attack, even as his global standing ebbs amid anger at the conduct of Israel’s war in Gaza.

“This was his best week since October,” said Mazal Mualem, a biographer of Mr. Netanyahu. “We’re all afraid of Iran, with all the nuclear forces that they may have. And that’s the reason that, this week, we can see Bibi recovering,” Ms. Mualem said, calling Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname.

Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition is still trailing the main opposition bloc in the polls, and he would still likely lose an election if it was called tomorrow. But the latest surveys show the gap has more than halved since October. His personal approval ratings have edged up to 37 percent, just five points fewer than his main rival, Benny Gantz — one of the smallest margins since the start of the war.

Analysts partly attribute this limited recovery to Israel’s conflict with Iran, once a clandestine war that turned into an overt confrontation this month after Israel struck an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria, killing seven. The attack prompted Iran to respond with its first-ever direct attack on Israeli soil last weekend, and then Israel to retaliate in Iran on Friday.

At least for now, the tensions have shifted some domestic attention away from Mr. Netanyahu’s perceived failings in the war against Hamas in Gaza, and played to Mr. Netanyahu’s strengths.

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