by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is standing for re-election on Jan. 22 next year and most polls indicate that his Likud party would become the largest party in Knesset (parliament) and that he would form the next government.
Netanyahu's elections platform, in his opinion, is to focus on his strong record of maintaining the Israeli economy stable while the United States and Europe are in the midst of a crisis, and of keeping Israel safe and secure in light of the regional changes that followed the Arab Spring in 2011.
Meanwhile, relations with Egypt have remained stable, even after the Muslim Brotherhood's election victory, and the quietness along Israel's border with Syria was also kept despite the civil war.
One area where Netanyahu could face criticism is his handling of the continued rocket and mortar fire by militant groups in Gaza over cities and communities into southern Israel.
In the last few years, the firing of rockets and the ensuing Israeli retaliation, have become an almost weekly occurrence, which about every four-six months escalates to a level where close to one million Israelis have to call a halt to their normal life to spend time in bomb shelters.
Dr. Ephraim Kam, of Tel Aviv University, told Xinhua Tuesday that as long as the level of conflict does not exceed the current state, then it will not affect Netanyahu's ratings.
"Most Israelis would like the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to respond to any threat from the Gaza Strip and being a hardliner against the Hamas might be an advantage," Kam said.
For example, Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed that Israel was readying a "very, very hard -- very hard" response to an early morning Palestinian militant attack against the army earlier the same day.
An IDF platoon commander sustained serious wounds to his face and upper body in the attack, which took place as he opened a gate near Kibbutz Kissufim, adjacent to a border crossing of the same name, into the coastal enclave.
Yet, Kam said that "Netanyahu has no wish for a large scale operation," and "as long as there is no deterioration which might lead to a large scale confrontation," his poling numbers would not be affected negatively.
The last time that Israel and Hamas were engaged in a large scale fighting was in the winter of 2008-2009, when Israel launched operation Cast Lead to quell the rocket fire from Gaza which had been increasing since Israel left Gaza in 2005 under then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.
However, in the years that followed the withdrawal, both the number of rockets fired and their range increased.
Prof. Tamir Sheafer, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that the current situation will not have a negative impact on Netanyahu's image as someone who is strong on security, because the situation in and around Gaza is a continuous problem, and is something that has been going on for several years on different levels.
"If we will see such developments on the West Bank and particularly if we will see the return of suicide bombings inside Israel then that will affect his image. But I don't think that the current situation will," Sheafer said, adding therefore the residents of the south would not accuse Netanyahu of being weak on terrorism.
"But ... one has to remember that in Israel we have a particular situation in which no matter which is the ruling party, anytime that the security is getting worse the right-wing is gaining support, not losing support," Sheafer argued.
"So even if it's a coalition government led by the Likud and the security is getting worse, the Likud is gaining support and not losing support. And the left-wing is losing support this is usually the case in Israel," he added.
Operation Cast Lead is an example of this, Ehud Olmert of the Kadima party was prime minister during the war, but in the parliamentary elections held one month after the operation ended, Netanyahu, who previously severed a prime minister from 1996 to 1999, returned to the post.