TEL AVIV — Among the crop of Israeli defense minister candidates bitterly duking it out before the nation goes to the polls March 17, not one of them would be considered dovish on matters of national security.
This is because when it comes to radical Islamic threats, the Israeli public across the spectrum wants to rally around a party that will be strong on defense.
"At the end of the day, Israel is facing serious challenges by enemies that clearly want to destroy it," Shamir said. "Yes, sometimes there are arguments about tactical issues — what we in the military call 'force structure.' But these are serious issues with big money and mistakes can cost you dearly."
"I think Hezbollah and Iran must be deterred from operating against us from [Syria]…we cannot allow the build-up of this hostile force against us from the Golan," Yadlin told the Israeli news site Ynet.
Across the political spectrum, the major difference is that those to the right of Netanyahu accuse him of not being harsh enough when it comes to striking back at external threats.
Despite an abysmal showing in recent polls (his party is hovering around five seats, which puts him a hair above the electoral threshold), Lieberman is determined to snag the coveted defense portfolio and has spent much of the campaign sparring against current Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
Lieberman's objections not withstanding, with Likud enjoying a marginal lead in the polls, Ya'alon has a high chance of holding onto his job after the election.
He, too, has presented a hardline, no holds barred, perspective on security. "We must determine the rules of the game and not allow Hezbollah to initiate as they wish," he said after the strike.
As for Iran, all candidates are weary of the deal being cooked up, but do differ on how that angst can be channeled. "We share the same national security goal, here you can't have a page between us. But we think the way that Netanyahu is handling the Iranian issue is counterproductive. We will never support a bad deal, but we will never go against the P5+1," Yadlin told the Israeli radio station for English speakers, TLV1 on Feb. 18.
The other viable candidate is former Netanyahu adviser Naftali Bennett. Once deemed Netanyahu's closest confidant, the current economy minister has vehemently opposed Netanyahu's policies since he joined the far-right National Religious Jewish Home party.
"We're stopping the flow of radical Islam from flowing from Iran and Iraq all the way to Europe," he said in a campaign video where he is seen perched upon a West Bank hilltop. "When we fight terror here, we're protecting London, Paris and Madrid," he said.
The complex Palestinian conflict divides not only the politicians, but the Israeli public as well, and consensus or anything resembling one is elusive at best.