The Israeli election campaign just ended has been one hell of a dismal and ominous ride. I knew that well enough, but it was only when near-final results were released, and I began to cry, that I realized how very frightened I had been. For this nation that I love, and for the free world.
Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen
And so I am grateful. First to the Almighty. And then to the people of Israel, who saw their way past the nonsense, and saved the day.
The campaign was one that I found shameful on several counts, something I have written about in recent days:
It was personalized – an attack directly on Binyamin Netanyahu (with ridiculous accusations against his wife), rather than primarily a debate on the issues. This was ugly, and unbecoming.
What is more, there is solid reason to believe that the campaign incorporated outside American interference, which is unacceptable by all measures of diplomatic conduct. Such was the desire and determination of the Obama administration to take down Netanyahu. (More on this below.) The campaign advice provided to “the Zionist Camp” was slick – starting, I strongly suspect, with the fact that the merged Labor-Hatenua faction renamed themselves “Zionist Camp,” thereby creating the possibility of confusion in people’s minds. And, I just as strongly suspect, including an announcement by Livni, just hours before the voting was to start, that she was pulling out of the shared premiereship deal with Herzog (clearly because internal polls indicated he would do better without her).
That in the end the people of Israel did not buy the rhetoric of the campaign on the left is a source of great gladness.
For – and this is the heart of the matter!! – it is difficult to exaggerate the damage that Buji and Livni might have done, had they gained the reins of the government. They would have created a threatening situation for us at home with their “two state” negotiations nonsense, would have invited attack by Hamas and Hezbollah with their appeasement, and would have left Obama in the White House and the mullahs in Tehran laughing their heads off.
But we are not in that place. Thank God, thank God.
Coming into the election, Bibi was trailing Buji by some four mandates, and it was a scary time. A concerned Bibi let it be known that if the electorate was interested in a nationalist government, they would have to center their votes on Likud, and not spread them out amongst the nationalist parties. For if the nationalist vote was divided, and Herzog came in with more mandates, President Rivlin might select Herzog to first try to form a coalition.
The people heard.
When the polls closed at 10 PM yesterday, the nation was provided with the results of several media exit polls that had been done in the course of the day. These polls were supposed to be a reasonably solid predictor of the actual results.
What we were told was that Bibi and Buji were just about neck and neck, at 27 mandates each by most accounts. This was reassuring – a far cry from the information we had via the final polls five days before the election. There was now solid hope for Likud, as it was being predicted that Bibi had a better chance to form a coalition. But it was still too close for real comfort. Netanyahu claimed victory; Herzog declined to congratulate him, assuming a “wait and see” stance instead.
But as the night wore on, the picture changed to one increasingly positive, until it was at last clear that Bibi Netanyahu and Likud had secured an amazing win, with 30 mandates to 24 for Buji and the Zionist Camp.
Buji then congratulated Bibi on his win. And now it is a sure thing that Rivlin will ask Bibi to form the government.
Prior to the election, the far left Hadash had joined with the Arab parties for a united list, and they came in third at 14 mandates. It is expected that they will now break apart again.
Then: Yesh Atid (Lapid) 11, Kulanu (Kahlon) 10, Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) 8, Shas (Deri) 7, United Torah Judaism (Litzman/Gafni) 6, Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) 6, Meretz 4.
Just as Habayit Hayehudi lost mandates (some 12 had been anticipated), because of the call for votes to Likud, so, too, did Eli Yishai’s new party Yahad fail to make the electoral cut-off. I am sorry about that. A break off from Shas, and solidly Orthodox/ultra-Orthodox, it was also shaping up as a nationalist party. I believe Yishai is a good man, and hope he finds his way.
The numbers I cite here represent 99% of the vote, there are still votes from soldiers and others to be counted. That last 1% is unlikely to change matters – but it could cause a shift, as has happened before.
I want to mention Naftali Bennett here, because he has conducted himself as a true mensch – a person who behaves with integrity and decency. He and other members of the party (notably Ayelet Shaked) were able to rejoice at a right wing win, even though it was at the cost of some Habayit Hayehudi mandates. Said Bennett to his gathered supporters (emphasis added):
“Netanyahu called me. I praised him for the great victory of the national camp. We concluded that we will begin negotiations to establish the government. I tell you, my friends, in these negotiations we will not focus on cabinet positions, rather on values.
“We will take care to ensure a government … that will safeguard the Land of Israel in its entirety. A government that will ensure the Jewish character of the State of Israel. A government that will protect IDF soldiers from outside [legal] persecution.
“We will secure a government that will safeguard a united Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel only. And a government that will not give a centimeter of Israeli land to the Arabs.
“We’re running long distance. We are not afraid, and we don’t lower our heads. We raise our heads higher and higher. We love the people of Israel, the land of Israel. We, all of us, love the Torah of Israel and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.”
Credit: Avi Lewis/Times of Israel
Bennett’s day will come. So often politicians are concerned only with the success of their own party, and this is refreshing.
In terms of how Bibi conducted himself here, we are also seeing integrity. Bennett was the first one he called, and – undoubtedly appreciating the hit Bennett had taken – he let him know that they would work together to form a nationalist government. Another cause for gratitude. A new day. There has been all together too much tension between these men, and they should be partners in important work now.
Bibi has said he will form a nationalist religious coalition. Its exact nature has yet to unfold. There is, of course, much speculation – with many parameters being examined. In the formation of a coalition government, various factions make demands. Now it is a question of how much Netanyahu needs any given faction, and what the head of that faction is demanding. The fact that Likud has 30 mandates and not 27 somewhat reduces the bargaining power of the various other parties.
Kahlon is focused on social issues and wants the Finance Ministry (and perhaps housing). Bibi is prepared to give him Finance, certainly. Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, and now a prominent member of Kulanu, is a two-state man, and makes me nervous. Lieberman, who has gone way down in the number of mandates his party has, is talking big in terms of wanting Defense. I would be shocked if he got it. Lapid is talking about sitting out the coalition and acting in the opposition. (Suffice it to say here that the ultra-Orthodox parties and Lapid are on opposite sides of a huge divide.)
Bibi does not need all of these parties. He would be able to pass over at least one if not two of them and still end up with 61 or more mandates. We’ll watch, and see how it plays over the next couple of weeks.
When I speak of a “new day,” I believe it may be coming in a couple of contexts. Please note that last time around he gave Livni the Justice Ministry. Now he speaks of a nationalist religious government. I believe that Bibi has been pushed hard enough by Obama so that he is in no mood for conciliatory gestures. Sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.
Just a few final thoughts here now.
What is most important is that the world see that a right-leaning nationalist government is where the Israeli electorate stands. This does not make us radicals, even though a left-leaning media will paint us so. A democratic election was held and the people have spoken. We will, we must, move on from here.
To the extent that the left focused on issues during the campaign, they were social/economic issues, such as the need for more housing. The problem with their perspective is that they represent these issues as the primary and most critical ones.
These issues are very real, but security is and must be treated as more urgent. I read a comment by someone (sorry I cannot quote, as I do not remember who) that: It’s wonderful if the government will build us new apartment complexes, but what good will it do us if Iran nukes them. Crudely put, but absolutely true. The right is not mistaken, to be concerned first with Iran, and what would happen if we gave the Palestinian Arabs a state, and what Hezbollah intends to do.
But it would be prudent if Bibi now gave a more serious nod to those economic/social issues.
For your information: Zahava Gal-On has resigned as head of Meretz because she takes responsibility for the fact that her party only pulled four mandates (at one point it was thought they might not make the cut-off).
As to the meddling from the US, I would not want to see this issue dropped. It must be pursued to its end, and it falls to those who are American citizens to demand that this be done.
Please see the article below which appeared a couple of months ago in no less than Haaretz:
“…With the help of American money and a former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, V15 is trying to replace Israel’s government. The money and organization comes from V15’s partnership with OneVoice…
“Their secret campaign weapon is Jeremy Bird, a 36-year-old American political strategist who worked for Obama. Bird has come with a team of four consultants that will try to channel the energies of V15 into an organized methodology.”
And this (emphasis added):
“…the [Senate] probe is looking into funding of the OneVoice Movement, a Washington-based group that has received $350,000 in recent State Department grants. A subsidiary of OneVoice is the Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, guided by top operatives of the White House, which openly seeks to ‘replace the government’ of Israel.”
There is going to be a great deal to track, as we move forward now. And I am eager to look at a variety of news items, regarding a very defiant Iran, a belligerent Palestinian Authority, and more.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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