I WAS WRONG – Netanyahu won

THE Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has once again confounded the pollsters. In 1996, opinion surveys predicted he would lose against the then Labour prime minister, Shimon Peres. The exit polls had him trailing. But when the final count came in, Nr Netanyahu had won a famous victory. He repeated a similar feat in the election on March 17th. He had been trailing behind his main challenger, Yitzhak Herzog, the leader of Zionist Union, for much of the campaign. The exit polls had him drawing level. And as the count came in he pulled ahead to score a clear victory, of 30 seats for Likud to 24 for Zionist Union, that will secure him a fourth term. “Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!” shouted his followers as the lead widened

For a time Likud voters seemed to reproach Mr Netanyahu for focusing almost entirely on the Iranian nuclear threat, instead of addressing the rising cost of living, particularly in housing. His  comeback was built on relentless negative final week of campaigning. Mr Netanyahu warned right-wing Israelis that dark international forces – at one point he identified Scandinavian countries as culprits – were plotting to bring down his government. He recanted on his commitment in 2009 to creating a Palestinian state. On election day itself, as citizens were casting their votes, he sounded the alarm over Arab citizens, who were supposedly voting in droves and would usher in a “far-left government”.

Cynical as they may appear, the fear tactics worked. Israelis who planned to vote for other right-wing parties rallied to Likud. Even before the success was clear, Mr Netanyahu declared that “against all odds, a great victory for Likud” had been secured. Mr Herzog, known as “Bougie”, called Mr Netanyahu to congratulate him.

The composition of the government will be decided by the game of post-election bargaining to form a coalition. When the result seemed more evenly matched, President Reuven Rivlin had said he favoured a governnment of national unity between Likud and Zioonist Union. But that seems unlikely given the scale of Mr Netanyahu’s victory.

With nearly all the vote counted, the group of right-wing and religious parties supporting Mr Netanyahu (Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and United Torah Judaism) had 57 seats – close to 61 seeats needed for a majority in the Knesset. The opposing centre-left bloc that would never support him (Zionist Union, Yesh Atid, Meretz and the Joint List) had 53 seats.

The swing vote is held by Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister whose new Kulanu Party received about ten seats. Mr Kahlon’s politics on the Palestinian question are right-wing but he has opposed Mr Netanyahu’s economic policies, and he had made a point of not accepting the prime minister’s offer to become finance minister. Given that gap between Likud and Zionist Union it is hard to imagine him defecting to Zionist Union.

Even if he were to do so, Mr Herzog would still find it nearly impossible to form a majority. The Arab-dominated Joint List, which will be the third-largest party, opposes Mr Netanyahu but Mr Herzog could not form a coalition with them without losing centrist Zionist parties. The ultra-Orthodox parties would not join a coalition that included the resolutely secular Yesh Atid.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly ruled out the option of a unity government this option during the campaign. His first telephone call was to Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi, with whom he pledged to work towards forming a right-leaning government.

5 Responses

  1. Again, Republican voter fraud gives us a politician who was selected, not elected! Clearly, minorities were prevented from voting, thus giving us another hard right wing politician.

    I only regret that I don’t pay and am not going to pay for a subscription to the WaPo to see what the commentators who predicted doom for Bibi are saying now. Probably not a lot of insight into how their own biases might possibly be influencing their predictions. 😉

    Not that I know if this is good news or bad news, ultimately, just curious what the take is.

    Are the election machines in Israel made by Diebold?

    Oh, and . . . Frist!


  2. Mark,

    I don’t follow Israeli media but I wonder if Bibi’s chronic polling under-performance has something to do with the Bradley effect?

    Secondly, you frame Bibi as if he feels only he can prevent Israel’s annihilation. Don’t most politicians who run for the top leadership position in a democracy tend to think that they and their party are the only one’s able to keep the country safe? If not, can you name a modern elected leader of a democracy that doesn’t feel that way? I’m not arguing that Bibi is the only person that can save Israel, I’m saying that his tactics aren’t unique.


    • George – I am guessing “Bradley Effect”, too. I have referenced quotes by others as to Bibi’s self image, and I suppose as a tactic “Savior” is not unique.


      • Mark:

        and I suppose as a tactic “Savior” is not unique.

        Indeed it isn’t. Remember “…this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth”?


  3. Hasretz not taking election well.


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