Benjamin Netanyahu, current Prime Minister of Israel, confounded everyone yesterday. His Likud party won a decisive victory in yesterday’s (March 17) Knesset elections. Pollsters did not expect this. The media did not expect this. His critics certainly did not expect this. Even he did not expect this, as recently as the past weekend. And Barack Obama worked actively to thwart it. And failed.
Latest election results
The Israel Central Elections Committee has the official popular-vote results. Netanyahu’s Likud party got 23.26 percent of the vote nation-wide. The Zionist Camp joint list of Itzhak Herzog won 18.76 percent.
YNet News projected an actual seat count and even a likely roster of the next Knesset. This synoptic table sums up how many seats each party will have:
|Arab Joint List||14|
|Kulanu (“All of us”)||10|
|Beit Yehudi (“Jewish Home”)||8|
|Shas (Spanish Union of Observant Jews)||7|
|United Torah Judaism||7|
|Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel, Our Home”)||6|
Ha’aretz has slightly different numbers, and a graphic, in this tweet:
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) March 18, 2015
Ha’aretz scores one more seat for Likud, and one fewer for United Torah Judaism, than does YNet. The two sources score all other parties the same.
The Arab Joint List made many of their gains in Nazareth. Arabs dominate in Nazareth. When CNAV traveled to Israel four years ago, Nazareth was off the route.
To govern, any Party must have 61 seats, or form a coalition with other Parties to add up to 61 seats. No law says the Party having the most seats has the only or first say in forming a coalition. Technically the separately elected President of Israel decides that. (Israel elects a President to “order Parties to form governments.” The President takes the role the Queen plays in the United Kingdom.) President Reuben Rivkin wants a national unity government. He wants Likud and the “Zionist Camp” to combine their totals and perhaps add Moshe Kahlon’s “All of us” Party’s 10 seats, to form a sixty-three-seat coalition. The New York Times quotes Rivkin, as he said in an interview with Ha’aretz:
I am convinced that only a unity government can prevent the rapid disintegration of Israel’s democracy and new elections in the near future.
But at last report (including in the Times of Israel), neither Netanyahu nor Herzog seem eager to do any such thing. Why? Because they campaigned on worlds-apart platforms. Netanyahu, in particular, said flatly: no Palestinian state on his watch. Netanyahu has already started his horse-trading, according to YNet. And leaders of smaller parties are already demanding cabinet spots as their price of support.
Netanyahu surprises everyone
Netanyahu seemed even to surprise himself. Last Saturday he actually expressed fear his Party would fall below the Zionist Camp in seats. Polls before the election all told Netanyahu to expect this. Exit polls, from The Times of Israel and the Associated Press, said Netanyahu and Herzog would have 27 seats each. As of 0200 hours UTC, CNAV could not call the election either.
Of course, things did not work out that way. And Netanyahu already has major media organs upset with him. For instance, Guardian Web sneers that Netanyahu has “locked [himself] on a collision course” with the “Palestinians” and the “international community.” The New York Times inveighed even worse: they accused Netanyahu of “insulting Arab citizens.” “Scorched earth!” shrieked the Times to describe a speech the prime minister made the day before the election.
Micah Halpern, writing in the New York Observer, said “extremists and pundits” lost the most. His point: smaller parties lost seats, and the pundits never imagined such results. He projects the new Knesset and government will differ little from the old.
A seat here, a seat there may shift—but nothing will shatter the surprising victory that Likud is now celebrating. The big winners will remain the big winners. Old time Likud and the new party on the block, Kulanu, led by Moshe Kahlon, which garnered 10 or 11 seats will be the big players come coalition-building time. Likud has the numbers while Mr. Kahlon and his “All of Us” party are willing to play along with any government in which he is given the economics portfolio.
Halpern scathingly denounced mainstream media outlets. He accused them of offering “wishful thinking” to their readers, viewers, and listeners. He cited this piece by NBC News as a prize example. Brent Bozells’s Media Research Center cited another example to show up the mainstream media as sore losers: MSNBC regular Andrea Mitchell accused Netanyahu of “panicking.” Her guest called Netanyahu “racist” on the air.
Barack Obama lost, too. Regular readers of CNAV will remember: Obama sent his campaign field marshal, Jeremy Bird, to Israel to help set up the Victory in 2015 group. That group, through its parent organization One Voice Now, got a $350,000 State Department grant. Senator Tom Cruz (R-Texas) still wants to know where that money went. That story broke in January. And not on Fox News Channel, but in Ha’aretz.
Then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to address the Congress. He did. Nearly sixty Democrats refused to attend. Some, while attending, might as well have stayed away: House Democratic Floor Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) turned her back on him. Obama refused to meet Netanyahu. He said he didn’t want even to seem to interfere with the Knesset elections. Then Fox News Channel, about a month and a half late, noticed the One Voice Now/V15/Jeremy Bird story.
Ted Belman at Israpundit carried this analysis of Netanyahu and his history. He mentioned one problem Itzhak Herzog might have had: his ally, Tzipporah “Tzipi” Livni, canceled some kind of agreement she had with Herzog. They seem to have agreed to rotate the Prime Ministership between them. Well, according to Belman (and only to Belman), Livni, head of the lesser piece of the “Zionist Camp” (the other piece being the old Labor Party), dissolved the alliance the day before the election.
Belman does describe certain events out-of-order. He lists the $350,000 State Department grant to V15 after he describes Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Did he really reverse the chronology? Or did he group events by category, and not necessarily in order of happening?
But Belman does mention Netanyahu making concession after concession to the enemies of Israel and getting nothing in return. He suggests why Netanyahu did it: in response to Obama’s pressure, and in resistance to right-wing pressure in his own coalition. But now Netanyahu seems to have stopped conceding. He refuses to talk about “Palestinian” statehood, and now will allow more settlement building in East Jerusalem and maybe also in Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank,” over which Jordan renounced all claims).
Netanyahu announced that he would form a government from among the parties on the right only and the religious parties. He had learned his lesson.
One of the reasons he had succeeded in attracting Likudniks back to Likud was because of his policy announcements made in the last few days. He announced his three “nos”; no to a Palestinian State, no to dividing Jerusalem and no to releasing terrorists. For good measure he added in one “yes”. Yes to building thousands of houses in Jerusalem in the face of all the (international) pressure.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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