By Ron Jager
Benjamin Netanyahu has been declared the winner of an unprecedented fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. The combined political force of three former IDF army chiefs, pending bribery and fraud allegations, and hostile broadcast, print, and digital news media that spent the latter part of the past three years hounding and tarnishing Netanyahu day and night have failed to end his political career. Netanyahu, a seasoned conservative politician and a brilliant political tactician, proved once again his ability to lead and overturn what seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he would be ousted.
Throughout the night, initial exit polls showed that the Likud Party, led by Netanyahu, had lost to the Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz. Updated results accounting for the final hours of voting showed Likud leading 35 to 34. The actual number of Knesset mandates will likely change once all votes are tallied and the votes of parties that did not cross the threshold are redistributed. Irrespective of the tight race between the two major parties, the right-wing bloc has won a clear and undisputed majority in the 120-seat Knesset, being swept back into power and forming Israel’s new government in the coming days and weeks. Benjamin Netanyahu’s path to becoming Israel’s prime minister once again will withstand any last-minute surprises as the tallying of votes is completed.
Surprising casualties of the election results were two of the more popular and outspoken right-wing politicians: education minister Naftali Bennett and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, the joint heads of the New Right Party, who appear to have lost their bid to be in the 21st Knesset. At a gathering of his supporters in Bnei Brak, Bennett said he believed that once the soldiers’ votes were counted, the party would have enough support to enter the Knesset. “We have always taken care of the soldiers and now they will take care of us,” Bennett said. “The New Right will pass, and it will pass very nicely. We just need to be patient. We believe in our path and we will succeed.”
On the opposing side of the political map, a result of this election is that the Israeli public has chosen to end the historical role and political significance of the Israeli political left. For many of Israel’s voting public, “peace has become a dirty word.” The Likud-led platform of Jewish solidarity and support of modern Jewish nationalism based on Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, coupled with unprecedented economic prosperity, has convinced the Israeli public that the left’s vision of peace, liberal social values, and socialist economic policies belong to the past and have been deemed either unrealistic at best or a denial of reality at worst. The never-ending conflict with the Palestinians, based on the “land for peace” model, is no longer a viable political process due to the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel’s existence and the continuing terror raising its ugly head all too frequently.
“The peace process,” once the dividing line between left and right in Israeli politics, has ceased to be an issue. With the realization that a solution with the Palestinians is unattainable in the near future, the fortunes of left-wing parties have led to their apparent electoral demise. The leftist version of Israeli society has been effectively ended with the reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu to a fifth term.
An astute observation of the Israeli election results can also have wider implications for the American elections in 2020 and the reelection prospects of President Trump. The results of last night’s election show that the Likud’s political strength actually rose despite the wide media bias espousing politicized accusations and alleged transgressions against Netanyahu.
Veteran political commentator Yossi Klein has asked, “How is it possible that after all the investigations, suspects, cases, earthquakes — after everything is out in the open — the Likud gets more than two additional Knesset seats in the polls?” His answer, “It’s been there since the fifties. It’s no good. It says on the wall. You screwed us then and now we’re getting back at you. Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘you’? ‘We’ are what you once called ‘the second Israel’ and today the ‘periphery.’ ‘We’ are the children of those you threw into all kinds of holes. And who are ‘you’? You are Mapai, you are the police, you are the media, you are the state, but we’re punishing you.”
Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu share a loyal base, which feels cheated, deprived, ignored, swindled, and oppressed. As a result, both political leaders give so many disenfranchised voters the impression that their struggles are important and can no longer be ignored.
Only this past week the month of Nissan has arrived and we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Our sages teach us that “In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we will be redeemed in the future.” Many in Israel have no doubt that the elections results have much greater significance for Israel’s future than just another election.
Ron Jager provides consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, email email@example.com or visit www.ronjager.com.