Right Weakened in Israel, but Still Standing


According to the first exit-poll results for Israel’s elections Tuesday night, Binyamin Netanyahu will almost certainly continue as prime minister. But it may well be with a considerably more patchwork, wobbly coalition than almost all surveys leading up to the elections had projected.

Netanyahu’s own Likud Beiteinu Party—a merger of his original party, Likud, and the Yisrael Beiteinu faction—had plummeted to 31 seats (out of a Knesset of 120). Plummeted, because in the outgoing Knesset the two parties had a total of 42 seats between them. The merger had been celebrated by some as a brilliant move, denounced by others as a blunder of epic proportions. The denouncers won that round.

Also on the right side of the political spectrum, the Habayit Hayehudi faction of the much-celebrated Naftali Bennett—the young, “hip,” nationalist-religious, hi-tech wunderkind whom the world media decided to turn into a Big Story—was showing a disappointing 12 mandates from the Israeli public. But with three other right-wing parties (two of them ultra-religious) totaling 19 seats between them, it still meant the right had a majority of 62.

Which (to repeat, out of a Knesset of 120) is not as slim as it sounds—since the 58 on the other side of the spectrum include 8 seats or so for Arab parties that take an oppositional stance toward Israel as a country and have never been part of any governing coalition.

In other words, among the predominantly Jewish voters, the right wing had won by perhaps 62-50—a considerable margin, yet much less than expected.

And the “shocker,” the huge success story that enabled the left’s relatively strong showing, was the Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) faction of Yair Lapid, a media personality—considered charismatic—without an iota of governmental or managerial experience in any field. Lapid, however, projected a message as champion of the “middle class” that clearly caught on with part of the public, coming in second with 18-19 seats.

A couple of things should be noted about Lapid, whose designation as “left” is arguably more schematic than substantive. First, he sometimes assumes relatively hawkish tonalities and is considered the most hawkish of the party leaders on his side of the map. Second, his main theme—“burden-sharing,” that is, the need to put an end to the refusal of large numbers of Israel’s ultra-religious Jews to serve in the military and engage in productive work—is a consensus message that crosses the right-left divide and is endorsed by almost all of the army-serving public.

Lapid’s party, in other words, is a clear candidate to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Netanyahu, for his part, would much prefer it that way—rather than the narrow right/religious coalition that would be unable to make progress on the burden-sharing issue.

The conundrum for Netanyahu, of course, is—in what commentators are already calling the “hell negotiations” that face him—somehow finding a balance between Lapid’s demands of the ultra-religious on the one side, and the ultra-religious themselves on the other.

Among the less likely, but not impossible, scenarios:

● A coalition only between Netanyahu’s, Bennett’s, and Lapid’s parties, without the ultra-religious ones. This combination of the secular right, the nationalist-religious right, and the moderate left would be narrow but possibly effective.

● A much wider, “unity” coalition including not only Lapid’s but also other left-of-center parties along with at least some of the right-wing ones—in theory desirable at a time when Israel faces multiple economic, diplomatic, and security challenges, above all Iran’s impending nuclearization. The success of such a large coalition would probably depend mainly on the left’s ability—always questionable—to overcome its “peacemaking,” Mahmoud Abbas-centered delusions.

● A successful luring by the left-of-center of one of the ultra-religious parties (it would be the Shas Party, known for its cynicism) to its side, creating a narrow majority and toppling Netanyahu. Considering that the leaders of the left-wing parties are mostly inexperienced, prone to delusion, and eager to comply with U.S. and European diplomatic pressures stemming from no-less-delusive and often cynical motives, this is a dark scenario, fortunately only at the borders of the possible.

To sum up, the Israeli public has not done justice to Binyamin Netanyahu, whose overall record these past four years on the security, diplomatic, and economic fronts is solid and commendable; while falling for the somewhat facile appeal of the untested Yair Lapid. At a time when the defense and foreign policy lineup in Barack Obama’s Washington looks increasingly inimical to Israel, this is lamentable but probably not irremediable.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    David, indeed, but there is always a silver lining.

    In other words, a weakened Bibi is a good thing, at least for nationalist patriots. He can no longer afford to ignore Bennett and his party, his is now dependent on him, otherwise he will fall completely. So, while the center/left bloc will be able to push back hard, Likud will have to be MORE nationalist, if only for their survival.

    In any case, Bennett is now a force to be dealt with, and that is an important result – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/01/17/israels-elect….

    As to Lapid, I suspect he will fade, just like Kadima did, once he will have to govern. He will be exposed as a vacuous talking head. Time will tell.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Shalom Freedman

    If one judges Prime Minister Netanyahu on security issues then one can perhaps fault the Israeli public. But there are many other domestic items in which the outgoing Israeli government has not done its job well. One major one is aiding in the creation of a housing market in which young couples would be able to afford to purchase apartments. There are also complaints about Likud ignoring its traditional voting base. I would also say that on the issue of deferrments and equal sharing of the security burden the Prime Minister has not tackled the issue.
    But all this is incidental now and what matters at the moment is the forming of the coalition. I would hope that a new troika could emerge Netanyahu -Lapid- Bennett who could address the 'equality of the burden issue' and give traditional and secular Israelis a sense that their needs are being addressed.
    If Shas wishes to join the Coalition they should be allowed to, but they should not be given veto power over the major decisions of the Prime Minister.
    These elections may in fact turn out to be a blessing in disguise , if they allow addressing domestic needs long ignored.

    • ziontruth

      Freedman is correct. This was mainly a vote on social issues.

      To understand Israeli politics properly, one needs to keep in mind that Israeli Jews, in general, are left-wing on socio-economic issues and right-wing on geopolitical ones, both at the same time. The victory of Yesh Atid, the middle-class party calling for equal sharing of the burdens, signals the growing importance of socio-economic issues. It does not, however, mean Israeli Jews have in any way become more dovish; land concessions are not on the public agenda today.

  • rivkah f.

    Cogent analysis as usual by David Hornick. Freedman is correct as well. Netanyahu-Bennett- Lapid would be the best coalition. Hope we'll get it. One day people will remember Bibi, who made his share of mistakes, as the man who kept Israel secure, brought the Iranian issue to the forefront of the international arena, kept Israel more-or-less economically solvent and brought about growth. More we could not ask. Too bad our political system is so crazy and the media demonized Bibi so much. In recent memory only George W. Bush was so vilified unjustly, continuously and vociferously by the so-called main-stream media and the chattering classes and political has-beens.

    • Dr. John

      Smart comments, Rivkah. A few more–Bibi's Likud education minister Gideon Saar had great achievements, upgrading Israeli students' performance on international tests dramatically. His Likud transportation minister Yisrael Katz achieved a drastic reduction in road fatalities. Bibi's performance before Congress in May 2011, and publicly standing up to Obama at that time, after Obama's infamous '67 borders remarks, was masterful and unique.

  • Dr. John

    And it is also surely worthy of mention that so far the weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense (Amud Anan) against Hamas in Gaza last November is a striking success.

    • dartson

      A striking success? Israel ended up signing a disgraceful ceasefire agreement, mediated by Erdogan's Turkey and Mursi's Egypt, accepting Hamas conditions. Hamas lost few military commanders (out of dozens) and few hundred rockets that will be replaced in no time. Hamas has succeeded in hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time and sent millions of Israelis to the bomb shelters. The only success was the effectiveness of the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Yes, Hamas is quiet so far, until it gets more powerful rockets for the next round.

  • Mladen Andrijasevic

    Israeli election results – the price of ignorance – instability while facing Iran at a crucial time http://www.madisdead.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/israe

  • polnick

    There are diverse political opinions in Israel; but it will be one voice if the existence of their nation is threatened. Until they are being invaded by a Jihad, Israeli`s can enjoy the luxury of having personal views.

  • WildJew

    I will be watching what PM Netanyahu does with respect to Bayit Yehudi / Jewish Home's Naftali Bennett, who Netanyahu should have immediately embraced as an ally. Will the prime minister include Bayit Yehudi in his coalition and then groom Bennett as a potential future leader? Netanayhu / Likud spent much of their political capital attacking and demonizing land of Israel Zionists, the very men and women Israel needs to stand up to a re-energized (re-elected) Barack Obama.

  • bubbaland1

    Netanyahu pushed for earlier elections because he is a smug politician who is too clever by half. He will go down in history, with magic marker and cardboard bomb in hand, as the Israeli prime minister who allowed Iran to get the bomb. In my opinion he is as weak as water.

  • harrylies

    America rejected the Tea Party. Israel to a lesser degree rejected their own anti-peace parties. Don't worry, the left-wing shift is no more lasting than the right-wing shift of the past. Voters do not like being patsies.

    With Obama in the White House (is it possible Israel was paying attention), and Bibi fighting for his job, the chance of a war with Iran is slim and none. A war most readers of Frontpage would not fight.

    • Lady_Dr

      What in the hell are you talking about? America has NOT rejected the Tea Party. But watch out, it will rise again and will do serious damage to the left in the 2014 elections.

      • EarlyBird

        Where was the Tea Party back when the US president was demanding that Israel undo its settlements, dramatically expanding the power of the executive branch, weakening Americans' Constitutional protections, exploding America's debt, weakening it's military and diplomatic strength, encouraging our Islamist enemies and strengthening Iran?

        Meaning, where was the Tea Party during W. Bush's 8 years? Oh right, he's a Republican, so he's not the enemy of the Tea Party. Got it.

        • reader

          Much of what you wrote here is nonsense, but the key point happens to be completely off base. Tea Party came about before Obama, mostly as a result of Pelosi and Reed shenanigans – and Tea Party certainly did not support Bush in his bailout and TARP actions. So, right back at you, a hypocrite.

          • EarlyBird

            The Tea Party never went after the GOP or Bush, and you even acknowledge it in your response to me, silly boy.

    • JacksonPearson

      No they haven't. The Tea Party Movement is alive, well and still growing. The only thing that's diminished is that wall-nut-sized-gray-mass between your ears.

      You have to be a very low thinking moron when attempting to tie the Tea Party Movement, with Israeli, or foreign politics.

  • Jim

    With Hagel and Kerry about to join obamas dark circle of power,Israel should realize the time to take out Irans nuke program is now!…. obama & friends are no friend of Israel or Western civilization !!!

    • EarlyBird

      But apparently they can't do it without US air power, hence their demands that the US get involved in another Middle East war. If Israel could take out Iran's nukes on their own (meaning with their own personnel AND the $3.2 billion dollars in US aid we gave them last year) Israel wouldn't have bothered meddling in US presidential elections, or launched their slime campaign against Hagel.

      Oh: and according to a good many IDF generals, air power alone would do little to destroy Iran's nuke capabilities.

      • ziontruth

        "But apparently they can't do it without US air power,"

        We can. The lack of confidence on the part of our weak leadership is no indicator of the truth.

        "If Israel could take out Iran's nukes on their own (meaning with their own personnel AND the $3.2 billion dollars in US aid we gave them last year) Israel wouldn't have bothered meddling in US presidential elections, or launched their slime campaign against Hagel."

        How much Saudi money do you get to spout that paleocon excrement of yours? You're an Islam-firster traitor.

        • EarlyBird

          Then go for it! Bomb the hell out of Iran. I wish you the best. Why do you need to drag the US into it? Why do you need to slime Hagel and insult our president? If Israel is so ruggedly independent of the US, why do you always need our support? Why the Israel First lobby?

          Our biggest charity case is Israel, followed closely by Egypt – which is actually further subsidization of Israel since it's a payoff to keep the Egyptians from waging war against Israel. We get not only a ton of hate in the world for that, but meddling from Israel itself. The chutzpah!

          Oh, and you're welcome.

          PS: I'm an America Firster. Where helping Israel helps the US, fine.

          • ziontruth

            "Why do you need to slime Hagel and insult our president?"

            Because Hagel is a Buchananite appeaser of the Muslims on Israel's expense, and Obama is a Marxist hater of the Jewish State.

            "Why the Israel First lobby?"

            Ask that question about the Islamic Oil Lobby the various U.S. presidents have been subservient to—Democrat and Republican alike—and you'd be on track.

            "Our biggest charity case is Israel…"

            False. Israel has not received any monetary aid from the U.S. since 1997. Even the military "aid" is actually a loan that the U.S. benefits from.

            "…followed closely by Egypt – which is actually further subsidization of Israel since it's a payoff to keep the Egyptians from waging war against Israel."

            It's a poor testimonial to the Muslims that they need to be bribed to prevent them going to war.

            "We get not only a ton of hate in the world for that,…"

            You're hated by the Muslims because you're non-Muslims. Anyone who fails to come to terms with the truth is in denial. The Muslims hate the Hindus and the Buddhist Thais just the same as they hate you, for that exact reason. It's not about "meddling," it's not about a "colonial past," those are just pretexts, much like the Mohammed Cartoons. And if you want to be free of their threats, then appeasing the Muslims with gifts of Jewish land is the exact opposite of the way to go, because it shows them terrorism pays.

            "…but meddling from Israel itself."

            Paleocon scum do project. The only meddling I see is America's calls for Israel to stop building on its own land.

            "PS: I'm an America Firster. Where helping Israel helps the US, fine."

            Neutrality is fine by me. My stance on foreign policy is that the world owes Israel nothing, and Israel owes nothing to the world. The Jewish State needs neither your aid nor your appeasement of Islamic imperialism on her expense.

          • EarlyBird

            Hagel is a sane, mature, American diplomat, i.e., the kinds America enjoyed prior to Bush's neo-con disaster, where speaking with one's enemies is intelligent strategy, not "appeasement."

            American power has kept oil prices pretty stable for many decades for the world. You're welcome.

            Yes, it is a poor testimonial to Muslims that it takes American tax payer money not to attack Israel. You're welcome.

            Modern, radical Islam – yes, which threatens every non-Muslim today – has been inflamed by the fact of Israel. America is a particular target due to our very proper support of Israel. You're welcome.

            We've been subsidizing Israel at enormous rates since '79 Camp David Accords (you're welcome), and just last year gave $3.2 billion. Here's the facts, as per a very pro-Israel site:
            http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Is

            Oh, and that Iron Dome that recently protected you from Hamas' rockets? You're welcome for that, too.

          • Ghostwriter

            It's obvious,EarlyBird,that you're no friend of Israel. We have more in common with the Israelis than the Muslim world. And,if you forget,the Muslims scream for our blood every single day. They'd do that even if there were no Israel. As for Hagel,he's living in a fantasy world if he thinks the Mad Mullahs of Iran will ever be appeased. They're like the Daleks from the tv series "Doctor Who." They want to wipe out everyone and everything that's not like them.
            I have never seen the Israelis scream for the deaths of Americans or celebrate the deaths of Americans. Many in the Muslim world do that every single day. Wake up,EarlyBird. Much of the Muslim world have never really been our friends. They hate us and want to kill us.

          • EarlyBird

            As I've stated recently on this thread or another one, I have enormous respect for Israel, and sympathy with it given the constant attacks it's under. I certainly have zero respect for the insane Islamists who are obsessed with destroying Israel.

            That said, the US has stuck its neck out way beyond its own selfish interests to do so, and I'd like some appreciation of that fact from Israel. I would like Israelis to stop meddling in US politics for their own interests.

            As for Hagel, as I mentioned, he wants to engage and speak with Iran, but that's hardly "appeasement" to do so. We used to understand that before the W. Bush neo-con era, and it was considered an important part of our foreign policy.

            To criticize Israel is not to therefore be pro-Muslim, or pro-Islamist.

  • Asher

    This is a good update on Israel's political parties, we need to understand their views and how they govern. The way I see it, America and Israel have been living in deception, Economically, morally, and spiritually. Debt, abortion, entitlement programs, believing that you can sit down with radical Islamic terrorists and come to a common understanding that will bring lasting peace, is absolute deception. There is no way to ever have peace, when radicals are in charge, specifically the governing by the Muslim Brotherhood. The new world order is not a new concept and yet it is discussed frequently. It isn't going to be the socialist utopia that self-serving politicians in D.C, think it is. Its going to lead to an economic crash and a totally chaotic earth!

  • Asher

    This was helpful in understanding the different factions of political parties and how they govern. Glad to see more information on this. Above all, Israel should not be sacrificing more land for peace, or moving Israelis out of settlements!

    • ziontruth

      "Above all, Israel should not be sacrificing more land for peace, or moving Israelis out of settlements!"

      That's right, Israel should be moving Arabs out of settlements—all the population centers in the ACJTs (Arab-Colonized Jewish Territories, taken back in 1967), all of them illegal.

  • cathy

    The leaders of the tiny nation of Israel MUST obey the Written Word and not be continually pressured by world opinion into conceding their God-given land to the enemy.

    Why I Like Naftali Bennett
    by Shaul Magid Jan 17, 2013 12:30 PM EST http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/17/

    Exodus 23:31-33
    "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) to the Sea of the Philistines, (Mediterranean) and from the desert to the River . I will hand over to you the people who live in the land and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you."

    Leviticus 25:23
    “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.”

    • EarlyBird

      The problem, Cathy, is that in the intervenining thousands of years since those words were written, many non-Jews actually occupied the Bible's Israel. The slogan we heard as kids, "A land without people for a people with a land" was false. There'd be no "Palestinians" or "refugees" otherwise.

      The question is how can there be real peace for Israel, and if they want to have all of the Biblical Israel, how can they do so without committing a holocaust of their own?

      • ziontruth

        "…many non-Jews actually occupied the Bible's Israel."

        So here's one occupation I'm happy to call for ending.

        "The slogan we heard as kids, 'A land without people for a people with a land' was false."

        Your quote of the slogan is false. It's "a land without a people for a people without land." To make it more clearly so that even treasonous scum like you could understand: "A land without a nation for a nation without land."

        No one ever said this land was empty of all people in the late 19th century. Mark Twain didn't. It's about whether there was a distinction nation on the land at the time. There wasn't: The non-Jewish population was part of the Arab nation, just as is the case today. The Arab nation, as we all know, isn't poor in land; that's why the fraud of the non-Jewish "Palestinian nation" was cooked up, to cover that fact and invert things to make it like the Jews were dispossessing a nation. But the truth is the Arab nation is the one wishing to dispossess the Jews of their one and only land in the world.

        "…and if they want to have all of the Biblical Israel, how can they do so without committing a holocaust of their own?"

        Mass expulsion, as put forth in Numbers 33:50–53 and detailed in all orthodox commentaries. That's distinct from genocide unless genocide were planned in the first place. It's the Arabs who want genocide of the Jews; Torah-true Jews just want the Arab colonists booted out of the Land of Israel.

        • EarlyBird

          How can I, as an American, possibly commit treason against Israel? Israel isn't even in NATO, let alone one of our 50 states, if you haven't heard.

          I'm glad that you're at least willing to state that you would need to commit mass atrocity – mass expulsion (and surely the Arabs would go without a fight, right?) – to obtain Greater Israel. I appreciate your honesty. God help Israel if it finally goes that far, because there will be simply no one else to turn to.

          How sad that Israel has become so ugly.

          • reader

            "you would need to commit mass atrocity – mass expulsion (and surely the Arabs would go without a fight, right?) – to obtain Greater Israel. ….How sad that Israel has become so ugly."

            Did you see any Israeli government declaring its intent to commit genocide against the Arabs? No. Did you see the Arab governments declaring their intent to commit genocide against the Jews? Yes, many. Even if you don't acknowledge that, these are the right answers. You are a repugnant individual, a hypocrite and a nazi.

          • EarlyBird

            Try to follow along, idiot.

            Ziontruth himself wrote that "mass expulsion" of Arabs would be necessary to achieve Greater Israel, and I thanked him for his clarity and honesty.

            Now, back to your blubbering: if extremist right wing Zionists wish to achieve Greater Israel as described in the Bible, and it is decided that the Palestinians are intractable enemies, then you do the math: how to get to Greater Israel? Ask them to leave pretty please with Matzoh on top? Any way you slice it, mass violence and mass atrocity is required, "genocide" or not.

            And actually, many fringe Israeli politicians have come very close to calling for genocide, like the right wing's current theo-fascist hero Naftali Bennett.

            Look around at this board and you'll see all sort of calls for mass genocide against all Arabs and all Muslims.

          • ziontruth

            "How can I, as an American, possibly commit treason against Israel?"

            I gathered from the bit, "The slogan we heard as kids" that you're one of those Jews who grew up to love Israel and then turned on it. Probably a mistake, but it's not important to the argument.

            "…you would need to commit mass atrocity – mass expulsion…"

            Please spare me the moral self-righteousness of one who's safe in his armchair an ocean away. Were you under Israel's existential threat, you'd be singing a different tune.

            "How sad that Israel has become so ugly."

            You must be a newbie to the anti-Zionist scene—the seasoned ones believe Israel has always been "ugly," beginning in 1948. Anyway, mass expulsion is mandated by the Torah, so it doesn't matter what people think about it; you can't say it's immoral, because it is not you who decides whether the Torah is moral, it's the Torah that decides whether you are moral.

          • EarlyBird

            As a good, conservative, Catholic American boy, I learned to love Israel and Jewish culture and was even taught that Jews were "God's people." I live in a very Jewish part of Los Angeles and am happy for the neighbors I have.

            I have a very soft spot for Israel and a great deal of respect for the country, and so I'm very sad and alarmed at how hardened Israelis are becoming, by way of the constant trauma they have endured for so long.

            So I am not sitting in judgement. I appreciate that you feel you have nowhere to go: either death by a thousand terrorists bites, or to commit something wholly un-Jewish and immoral, which is the mass expulsion, by violence, of millions of people from their homes. If the Torah actually demands that, then the Torah is wicked.

          • reader

            Bullcrap. One red herring after another. Israel is the only Jewish state, which is under relentless assault from its genocidal surrounding demanding the 22nd Arab state in its place and demanding mass genocide for the Jews of Israel and beyond from top to bottom. There's no moral "middle ground" here. You picked the side of the genocidal nazis and you demagogue your own stance, like every other two bit huffpo imbicel. Shame on you.

          • EarlyBird

            What red herrings exactly? Did you even read my post? I expressed great respect and sympathy for Israel.

          • Ghostwriter

            Yeah right,EarlyBird. Your "sympathies" for Israel are about as believable as unicorn sightings.

          • EarlyBird

            I don't like my friends to commit sucide, nor drag me off the bridge with them.

  • cathy

    Appeasing the Islamic Enemy?

    Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal reached with Hamas, says Netanyahu
    October 12, 2011

    Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas announced Tuesday that they had agreed on an exchange that would free about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip for more than five years.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/gilad-shalit-

  • cathy

    MyJihad Is To Expose The Palestinian Myth
    January 20th, 2013
    http://www.therightscoop.com/myjihad-is-to-expose

    The Palestine Myth
    Sunday, 18 July 2010 04:16
    http://www.islam-watch.org/index.php?option=com_c

  • marios

    Bibi is not perfect but who was perfect ? Nobody either in Israel, or in any country including US. Having such mounted problems including pressure from our Muslim Pres. it is good that Netanyahu and right wings was re-elected. G-d bless Israel and bless our country not allowing BHO to accomplish his attempt of transformation our country to socialism or shariah law country.