Netanyahu Springs his Trap

How the coalition government in Israel fell apart -- and who will benefit in the next election.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in JerusalemPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may demonstrate foolishness regarding a great many things in public life, but no one ever accused him of demonstrating foolishness with regard to his own electoral prospects.  His enemies are suddenly foaming at the mouth.  In response to the remarkable jump in Likud popularity in the polls, they claim, Bibi has decided to pull a fast one and has decided to take the undemocratic decision of holding elections.  That Netanyahu's rivals claim it is undemocratic when elections are held is only the tip of their problems.  What really has them worried is that the Israeli electorate is about to sic itself against most of the non-Likud parties.

To a large extent, the real factor behind the dismemberment of the government coalition and the calling of new elections is the military operation against Gaza from this past summer.  The events surrounding those battles shook up the Israeli electorate and reshuffled the political deck.

The Gaza war made the Likud very popular.  The Jewish public almost unanimously supported the operation against the Hamas barbarians. Israelis do not think that too many Gazans were killed but rather that too few were.  The main complaint from Israeli Jews was that the Likud did not go far enough and ended the military incursions there too soon.

But the Gaza war also decimated the political base for the Likud's opposition.  In Gaza, Israel had carried out to the letter every "idea" of the Israeli Labor Party and its allies.  It had evicted the entire Jewish population of Gaza, removed every single Israeli soldier and military asset, turned the area over to the "Palestinians," ending every single vestige of "occupation."  The result was the raining down of thousands of rockets upon the Israeli civilian population fired from Gaza, some hitting Tel Aviv and some landing near the airport, plus the terror tunnels built to carry out large-scale massacres of Jews.  The Hitlerjugend on Western campuses may be marching around chanting that Jews are subhumans whose lives not worthy of being defended and protected, but no one is going to get very far in Israeli politics mouthing such a platform.  The huge bulk of Israelis see the Labor Party and the "center-Left" as directly responsible for turning Gaza into one huge rocket launching pad and putting almost the entire Israeli civilian population at risk, all in the name of "the need to end occupation."  Israelis now understand that Arab terrorism is not caused by Israeli occupation but by the ending of Israeli occupation.

That means that everyone knows that at the very first electoral opportunity, the Israeli voter will exact his revenge against those who turned Gaza into Hamastan.  That means the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni's "Tnuah" party, what is left of the once large Kadima bloc.

So the Labor Party, which in its first decades exercised a monopoly hegemony over Israeli government, is likely to fall in any new election far below the 15 parliamentary seats it managed to hang on to in the last elections (out of 120).

Livni's party is what is left from the larger Kadima party that implemented the Gaza capitulation and the conversion of Gaza into ISIS-South.  It managed to get 6 seats in the last election and was invited by Netanyahu to join his coalition.  There Livni herself pursued a leftist agenda within the government coalition.  As Minister of Justice, she appointed far leftist judicial activist court judges.  She also rallied in defense of the Islamofascist terrorist Haneen Zoabi, a Knesset Member from one of the Arab fascist parties, defending her from attempts to indict her for treason and terrorism.  There are serious doubts as to whether Livni's party will pass the minimum threshold and even make it into the next Knesset after the election.  The ultra-leftist MERETZ party, with 6 seats at the moment, is also likely to get pummeled in a new election.  Israel bashing is just not a great vote grabber in Israel these days.

They are not the only likely losers from a new election.  The wunderkind of the last election was TV personality Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party.  A bit of a Seinfeldian party, one about nothing, Lapid rode to power by painting himself as the voice of irate middle class Israelis upset at housing prices and determined to end exemptions from military service for religious yeshiva students.  After rising from nothing to 19 seats, Lapid was invited into the coalition and made Minister of Finance, a politically thankless position even for someone who had once taken freshman economics, which Lapid had not.  Determined to do "something" as Finance Minister, Lapid introduced a moronic proposal for reducing housing prices by increasing the demand for housing (granting new home buyers exemptions from Value-Added Taxes).   Then in recent months he introduced proposals for rent controls, price controls in some other markets, and boosts in the minimum wage.   Years ago I proposed requiring prospective Ministers of Finance to be able to get a B minus on an exam in Economics 101 and Lapid illustrates what happens when there is no such requirement.

Having delivered nothing, Lapid's party will probably lose at least half its electoral strength.  There is a popular Israeli pop song about "My heart is Racing a New Guy is Coming to the Neighborhood."   Well that new guy is Moshe Kahlon.  He is a well-liked good-looking ex-Likud politician with a very bright public image, considered honest and intelligent and clean.  He was the father of the reform and shakeup of the cell phone industry in Israel which resulted in sharp drops in prices for consumers.  He is setting up his own new party, so far unnamed, and it will run as the party of the middle class.  In other words, he will be out-Lapiding Yair Lapid.  His entry onto the stage dooms Lapid to an even sharper decline.

Yisrael Beiteinu, the party of sharp-tongued Russian immigrant strongman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is also due to take a drumming.  In the last election, it did not run as a separate party, but rather as part of a merger with the Likud.  So its own electoral popularity was not really put to the test, as it will be this winter.  In the past it managed to draw support from Israeli "hawks," above and beyond its power base among Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel, and was helped by being the party most hated by the Far Left.  But in the last election its ability to attract "hawks" was already being undercut by the emergence of Naftali Bennett's "Jewish Home" party.  And Lieberman has been involved in other shenanigans that are likely to undercut his popularity, such as his leading an anti-democratic campaign to shut down a daily newspaper because its editorial line is pro-Netanyahu.

Naftali Bennett's "Jewish Home" party was one of the great winners in the last election, winning 12 seats.  He would have likely done even better had not the Likud focused most of its attack ads and energies in the last weeks before the last election on attacking Bennett.   While Bennett and Netanyahu do not like one another at the personal level, and while the party has lost some of its glamour in some missteps and foolish policy positions, particular by Uri Ariel, Minister of Construction, Bennett's party is still the only reliably "hawkish" party left in the arena and is likely to benefit from the shifts in public sentiment.

The rest of the Knesset is unlikely to change much in the new election.  The religious parties and the Arab fascist parties will probably keep their strength at current levels.  The rump "Kadima" party of Shaul Mofaz will go the way of the dodo bird after the election.

The main net effect of the snap elections is likely to be a strengthening of the Israeli "Right" based around the Likud and a stronger Likud governmental coalition emerging.

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