4 Takeaways From Israel's Election
1. Netanyahu and his opponents made this election a referendum on him. Both Netanyahu's Likud and the lefty, fake centrist Kahol Lavan party benefited, with voters giving both a sizable set of seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu's campaign came down to urging people to vote for Likud or face the prospect that Yair Lapid, a former talk show host, Israel's version of Justin Trudeau, would be running the country.
The Likud has more seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, than it has in a long time. Kahol Lavan has plenty of seats, but will probably rupture and come apart.
What will Netanyahu do with his coalition? Despite his promises, I suspect not very much. Netanyahu has usually run far to the right and governed from the center. The failure of either Zehut or New Right to make it in will mean that he will have more freedom to play with a coalition that is much less ideological, despite Lieberman's posturing, and has little interest in the question of Judea and Samaria.
Israel's big diplomatic victories were achieved largely because of a very friendly American administration. Netanyahu was in a position to build a relationship with Trump and ratify moves that would have been sabotaged by a lefty government, like moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights, but expecting him to move boldly forward would be at odds with his history.
Netanyahu, as usual, played both the right and the left, dividing and conquering his opposition from within and without.
2. Israel's right-wing parties never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. As of now, it looks as if Feiglin's Zehut and Bennett's New Right, never made it past the electoral threshold. That means countless right-wing votes wasted. Again. This is an ongoing theme in Israeli politics. It helped make the Oslo sellout of Israel possible as new, pointless right-wing parties are created. Moshe Feiglin is an admirable figure who organized Israel's equivalent of the Tea Party back in the 90s. Naftali Bennett has been a dynamic communicator, but there was no reason for his new party. And, unsurprisingly, it turned out that there wasn't room in Israeli politics for both a secular right-wing party or for Zehut, a party calling for the legalization of marijuana, the removal of the Muslim colonial presence and the rebuilding of the Third Temple.
Maybe when the votes of Israeli soldiers are counted, one or both parties will make it past the electoral treshhold. But I wouldn't bet too hard on it.
Meanwhile the growing demographic strength of Orthodox Jews continues to be reflected in the outcome.
3. The media, both the Israeli and the American, as usual misreported everything it could. Its scenario of Netanyahu losing was never very likely. Now it will revert back to promising that Netanyahu will be in prison (the campaign against Trump closely echoes the one that the Left has been running against Netanyahu) and blaming racism. Tel Aviv's elites will, once again, announce that they'll stop giving to the poor. There will be ugly invective targeting Jews from the Middle East. All of this, despite the fact that Netanyahu's campaign with its "Davka Netanyahu" slogan was meant to rebuke the media. And it worked quite effectively.
The media remains this election's biggest loser.
4. The collapse of Labor, another recurring story, is also another theme of the night. Labor voters who hoped to drive out Netanyahu turned to Kahol Lavan. And that puts me in mind of this bit from the sadly vanished Latma.