Saturday, March 21

Aftermath of the Israeli General Elections 2015

In my previous articles on the Israeli Elections, despite the polls giving a slight edge to the left of center Zionist Camp, I had written that the majority of the Israeli electorate is right of center to extreme right wing. This would influence coalition negotiations with Benjamin Netanyahu being re-elected as prime minister. However, I did predict that it would be a close result. The day after the elections, Netanyahu's Likud Party received the most seats (30 seats) while the Zionist Camp trailed behind by 6 seats (24 seats). Even if the result would be a draw, there is no way that the Zionist Party would be able to form a coalition. As in all elections, no party has ever had an absolute majority or even approached that. Reliance on coalition deals with small parties has always been the major factor in coalition negotiations to form a new government.
 Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech next to his wife Sara as he reacts to exit poll figures in Israel's parliamentary elections late on March 17, 2015.

The small parties are center-right to extreme-right. They are the natural partners in coalition bargaining with the Likud. For many of us, the results are disappointing though hardly surprising, considering that most Israelis are center to extreme right. There was no serious discourse on solving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. This is viewed as taboo at election time. The issues were cost of living and the increasing cost of housing. 

There are only two small parties that are left wing, Meretz and the Joint List (which has mostly Arab members). The Joint List is the third largest party. They will be in the opposition no matter which party forms a coalition. They are not even considered as potential partners even in a left coalition. The Joint List is anti-Zionist. They were not even prepared to sign a surplus vote agreement with Meretz as the latter is a Zionist party, despite claims to the contrary by the right wing.

The polls prior to the elections had predicted a narrow victory for the Zionist Camp. The polls were proved wrong and misleading. 

Netanyahu was in a panic on Election Day. He was convinced that the Likud would lose the elections and he would not be re-elected as prime minister. Later that afternoon on Election Day, voting was not as brisk as expected. Only about 55% of registered voters had cast their votes. For Netanyahu, this could spell disaster for his Likud Party. When Netanyahu panics, he sweats and he is unable to hide his stress. In this situation, being the wily, resilient politician that he is, he managed to pull a racist rabbit out of his hat. He declared that the Arabs are turning up "in droves"to vote and this spells danger to Israel and its security if the Likud loses. The ruse worked and the apathetic voters, sharing Netanyahu's concern at the possibility of losing, came out of their "rabbit holes”, made a bee-line to the polling stations, and voted Likud. The low poll was pushed up to 72% within a few hours until closing time. Netanyahu, almost single-handedly, became the master of his own destiny to re-election as Prime Minister of the 20th Knesset. The exploitation of fear of Arab citizen votes for the Joint List en masse reeks of racism on the part of Netanyahu It is deplorable to denigrate Arab citizens of Israel for cheap political gains as Netanyahu has done!

Since the results of these elections, so many commentaries have been made in the press and on TV as to why the Zionist Camp lost the elections. They were unable to convince the Israeli voter to support them. They never really became organized throughout their campaign by offering a viable and realistic alternative. The fault lies with the two leaders of the Zionist Camp. Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Camp, has an illustrious pedigree, being the son of the Late Chaim Herzog, who was president of Israel and had a very successful political and military career. Yitzchak Herzog does not have charisma or voice that inspires the average citizen to vote for him. He side-stepped issues, such as the future of peace negotiations with the Palestinians as he felt that is not an issue for elections. He was scared to appear as somebody who will sell out Israel to Hamas, which of course is ridiculous. Netanyahu took advantage of this and demonized the Zionist Camp stating repeatedly ad nauseam that the left will divide Jerusalem and bow down to Palestinian demands.  Knowing the Israeli electorate as he does, the use of fear of an Arab take-over of Israel if the Likud loses brought him the desired results. The Israeli left is considered traitors by many right-wing voters and the Likud. This tendency to to demonize the left will increase. The small right wing parties took advantage of this demonization tactic. 

Tzippi Livni, Herzog's running mate, also has very little credibility. She had changed parties four times (she was a staunch member of Likud as well as being in the Likud cabinet, then leader of the now defunct Kadima Party, followed by Tnuah which she started and finally joined up with the Zionist Camp). Apart from that, Netanyahu is viewed as the only person capable of leading Israel. Many people have said to me "Can you imagine Herzog, who is wimpish, leading the country?"  The devil one knows is preferable to the devil unknown. As tired as the electorate is of Netanyahu he is still considered the best of poor alternatives. 

The use of various epithets describing Netanyahu and going for his wife Sara Netanyahu and their lavish life-style boomeranged as a "sympathy vote" for the Likud can also be viewed as a result.  

The future ramifications for Israel because of Netanyahu’s re-election as Prime Minister are not good. Israel's image in the world and the relationship with President Obama is not good either. A good relationship with the US is important for Israel. We must remember that without US military aid and financial support, Israel would be in a very poor situation. After all, the Iron Dome anti-ballistic system that was successful in saving the lives of many Israelis during Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 received the green light from President Obama. We must never forget that and must cease "Obama-bashing" over the Iran nuclear negotiation issue. None of us knows what is happening behind the lines and relies on spin, half-truths and hype. No US agreement with Iran on these issues has been reached. Israel has the right to express concern using accepted channels not a vote-gaining strategy by Netanyahu by addressing the American Congress on 3rd March 2015 prior to the Israeli General Elections.

The neo-fascist Yahad Party of the ex-Shasnik, Eli Yishai was eliminated and has no representation in the Knesset, is the only positive achievement of these elections. Israel is in for a bumpy ride in coalition building and also in its relations with the world as peace with the Palestinians and a two-state solution recedes even further from the realm of remote possibility.

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