Confounding all of the pre-election polls, the exit polls and even the Netanyahu camp, Bibi Netanyahu won a resounding victory in Israeli elections. As I noted in an earlier update, Israeli polls are traditionally unreliable, and with the large undecided vote, the election could significantly swing in any direction. I must admit, like many, I was stunned by the result. I expected the undecideds to vote against Likud. Probably, the combination of a strong get out the vote effort (ironically like Obama), Netanyahu’s sudden turn around opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state, a smart campaign blitz (his video and TV ads were brilliant) and the idea of a strong leader all led to the unexpected result.
The next step is building a governing coalition. The likely coalition partners will be Likud (Netanyahu), Habayit Yehudi (Bennett), Kulanu (Kochlon), Yisrael Beitenu (Liberman), Shas and United Torah (both ultra-Orthodox). If this coalition materializes, it will be considered a far right wing government. Here are my thoughts on this government:
1) Persecution of Messianic Jews will increase. Honestly, I do not understand Evangelical Christian support for Netanyahu. Because his natural allies are the ultra-Orthodox, who hate Messianic Jews and, for that matter, any Jews who don’t subscribe to their hard line views, almost any Netanyahu government will include them, likely leading to their retaking the Ministry of Interior, which controls immigration to Israel, thereby opening the door to targeting Messianic Jews not only seeking to immigrate but those who are already citizens.
2) Again, because of the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox, the very significant advances made by the last government in forcing the scores of thousands of young ultra-Orthodox to serve in the military will likely be undone. Also, the subsidy for large families (ultra-Orthodox), cut by the last government, will likely be increased again.
3) Settlement building will almost certainly continue unabated, leading to Israel’s further isolation from Europe and the United States.
4) Any peace agreement with the Palestinians, probably unachievable at this time under any Israeli government, is a non-starter now. At least with another government, attempts would be made to make peace, easing international pressure on Israel.
5) If Moshe Kahlon, the leader of Kulanu, becomes finance minister (he was campaigning for the position), then it’s possible the massive housing shortage in Israel will be addressed.
6) Relations with the Obama administration will remain poisoned, possibly leading to shrinking US support for Israel.
7) Netanyahu’s campaign was built on security and opposition to Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. While I agree with his concern about Iran, one would think that working closely with the Obama administration only would help in the effort to deny Iran any possible nuclear weapon break out capability. With both leaders at such odds, any joint effort is undercut. In addition, if Netanyahu decides that Israel must go it alone with a military attack against Iranian installations, Iran will signal for Hezbollah to rain her massive missile arsenal on Israel’s northern border. A few years ago Israel’s defense minister predicted about 1000 Israelis would be killed in such a confrontation – a huge number for a small country.
As you can probably tell, we didn’t vote for Likud. Sorry if I offended Likud supporters. I try to tell it as it is. On a lighter note, here are some pics of us voting. The first one is a poster outside the polling area describing the voting procedure, including identifying the party with the letters designating which party is which.
The second pic is the table of election monitors, who check off the name of the person voting. You must show some form of government identity. It’s very similar to the US.
The third pic is the actual voting slips. Each person is given an envelope. The person enters the voting booth (similar to what’s seen in the US) and chooses one slip of paper indicating which party the person will vote for. The slip of paper is then inserted into the envelope, sealed and then placed in the ballot box outside the booth.
The fourth and fifth pics show Stacy and me voting in our second national election since we moved here three years ago.
Despite my pessimism about the election results, Israel still is the only country in the Middle East with free elections. It’s quite a statement in a region surrounded by crackpot regimes.