Saturday 28 March 2015

The People of Israel Have Spoken

The ballots have been counted in Israel's election 2015, and people have recovered from the surprise of a result which has deviated substantially from the opinion polls and exit polls.  I believe that the surprise comes, not from the result itself, but because of the extent to which people's expectations were inaccurately set by the polls in the media.  The people of Israel have spoken, and they have spoken loud and clear.
It is possible to draw a number of conclusions from the comprehensive and unexpected manner in which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party have been returned to power.

1.  Security issues are at the top of the national agenda.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's election platform was based upon security issues, and the nature of the threat that exists against the State of Israel.  Some have called it scare-mongering people to believe that Israel is under an existential threat, in order to convince people to vote for him.  He even appeared in front of the American Congress during the latter stages of the election campaign,  in an attempt to reinforce this point for the Israeli public, the American public and the world at large.  With the strength of anti-Israel feeling evident within the international community, within the United Nations and evident from individuals around the world, it hardly comes as a surprise that the Israeli people believe him when he is says that Israel is under threat.  And when considering the rhetoric coming from countries like Iran and countries along Israel's borders, it is easy to understand why this feeling is so great.  When adding the growing levels of anti-Semitism, much of it dressed up as anti-Israel views, I don't believe that this threat arises from paranoia.  It is true to say that Israel is not on the verge of being wiped out, as was the case a few times in the past.  The Israeli army is certainly strong enough to stand up to any physical threat to our country.  This does not, however, diminish the threat and the desires of Israel's enemies to destroy her.  The majority of the Israeli electorate believe that Israel is under a substantial international threat, and have good reason to believe this.

2.  Peace with the Palestinians is not a priority.
It is noticeable that the issue of peace with the Palestinians played no role in the election campaigns of any of the parties.  The left-wing parties did not seek election on the strength of promises to bring compromises in the interests of reaching peace with the Palestinians, and the right-wing parties did not seek election on the basis that they would not be prepared to enter into peace with the Palestinians.  It would appear as though the Israeli public has understood that peace is unattainable with people who are not prepared to recognise that Israel is a Jewish country.  This is despite the fact that it is a most basic Israeli aspiration to seek a just and equitable peace.  The realisation that the Palestinians are not willing or ready to agree upon the compromises that are necessary to reach a peace, has not been easy to understand.  It is tough to accept that the Palestinian leadership has no intention of entering into a peace agreement at all.  It is unfortunate that the international community continues to try to squeeze a square peg into a round hole, and to insist that now is the time to force the parties to negotiate to reach a peace agreement.  It is even more unfortunate that the international community places the blame on Israel for the lack of progress towards peace.

3.  Tzipi Livni is unelectable.
Isaac Herzog sought out Tzipi Livni to join him at the head of the Zionist Union list.  The combined list was regarded as greater than the sum of its component parts, and this was borne out by the election result.  It seems unlikely that Labour and Hatnua could have secured 24 seats if they had run as separate lists.  When agreeing to form the Zionist Union list, Herzog and Livni also agreed to rotate the position of prime minister between the two of them in the event that their list should win the election.  There were many in the Labour Party and across the country who wondered why Herzog had agreed to conceed such a strong position to Livni, when her power to bring support to the Zionist Union was questionable.  Only one day before the election, Tzipi Livni announced that she was giving up on her right to be prime minister in the rotation agreement.  This was widely interpreted as the Zionist Union acknowledging that more people would be inclined to vote for them if they knew that Livni would not be prime minister.  The act was also seen as an immense act of weakness on the part of the tough lady.  It was also the final word in confirming that Tzipi Livni is unelectable as prime minister.  She lost credibility while she migrated from the Likud, across Kadima and Hatnua to ultimately team up with Labour at the opposite end of the political spectrum.  She was unable to form a government in 2009, despite her Kadima party won the highest number of seats in the general election.  This act of her giving up her right to be prime minister is the final nail in her prime ministerial ambitions.  It also opens a broad debate about whether Isaac Herzog is electable as prime minster.

4.  Toughness by Israel's leaders on the international stage is desirable and respected.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has always been a master at presenting Israel's case on the international stage, and showing toughness and being unashamed and uncompromising in doing so.  He is the new type of Jew that Jabotinsky could only dream of during the years of the pogroms in Eastern Europe.  Despite the fact that a number of generations have come and gone since Jabotinsky's time when he dreamed of this Jew, it seems as though Israelis continue to like, respect and desire this quality that Netanyahu possesses.  At a time when attacks on Israel in the international community  are at an unprecedented high and when anti-Semitism around the world is rising to levels that are unknown since the Shoah, there is something appealing to Israeli eyes and ears in a leader who is prepared to confront and beat these attacks by facing them head-on.  The sight of him addressing the US Congress just before the election will have confirmed Netanyahu's ability and willingness to do this for any Israeli who doubted it.

5.  Bias in the media counts for nothing.
There can be no doubt that the Israeli media waged a campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu in order to remove him from the prime minister's residence.  He tried calling out the Yediot Haachronot and its online version Ynet during the course of the election campaign, by accusing the editor Noni Moses of publishing untruths in an attempt to discredit him.  Israel's media, and its lack of independence and editorial integrity, has come under scrutiny in recent months.  It is not only the anti-Netanyahu camp that stands accused, but equally Sheldon Adelson's Yisrael Hayom, and its unashamed support for Netanyahu.  The Israeli people have shown that, despite the vicious and overwhelming anti-Netanyahu sentiments published in many Israel printed and online newspapers, they have been able to make up their minds independently about who they wish to lead the country over the next 4 years.  Even the opinion polls, that did not even get close to the election result at any point, could not influence the electorate.  Since the election result has been made known, the anti-Netanyahu lobby has not given up and continues to castigate Israelis for making the wrong choice in the election.  They make an even greater laughing stock of themselves by doing this.

6.  Even Obama cannot unseat Netanyahu.
US President Barack Obama refused to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his recent trip to address the US Congress in Washington.  The reason given for him not meeting with Netanyahu was that he did not wish to influence Israel's election result in any way.  When looking at Obama's actions in the period leading up to the election, and particularly his response to the election result, it seems that nothing could be further from the truth.  There is no secret that Obama has no time or patience for Prime Minister Netanyahu.  There is no secret that Obama would have been much happier if somebody else, anybody, would have been elected as the prime minister in the election.  There were strong rumours that Obama was somehow behind funding the V15 group that rose up in Israel prior to the election in attempt to unseat Netanyahu almost at any price.  The slogan of this group, and also much of the rhetoric behind the Zionist Union's election campaign, was anti-Netanyahu.  They were encouraging people to vote against Netanyahu, as opposed to enticing people to make a positive choice and to vote for something that they do want.  My interpretation of Obama's decision not to meet Netanyahu prior to the election, was a real attempt to influence people to vote against him, and not to stay neutral as he was trying to get us to believe.  Perhaps he was concerned that a meeting may have helped to convince people to vote for a man that he would like to see consigned to the dustbin of history.  The Israeli people have shown that even the most powerful politician in the world cannot influence their choice.  This is not a happy moment for Obama, and his concerted campaign against Netanyahu and Israel since the election has demonstrated that he is a very sore loser.   It seems inconceivable that US foreign policy in the Middle East can suddenly change as a result of an election result and a few statements from Netanyahu.  Obama's message that "this is not personal" has shown to be completely false.  Ultimately, the vote of the Israeli people is stronger, even than Obama.

Israelis are notoriously independent in their views and actions, and have a reputation for being steadfast and stubborn.  This has come through very loudly in the 2015 election.  And all of this with a turnout of voters in excess of 70%, the highest number since 1999.  Even the number of Arab voters was more than 60%, the highest number in history.  Despite numerous attempts to influence against the re-election of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he has returned to power with a stronger mandate than before.  He is on the verge of becoming Israel's longest-serving prime minister in history.  Israel is held up as the only real democracy in the Middle East, and the democratic process has spoken.  The time has come for those who preferred a different result, and who would have liked to see Herzog as prime minster, to rally around and accept the result that Israeli democracy has selected.  Continuing to fight against it does not serve a purpose.  This is not to say that those who justifiably oppose Netanyahu's policies should be silent and not express their views.  There is, however, a democratic way of doing this.  This does not include intervention from the US president, or unjustified attacks from the media.  Democracy is alive and well in Israel, and the people have spoken.


adrian bolmenn said...

2 weeks after the result and still no coalition of 61. It could and has become a potential problem for the ruling party. It was no immediate shoe in for beit hayehudi and kulanu that they thought would be. Playing hardball was not ever the game the likud thought they would have to play.the results can go the other way also

Anthony Reich said...

There was never any prospect of a coalition being in place within 2 weeks of the election. The prime minister indicated that he hoped it will be ready by Independence Day, and that is about 3 weeks away still.

There is no doubt that putting the coalition together will take time, and will be tough and dirty. Everybody will seek to get their pound of flesh.

I remain confident, however, that the coalition will be formed as anticipated.

adrian bolmenn said...

i go back to what i said the results have the potential to go the other way if bibi cant get his 61 coalition. i mentioned hardball and that is what is happening. Zipi is smiling in the background because this is what was done to her last time round when she won the largest vote. Two weeks or bust the clocks are ticking.

adrian bolmenn said...

lieberman has done me proud today
he has created the start of the end for the likud and a short period of government. I go back to what i said the results have the potential to go the other way.