Netanyahu Won, but Israel Was Brought to Its Knees

In preferring Lapid, moderate Israelis voted against change and gave the power back to Netanyahu and to a government that will take us to the brink.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Likud campaign at party headquarters in Tel Aviv, March 18, 2015.
Likud campaign at party headquarters in Tel Aviv, March 18, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

There really was a chance this time. There really was hope this time. Netanyahu was weak, Likud was falling apart, and the right-wing was in a real crisis. The alternative in the Zionist Union made it truly possible to change the face of Israel, bring it back into itself, and its true self-image. But in order to do that, leadership, responsibility and good judgement are necessary. In order to do that, an enlightened public that acts maturely and seriously on Election Day was necessary. Those in Israel who wish for peace, the division of the land and the creation of a true democracy – they needed to unite and work as a single body in order to free the government from the grasp of the settlers, the zealots and the cynics.

But the tribe known as the “white tribe” is the most primitive political tribe that exists in Israel. Time after time it blindly follows false messiahs and makes incomprehensible mistakes. This happened yet again on Tuesday. The decision of hundreds of thousands of people to vote for Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid split the moderate bloc and gave the government yet again to Likud, to the right, and to Gush Emunim. Just as in 2013 Yair Lapid brought Naftali Bennett to power, this time, Lapid gave the power back to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Less than a week ago, this newspaper published an article entitled “Israelis, vote for hope. Vote for Zionist Union.” On Tuesday, an article was published with a warning: “Don’t say you didn’t know.” The mathematics behind these sharp statements was simple: Only Herzog could have replaced Netanyahu; and in order to do so, Herzog needed a lead of at least four Knesset seats – meaning any seats that went from Herzog to Lapid, instead of contributing to a lead over Likud, went right into Netanyahu’s hands.

But many affluent people in Herzilya Pituach and lots of young people in Givatayim refused to understand these basic principles. They proved again that in terms of politics, television-kissers are more foolish than mezuzah-kissers. Their stubbornness in preferring Lapid over a real change will allow for a nationalist-jingoist-ultra-Orthodox government that will bring us to the brink to be yet again formed in Israel.

It’s impossible not to say a good word about Benjamin Netanyahu this morning. This time he was really under siege. This time, a huge force went up against him. A week ago, he was in a desperate state. But still, the excellent campaigner managed to work breathtaking political magic, and conjure himself another term as prime minister. But as far as the State of Israel is concerned, this fourth term might be one term too many. International pressure is on the rise. A third intifada isn’t far off. Bibi won on Tuesday, but Israel was brought to its knees.

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