Analysis |

Netanyahu Will Need All His Magic Tricks to Pull Off a Win in Israel's Election

A victory that ends with the establishment of a right-wing-ultra-Orthodox coalition will give him the authority – as far as he is concerned – to break Israeli democracy

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Prime Minister Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuCredit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will need all his magical and conjuring skills to prove the opinion polls ahead of Israel's election wrong, to extricate himself from the depths of a pit that ends in a trial and to lead the Israeli left into a depression from which it will take years to recover.

Based on the last polls, Likud is in a statistical tie with Kahol Lavan, while the right-wing bloc (minus Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu) is having trouble reaching 61 seats. Netanyahu has to turn things around and win on two fronts – the critical one of course is the bloc – to completely neutralize President Reuven Rivlin's discretion regarding who will form the government. Numerically, he, Netanyahu, and they, Likud, are closer than ever to this goal.

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Victory that ends with the establishment of a right-wing-ultra-Orthodox coalition will give Netanyahu the authority – as far as he is concerned – to break law enforcement, the attorney general, the courts and the free press. In short, he will be free to break Israeli democracy, which has survived wars, contentious elections and the assassination of a prime minister.

A victory will reward him for the most racist, mendacious and violent campaign Israel has ever experienced from a party in power. He engineered this election campaign personally, with a cluster of talented aides, like him lacking values and restraint. What was not done in his image was done in his spirit.

This is the second election campaign born out of personal considerations of flight from prosecution. The year 2019 will go down disgracefully in history as the year in which an enlightened, modern country was dragged twice into elections by a person suspected of criminal acts. And if on Wednesday morning or by the weekend, Netanyahu turns out to be a magician, the “king” will decide that the public, knowing the evidence, has acquitted him of any wrongdoing.

The campaign he conducted was a frenetic show of contempt for statesmanship and truth. It spewed hatred and incitement, called the Arab citizens “thieves” and claimed that they seek to destroy Israel. If that doesn’t boost Arab voter turnout, what will?

He lied and cheated and reviled others so many times, in his own voice or through nameless employees, that there was no longer any point in counting. Let’s see what he pulls out of his hat on Tuesday.

He’ll probably hysterically market the fiction on his Facebook page of “stealing the election” (in April) based on a media report that raised questions but gave no answers. The simple fact is that Likud and Shas are the ones who benefitted from the only two polling stations in which irregularities were supposedly discovered. The spin of “stealing the election” was invented, fueled and disseminated by the Likud campaign so that when the time comes its leader can demand a new election. Not by chance did Netanyahu avoid saying in his Saturday-night interviews that he would return his mandate to the president (assuming he receives it) if he fails to form a government this time.

One shouldn’t be impressed by his statement: “That I wouldn’t accept the result of the election? I’m a democrat!” Well now, with democrats like him, who needs tyrants? If he loses, he will stop at nothing to hold onto power, because the alternative for him, very likely, is a trial, conviction and prison.

An outcome of 61 or more seats will lead to the most extreme and delusional government that has ever ruled here. Suspects, indicted individuals and convicted felons, ultra-Orthodox Zionists who yearn for the Middle Ages, avowed followers of Meir Kahane and admirers of the mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein will fill its key positions. It will be either this mix as the face of the next Israeli government, or a unity government under Likud and Kahol Lavan. There is no realistic possibility of establishing a left-wing government under Kahol Lavan leader MK Benny Gantz.

A reset in the political world

At 10 P.M. Tuesday, with the release of the exit polls, the political world will reset itself and preoccupation will begin with the critical question: Which of the two, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu or Benjamin (Benny) Gantz will the president ask to form a government?

Without a clear decision, both candidates might prefer to be the one the president asks second to form a government. That is because the members of the new Knesset, who will certainly not want to go to another election in February 2020, will race into the arms of that candidate to thwart the dissolution of the Knesset. That is only one of the insane scenarios that could take place here, if this election indeed leads to a dead end.

As for the rest, it’s a pity to waste words. Let’s wait for the final results.