Making Sense of Post-election Israel: 13 Must Reads

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a fifth term on Wednesday, with Benny Gantz conceding the election, as the religious-right bloc maintains a lead. Almost all right-wing parties have said they would recommend to the president that Netanyahu form the next ruling coalition. Here are a few must reads to guide you on what post-election Israel.

Anshel Pfeffer | Impeccable timing and brilliant campaigning give Netanyahu his biggest win yet

Around midnight on Tuesday, as Likud activists were finally allowed into the Tel Aviv basketball arena hired by the party for its Election Night event, it may have briefly seemed that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing a possible stalemate. Who knows, even defeat? But the Likudniks believed. They always do and, like so many times before, Netanyahu vindicated their belief. He finally arrived at 2 A.M., only minutes after the television exit polls had changed their predictions and put Likud in the lead. Just like throughout the campaign, his timing was perfect. Full story >

Bradley Burston | Netanyahu the 5th has already begun to rewrite history

There's no winner quite like a sore winner. And there's no sore winner quite like Benjamin Netanyahu. Stated differently, there is only one Benjamin Netanyahu who is more vindictive, more actively disingenuous, more whiningly, plaintively certain of his being unjustly victimized, than a Benjamin Netanyahu who has just lost an election: You guessed it. It's the Benjamin Netanyahu who's just won. Even at his pinnacle of triumph, during his victory speech in the early hours of Wednesday, he couldn't resist casting himself as a martyr of mythic proportions. He prevailed, he announced, in the face of the hostility of the media and under impossible conditions. Full story >

Allison Kaplan Sommer | 8 New Faces in the 2019 Knesset – and 7 You Won’t Be Seeing Anymore

Israeli election results will bring many fresh faces into the Knesset, while pushing out some familiar ones. Nearly half of the 48 newcomers come courtesy of Benny Gantz’s newly created Kahol Lavan party. Others are pleasantly surprised Likud members who were placed low down on the right-wing party’s initial slate. Here are some of the most noteworthy faces who are “in” and “out” of the 21st Knesset. Full story >

Chemi Shalev | Netanyahu Celebrates His Bibistan as the Left Wakes Up to the Dawn of an Old and Darker Day

The Israeli center-left, to cite the immortal words of U2, is stuck in a moment it can’t get out of. What’s worse, the moment recurs regularly, as if Election Day is Groundhog Day. The torture begins right after generous television exit polls give the left a fighting chance. Refusing to learn from bitter experience, expectations then climb sky-high, the party faithful break out in spontaneous dance and their leader comes forth with a victory speech, which is forever premature. Then the exit polls are adjusted, joy begins to wither and hopes are slowly lost, while dread and nausea take their place. In the end, like clockwork, Netanyahu comes on stage to tumultuous cheers, flush with victory and driven by revenge, and kisses his wife Sara. The center-left then wakes up in a cold sweat, once again, to the dawn of an old day, even darker than before. Full story >

Yossi Verter | Netanyahu, More Emboldened Than Ever, Will Do Anything to Stop Indictment

After the 2015 election and the 30 Knesset seats that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won almost single-handedly and virtually overnight in that campaign, he underwent a radical change. In his own view, he became a living legend, a mythical figure, larger than life, who was anointed for greatness by higher powers and was capable, in a single, brilliant campaign maneuver, of changing the course of history. Such an intoxicating view of himself, that it was he and he alone, that he was Gulliver among the Lilliputians, eradicated what had remained of his judgment and awareness of himself. The direct result was his impending indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the Bezeq-Walla case, involving allegations that he traded government regulatory concessions for favorable coverage on the Walla news website. He truly believed that he was invulnerable, and the details of the allegations against him paint a picture of a leader who has thrown caution to the wind. Full story >

Noa Landau | PR Firm Behind Likud's Hidden Cameras in Arab Polling Sites Boasts of Lowering Voter Turnout

An Israeli public relations company headed by a settler leader boasted Wednesday that it was behind the Likud initiative to place 1,200 hidden cameras in Arab polling stations on Election Day. The firm added that it was to thank for the historically low turnout among Arab voters. "Thanks to us placing observers in every polling station we managed to lower the voter turnout to under 50 percent, the lowest in recent years!" the PR company, Kaizler Inbar, posted on Facebook. Full story >

Debra Shushan | American Jews, Don't Walk Away From Israel

Already in crisis, relations between Israel and American Jews are headed for a harsh reckoning in the wake of this week's victory by Israel’s right-wing bloc, helmed by the once and perpetual prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. While American Jews remain overwhelmingly liberal - one of the most solidly progressive constituencies in the U.S., despite President Donald Trump’s absurd attempts to promote a "Jexodus" – the majority of Israelis have jettisoned Israel’s founding values of socialist Zionism to move ever rightward. What William Galston observed months ago is now indisputably true: Israel has become a Trump-enamored red state, while American Jews are the bluest of blue staters, who view Trump as an existential threat, both to our safety and to the liberal society in which we have flourished. Full story >

Ravit Hecht | For Real Change, the Zionist Left Must Drop Its Sense of Jewish Supremacy

The real surprise of this election was that so many people anticipated a change, then found themselves brokenhearted the moment the results came in. Hope is apparently an existential resource, like food and oxygen; there’s no other logical explanation. It was clear that an unreasonable number of scenarios were necessary to remove Benjamin Netanyahu from power. That this one wouldn’t get in; that others would manage to steal enough seats from the opposing bloc without losing any from their own, and that that one from the left would join a coalition with the racist from the right. And sure enough, this didn’t happen. The future looks dismal and the temptation to blame someone is great. But it’s unfair to lay most of that blame on those who voted strategically for Gantz and his partners, who indeed marched to the beat of a false drum of self-persuasion into a forlorn but predictable fate. The left has been in a deep crisis for decades. Full story >

Chaim Levinson | Netanyahu's Campaign Guru Regrets Only One Thing

Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign wasn’t Israel Einhorn’s first political foray. He once advised then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and also ran Gila Gamliel’s campaign in the Likud primary. But joining the prime minister’s team as chief creative director was a big step up for an adman who in recent years has switched to strategic consulting and crisis management – something usually under the radar. In this campaign, too, he worked behind the scenes, to the point that many people still don’t recognize his name. But he was the person behind the messages that took Likud to victory – and drew fire. Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | Labor's Collapse Proves Liberal Zionism Is Facing an Existential Crisis

Aside from Kahol Lavan’s failure and the parties that dropped out of the Knesset entirely, the biggest loser on Election Night was undoubtedly Labor. The party whose forerunner founded Israel collapsed to only six seats, and it is nearly impossible to see Avi Gabbay holding on as party leader after such a result. However, while Gabbay’s missteps — particularly early in his leadership — damaged the party, they were only a minor factor in Labor’s catastrophe. Gabbay is just the latest in a long line of unsuccessful leaders who failed to redefine Labor’s raison d’être. In this election it had an attractive slate of candidates, serious policies and a strong campaign. But it was nearly wiped out because its potential voters flocked to Kahol Lavan to try to remove Netanyahu from office. Full story >

Benjamin Goldschmidt | If Israel's left ever wants to regain power, it's got to stop hating the Haredim

My grandfather often used to say: "The acceptance of reality is the beginning of wisdom. Over the next few days, the Israeli left will engage in some serious soul-searching about what went wrong on April 9. Some will blame overheated rhetoric from the right, others will blame their own poor leadership. But one key factor will be left out and forgotten, just as it was when then-Labor leader Isaac Herzog lost in 2015. The left, over the past decades, has handed over a gift to the right: The gift of the Haredi vote. The fact that when the election blocs are counted, the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) are automatically counted with the right, should be blamed on left-wing policies and priorities, and not on Haredi worldviews. Full story >

Judy Maltz | Israeli Arab Voters Saved Meretz, Druze Got Payback and Kibbutzniks Broke Tradition

The results of the Israeli election show that the right-wing bloc won a resounding victory on Tuesday. But was this also the case in Israel’s major cities? And where, if anywhere, did left and centrist parties perform well? In the months leading up to the election, it appeared that certain groups might withdraw their traditional support for the right over their grievances with the outgoing government. Members of Israel’s Druze community, for example, were furious about the nation-state law, passed last summer, which downgraded the status of non-Jews in the country. Russian speakers, who are overwhelmingly nonreligious, were furious about a new law that closed down most shops on Shabbat. Did they take their revenge at the ballot box? Full story >

Aaron Rabinowitz | Ultra-Orthodox parties were this year's real winners, here's why

Just before midnight on Tuesday, Shas chairman Arye Dery entered a Jerusalem auditorium, evoking an ecstatic response among the hundreds of activists waiting for him. They roared out his name, making it difficult for him to reach the stage. Exit polls were predicting that Shas had won seven Knesset seats, an impressive achievement for the Mizrahi-based party, particularly in light of earlier predictions that it would be significantly reduced in strength. At that point there were also some optimists who predicted an even sweeter final outcome. “A few months ago, there was a second round of municipal elections and we were very tense,” Dery said in his speech. “I met [religious authority] Chacham Shalom Cohen a few hours before the end, when the polls were predicting that [secular mayoral candidate] Ofer Berkovitch had won. The rabbi told me to wait, that things would change, and indeed, Moshe Leon won in the end. I was with him now, and he said that in the end we’ll get more than seven seats.” Indeed, when the real rather than the predicted results started coming in, Shas seemed to have won eight seats, in what seems to be one of the greatest achievements the party’s almost legendary leader has pulled off since the party was founded. Full story >