A Crushing Win for Israel's Right? It's a Myth

Commentators say Israel chose Netanyahu's path these elections, but numbers don't lie: The right has been steadily losing power since 2009.

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President Reuven Rivlin, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Reuven Rivlin, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu won the elections, but can't form a government without the centrist Kahlon.Credit: AP

The makeup of the 20th Knesset, which reflects the election results, dictates that Benjamin Netanyahu continues in the role of prime minister. Netanyahu contended for his post in the election and won another term. He was not personally elected to be prime minister, but in the coalition system and in view of the complex character of the Israeli political system – that’s the result.

One of the clear characteristics of democratic elections is that the loser accepts the voters’ decision and reconciles himself to his loss. So Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog did well to call Netanyahu and congratulate him on his victory. But then came a great many commentaries regarding the election’s significance in a bid to create myths and legends about the right’s crushing victory and the people’s support of the right’s political and strategic positions. These commentaries have no connection with reality.

The nation has had its say, but beyond the fact that Netanyahu will form the next government, we should closely examine what it is that it said.

Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, explaining his party’s serious defeat, wrote “the national camp won an unprecedented majority.” Well, this is a mistake, not in the least bit true.

The right bloc, or as its people like to call themselves, “the national camp,” or those Netanyahu calls his “natural partners,” consists of Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Yisrael Beiteinu and the two ultra-Orthodox parties. This bloc’s power has not grown in this election, but actually diminished by four Knesset seats. Netanyahu was elected prime minister not because of the right wing’s growing strength but despite its weakening.

The correct picture is in the figures, and they cannot be twisted. Figures can be hidden or ignored, but they cannot be forged or denied. Since the 2009 election the right bloc has lost nine Knesset seats. In 2013 the right bloc had 61 Knesset seats (compared to 66 in 2009) and today it has 57 Knesset seats. In 2013 Netanyahu could, theoretically, have set up a narrow rightist government, even if it had a majority of only one seat. Today he cannot set up a government without at least one center party. In this election the right bloc lost two Knesset seats to the left and two to the center.

The victor is Likud, which increased its strength by 50 percent – an impressive achievement. But every added vote for Likud came only from within the right bloc (four Knesset seats from Habayit Hayehudi, which returned to its natural size as a party representing a particular sector, five Knesset seats from Yisrael Beiteinu, which was slashed by half and one Knesset seat from United Torah Judaism.)

Likud took the votes from its satellite parties, and just as well, because Israel needs large parties. But Likud did not gain even a quarter of a Knesset seat from the left or center.

The contemptible attempt to describe Kulanu as a right–wing party is groundless. Throughout the campaign, Moshe Kahlon was consistent and resolute in stressing that Kulanu does not belong to any bloc but rather constitutes an unmistakable center party.

During the television debate among the eight party leaders Kahlon lashed out at Naftali Bennett and called him delusional, stressing he himself objected to building in the West Bank outside the large settlement blocs.

The prime minister is well aware of the figures and their real significance. We should hope and believe he acts accordingly.

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