Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won. The man whose closest colleagues tell horror stories about him won. The man most hated by the U.S. administration won. The man who even disgusts many right-wing voters won. The man, a serving prime minister, who said on Election Day that “the Arabs are going out in droves to vote” won. The man who never flinched during a crisis from inciting, dividing and frightening people won.
He did it his traditional way — Naftali Bennett was sacrificed on the altar and his Habayit Hayehudi party went from 17 Knesset seats in the opinion polls to single digits. He did it while exploiting the panic of right-wing voters worried about handing over power to the left. He did it using his unique, pragmatic way of recruiting people. He did it while sacrificing Israel’s relations with the United States.
He did it during the week when he was interviewed everywhere, after years of silence and a refusal to be interviewed. All those years he saw himself as an emperor who didn't have to speak to his subjects except via polished announcements that he himself had thought up.
He did it when he viewed his voters as a flock that could be directed by fear, spin and marketing tricks. He did it by using the right-wing ploy of trying to appear the underdog, even though as serving prime minister the agenda was his.
Once the election results were announced, Likud’s Danny Danon rushed to invite the natural partners to forge a coalition. Likud, which has dropped all its liberal aspects and all the heirs of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, prefers to spurn Isaac Herzog as a partner in a national unity government. Netanyahu is looking toward what he calls a “national government,” a government that will make Likud’s Miri Regev, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman and Habayit Hayehudi’s Uri Ariel very happy.
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon is the key. Can he take the pressure? The government of the settlements, racism and anti-liberalism that may arise here must not be adorned with liberal fig leaves, not even with a moderate leaf such as Kahlon, who represents the former Likud.
Israel is galloping toward an anti-democratic binational future saturated with hatred and racism. A government with centrist parties could camouflage this horrible trend, pretty it up a bit, but not change its path.
Israel will sink into international, academic and economic isolation. Its intellectual and economic elites will leave; young people will seek a life with hope. Only those who prefer the land’s holy stones over life itself, and the poor who can’t afford otherwise, will stay. The Zionist dream, which has already suffered an indecent act committed against it, will be mortgaged completely to messianism and violence.
Israel will not be a liberal democracy but rather another failing state in the Middle East. This is an unrivaled dark and despairing vision — but this election, in which a person who most of the people are disgusted by still won, was truly terrifying.
Even though nearly half the people chose otherwise and flexed every muscle to create some hope for the continuation of the Zionist dream, the right-wing half, the settler and religious half, forced on us a nightmarish government in which a cynical racist like Lieberman might still be defense minister. Let the people have the honor of such a government.
The Israeli people don’t want peace — amid all the incitement they’re afraid. They don’t want to live in a liberal and democratic Western country. They want to live in the Kingdom of Judea, whose fate is known. This wish must not be honored.
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