Opinion

Israel's Election Was a Referendum, and Netanyahu Won

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Likud headquarter in Tel Aviv, September 18, 2019.
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

There was one major question the voters grappled with: Netanyahu, for or against? Despite three indictments, despite the hell that residents’ lives in a considerable part of the Negev has become, despite the young couples’ futile outcry for affordable housing, he succeeded in doing what no one else in Israel could have done: He preserved his political power – among the people, in his party and in the bloc of parties comprising his coalition.

In addition to the media, some law enforcement agencies, including prominent ones dubbed “gatekeepers,” joined Netanyahu’s political rivals. They leaked incriminating material and gossip about him, his wife, his relatives and his acquaintances. It did no good. Despite all this, almost half of the people in Israel want him as prime minister. They trust him and turn a blind eye to all his sins, weaknesses and failures.

The leaders of the right-wing parties ignore everything he did to them and what they know about him – and they know a lot. “The right-wing camp” as it is called (more correctly, the Netanyahu camp), now 55 MKs strong, is a pretty well consolidated alliance. On the other hand, the camp called “the left-wing bloc,” with 44 MKs, has no common political-ideological ground beneath its feet apart from the commitment to oust Netanyahu.

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In the past year many, including this columnist, have urged Likud leaders to find the courage to replace Netanyahu with someone of better moral character. To this was added the argument that the man had become a political burden. When these calls went unheeded, the Likud leaders were branded as cowards. The election results prove that they know their voters’ wishes better than the ill-intentioned (and the well-intentioned) outsiders. Likud voters have confirmed it again: Bibi is Likud – and Likud is Bibi.

As noted above, the left-wing “camp” consists, nominally, of no more than 44 MKs. If we deduct Telem’s (Moshe Yaalon and his people) four Knesset seats, which are openly right wing, we’re left with 40. Benny Gantz, Gaby Ashkenazi, Yair Lapid, Elazar Stern, Chili Tropper (etc. etc.) united in Kahol Lavan not because they’re leftists, but to put an end to Netanyahu’s reign. They’re miles away from the post-national and anti-Zionist direction the political left has been galloping toward in recent decades. Ten to 11 Knesset seats (including Orli Levi-Abekasis and her “leftist” people) is what remains of it on the way to total evaporation into the Joint List, which includes MKs like Aida Touma-Sliman, who dedicated her party’s “victory” to “our heroic Palestinian people.”

Ever since Avigdor Lieberman prevented Netanyahu from setting up a government, the media has been cleansing him of his sins and putting him on a pedestal. But Lieberman, the man who called to transfer the Arabs of Wadi Ara, is a rightist – much more so than Netanyahu. With his MKs, the right-wing camp numbers 64 Knesset seats. A huge difference, of 20 Knesset seats, from the so-called “left camp.” And that, even if you don’t like it, is the real political distribution among the Jewish voters in the past decades.

The election was, as many have noted, a referendum. Most of the Jewish nation in Israel said – some albeit without great relish – “yes” to Netanyahu. However, his impressive personal achievement doesn’t clear him of the indictments, the incitement and the divisiveness he sowed. Nor does it clear him of his fickleness in strategic, diplomatic, economic and security policies, which he and his followers take pride in having managed successfully.