A dirty and all-embracing international campaign is being run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In no other Israeli election campaign did a foreign coalition, so well-oiled and well-funded, operate like in the present election campaign. The goal, “Just not Bibi,” has justified any means possible.
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There has always been intervention from abroad in Israeli elections – and always against the right. In the past, those interfering from the outside tried not to operate in the open, but not this time. This campaign is being run without any limits, with all the means and without any rules of the game. “Dirty,” “low,” “brutal” are only some of the names of the game.
Netanyahu is not – and is far from being – pure as the driven snow. In all the areas he is responsible for it was possible to reach greater achievements and serve the public better. Even in his personal actions, he and his family did not act modestly or with the restraint expected from a prime minister of Israel. The criticism of the failures in housing, health, the cost of living and bureaucracy are certainly legitimate, and often even true. But the vast majority of the campaign – the part that has served to amplify the feeling of disgust toward Netanyahu as a person – has stemmed from personal hatred of him. And this, it seems, is about to end with a relative success for the coalition of hatred.
Likud, so the opinion polls say, will not be the majority party in the next Knesset. The day after the election, the media, which with an unprecedented feeling of mission has led this campaign (and march) of hatred, will declare that Likud has been beaten and celebrate with demonstrative Schadenfreude the defeat of the one it hates so much. But actually in light of the power of its campaign, and combined with all the other forces who stood against Netanyahu, the defeat – it seems of a difference of only two or three Knesset seats – will be on points only. And in the balance of these forces, it is not at all certain who really lost. To a certain extent Likud can take comfort – and it is not at all the consolation of fools – that their losses are relatively marginal.
Most Likud voters, including those who the “Just not Bibi” campaign succeeded in shaking their trust in the man, will continue to vote Likud. Likud is their home, both emotionally and in terms of belonging. And you do not abandon your home when times turn bad. Because of these feelings, maybe we will even see in the next few days a movement of returning home.
If Likud had run an effective campaign, it could have reached much improved results. But it was maneuvered into apologetic positions from which it never managed to extract itself, even in areas where the Netanyahu government acted the way it should have. Its opponents succeeded in turning quite a few points of light into utter darkness, which in Europe (in Greece, for example) would have brought victory to whoever achieved them: low unemployment, a growing economy, large reserves of foreign currency and unprecedented development of transportation infrastructure. It was as if none of these ever existed.
According to a Haaretz poll published Thursday, Likud cannot establish a right-wing government. The Zionist Union, on the condition it really receives 24 or 25 Knesset seats, can establish (if Yesh Atid eases off on the issue of drafting Haredim) a left-center-Haredi coalition government. A more realistic (and maybe more desirable) possibility is a coalition with the Zionist Union and Likud at its center.
I propose for the ideological right not to panic over the last possibility. Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert – and also Ariel Sharon – all agreed to give the enemy, some more and some less, large parts of Judea and Samaria. And they never, for some reason, found buyers. These concessions only hardened the hearts of the Palestinians. They are not asking for peace, but for the disappearance of the Jewish state. Deep in his heart, even Isaac Herzog knows that.