Israelis awaken this morning to a day of uncertainty. The voting is over, but the election is not. The soldiers’ votes, disqualified votes, the electoral threshold all of these will still move the numbers this way or that. But to learn some lessons, no waiting is necessary.
Israel on Tuesday expressed no confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After four years at the country’s helm, together with his natural partner, MK Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu lost about a quarter of his strength despite or perhaps because of the merger with Lieberman. Netanyahu, Israelis said on Tuesday, has failed. He has failed in the political sphere, the foreign policy sphere and the socioeconomic sphere.
His failure is a failure of leadership, which will continue to cast a pall over us if he survives in power. Netanyahu plunged from Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu’s 42 MKs to about 30 because the Israeli public felt that his government had not understood the deeper significance of the protests of the summer of 2011.
The results show that the public balked at the right-wing radicalization of Likud, from the disavowal of the Bar-Ilan speech and the harmful goading of the international community in declaring the E-1 construction plan. The isolation into which Netanyahu and Lieberman led Israel worried the voters, who want good relations with the United States, under President Barack Obama, instead of more apartments in the settlements and threats of war on Iran.
The public was also worried about the collapse of Netanyahu’s economic policies, which were typified by lack of fiscal responsibility and have led to a huge deficit of some NIS 40 billion. Netanyahu’s pledge not to raise taxes and the lightning appointment of Moshe Kahlon to deal with the housing crisis, only added to the lack of faith in Netanyahu.
Yair Lapid, the big winner, now bears weighty responsibility, together with his partners in the center-left Labor’s Shelly Yacimovich and Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni. They must prevent Netanyahu and Lieberman, and their natural partners on the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox factions, from continuing to bring Israel down domestically and internationally.
They must not be tempted into joining Netanyahu as his apprentices by a pottage of portfolios and honors.
The Knesset election did not end with a clear decision. Instead, a direction for the future, ahead of the next election, is emerging. It shows that Netanyahu is a man of the past.