Netanyahu risked elections in order to get a strong and stable ruling coalition that can tackle the challenges facing Israel, including Iran, Hamas, the Arab Spring, demographic forces and a dire global economic outlook.
Minutes after polls closed, we reported some of the possible expectations and some unique predictions.
The Lighthouse was dead-on in predicting that Yesh Atid would have more seats in the next election than the media had predicted. We also feared though were less sure about the Likud-Beiteinu coalition doing worse than predicted.
Before the election, the Likud and Lieberman together controlled 42 (27 and 15 respectively) seats together. After they announced the merger, I predicted that the united front would lose seats. It definitely did with the early exit polling results indicating they now have only 31 seats between them.
There are two reasons for this large drop. The first is that Lieberman outside of his independent party loses much of the appeal of his traditional Russian voter. On the other hand (though it is a smaller effect) some Likud supporters, especially Sephardi voters, may be turned off by Lieberman’s inclusion, probably to Shas’ benefit. One would assume this was obvious to both leaders who chose this path in any event.
The second major factor for their drop was Netanyahu’s recent performance during the Gaza crisis. Drafting the country to war and then inexplicably achieving nothing but an embarrassing deal with Hamas disappointed many. It lost Netanyahu support from the right, and more importantly lost voters TO the left because it made a mockery of right power. If a government led by “Hawks” of Lieberman and Netanyahu as the media puts it, can’t deal with our Arab enemy, then the idea goes that maybe no one can and the left may have better ideas to get along. Nothing loses more respect than barking loudly and carrying a small stick. At the time, I dealt with some of the dangers of the inaction here.
Given those two realities, Netanyahu is lucky to have only lost 11 seats. The upside to his merger of course was in retrospect small but still there, that instead of controlling 27 seats DIRECTLY under the Likud banner, it is now 31. Dealing with Lieberman and his 15 seats was not always pleasant. There is still of course a chance that the exit polls are significantly incorrect, time will tell.
For his part, Lieberman probably wishes to inherit the Likud after Netanyahu, and did not see a future in where he could ever be Prime Minister himself as leader of the powerful but never leading Russian party. That is definitely even a larger reach, time will tell there as well.
Despite how the media will undoubtedly portray the results, Bib’s goals were met. Currently, Bibi sits precariously on the Prime Minister’s seat ruling over a party of 27 seats and a larger party (Kadima with 28 seats) in the opposition. His power rests on placating not only Shas and the UTJ but also (contrarily) the Labor party (or at least half of it). Besides this fact, the only real right leaning party outside of his Lieberman/Likud front is The Jewish Home which currently only has 3 seats. Current exit polls are giving them at least 12 seats this time around!
Therefore, what can really be called the Zionist right has grown from 34 seats (Likud 27 + National Union 4 + The Jewish Home 3) to 43-45 (Likud 31 + The Jewish Home 12 + Otzma 0-2). That is an increase of 10-11 seats and would almost cover even those lost from the previous Beiteinu (Lieberman’s 15) if they were included.
Furthermore, Netanyahu is not facing an inherently leftist dovish party (created only in order to give away land) that is even larger than itself in the form of Kadima. It has thankfully gone from 28 seats (the largest in the current Knesset) to hopefully non-existent tomorrow. Without this large Kadima, it is very difficult for any serious opposition to Netanyahu to coalesce, despite all the rhetoric.
That leaves us with the issue the left-wing media will undoubtedly trump without pause, the triumph of Yesh Atid. Even that is a double edged sword for the left. Yesh Atid (as we showed in our Voter Guide) is the most right-wing or least left-wing of the leftist parties. While currently, Bibi had to sit with a Kadima and/or Labor in the coalition, Yesh Atid paints a different picture.
Yesh Atid has not focused on the national security issues, but even there has stated it supports retaining major Jewish blocks in the West Bank. That is already a major shift from the other “Peace Now” – withdraw immediately parties. Furthermore Yesh Atid is the least socialist of the leftist parties, and actually supports a limited American-style free market system.
This means that a larger true right wing block, and a left wing block now heavily skewed to the center is the result of the election, and not as the media will paint it, a return to the left. However, the devil is in the details and it will require Netnayahu’s best effort to make a powerful coalition.
Yesh Atid, despite its centrist position on national security and moderate economic views, is extremely dangerous. Lapid did not get votes for his middle of the road positions. He received many votes for two reasons alone; due to his celebrity status in today’s reality TV society, and because of the real or perceived hatred he harbors towards the Orthodox and Haredi community.
Yair’s party’s main concern is integrating the haredis into the workforce, drafting them into the army, and legislating what the Rabbinate can and cannot do. Unfortunately today, these are very appealing messages to the average Israeli who shockingly seems to hate Orthodox Jews far more than he does the Arab terrorists surrounding him that wishes him dead. We dealt with this issue elsewhere, but it is sufficed to say that Lapid has a wrong and dangerous approach to the matter.
With the fact that his main concern is to legislate Judaism to the Rabbis, and destabilize the country and the army by drafting even more people that don’t want to be there than it already has (without using a correct respectful approach), and that he is a stated supported of a Palestinian state, Lapid is a real danger for the next government; especially as its second biggest party.
If Yair Lapid was true to his principles, he could not sit in a government with coalition partners such as the UTJ, Shas or The Jewish Home (most or all who are likely to be in the coalition). His complete and stubborn refusal to do so, will force him into the alternative, to try to form a government with the secular left wing parties (together with the Arab parties). Here he cannot succeed and it would guarantee Yair Lapid would stay in the opposition, and leave Netanyahu securely in the hands of a right wing coalition whose only weakness would be the inclusion of Shas.
The problem is that Yair Lapid will not be true to his principles. Quitting Television in order to join politics, and surprisingly getting such positive results, he will not be able to stay out of the spotlight. Unlike the likes of Menachem Begin who sat in the opposition for decades, only to slowly rise to eventually become Israel’s most respected and loved Prime Minister to date, Yair Lapid will burn to be a Minister and in the ruling coalition.
This is the scenario the Lighthouse Keeper fears. If Lapid sits on the coalition instead of Shas, that would almost be worthwhile but he will likely sit together WITH Shas, at the expense of more noble Zionist Jewish parties like the UTJ and The Jewish Home. His willingness to be in the coalition will make him do so, and in turn make Bibi give into dangerous concessions on his agenda.
I hope that Netanyahu can remember that when a party’s main goal is anti-Judaism (like Lapid’s father’s Shinui), it makes it an unreliable partner at best and dooms the coalition to failure. Lapid will demand lines crossed that Zionist Jewish parties cannot allow crossed. Bibi will be far wiser to let Lapid simmer in the opposition and turn to his true friends on the right.
The Jewish Home 12
According to the latest exit polls, the above would give more than the required 61 seats (62). This would be a somewhat narrow but powerful coalition. Nothing true would unite the 58 seats outstanding on the opposition. If the true results give us just a wee bit leeway from what the exit polls say, this can be achieved, and none of the troublesome parties can be problematic because they can be replaced by Yesh Atid at any point – and hence a stable coalition. This is a coalition Netanyahu can steer into real goals and achievements, something rare in Israel.
If instead, he includes Yesh Atid, (which he most likely will) he risks disaster. He of course will imagine that he can control Yesh Atid because there is always an alternative, and I hope he is right, but it is a road strife with danger.
In any event, despite what the news will say, today Israel gave the Zionist patriotic parties a narrow but true victory… Netanyahu for the first time in years, will not be forced to share power and bow to the demands of those who preach withdrawal, surrender and economic death in the form of socialism. Kadima, the party of defeatism, withdrawal and economic statism has gone from the largest to dead. Of course those seats had to go somewhere, and so the modest increases on individual left-wing parties, but they hardly compare to Kadima’s disintegration. Let not the media fool you. The right wing took tonight.
If the exit polls are just a tad wrong, and the real results just a bit more right, then of course all the better. It is possible that the exit polls slightly overestimated Yesh Atid’s seats (as well as Labor’s at 17) and underestimated Shas’s votes (somewhat unfortunately) and/or the Jewish Home and Otzma’s. The morning will tell.
The Lighthouse keeper has seen his share of disappointing elections, where the people of a great nation vote for their own demise, let us hope today was not one of them.