“Be careful what you wish for” is probably the best way to describe Netanyahu’s dilemma after his outstanding victory which can be credited less to his last minute scare tactics and demagoguery than to an overly negative campaign by the Zionist Camp lead by a relatively lackluster candidate who didn’t convince enough people that he was offering a realistic alternative.
The unfortunate choice of the name (“Zionist Camp”) which happened to be a mostly white camp, combined with slogans like “it’s him or us” did a lot to consolidate Likud sympathizers among the general population. Likud supporters, even though quite a few were fed up with Netanyahu’s personal issues, by and large didn’t feel that he deserves the abuse he suffered by the media and at the hands of NGOs financed (quite legally) from abroad. It looked and smelled suspicious even if it wasn’t. And I don’t think I am off the mark here to claim that to no small extent this was an ethnic vote. Neither Herzog, nor his campaigners, caught on to the simple fact that the election slogan “it’s him or us” became too personal for many of Netanyahu’s supporters who felt that the “Zionist Camp” is really gunning for them, not just Netanyahu. That too brought out the vote in his favor to the degree it did – we’ll show you and show us they did.
Netanyahu will have no time whatsoever to cherish the moment. With his upset victory he is, for all intents and purposes, burying the two state solution once and for all. That, unless of course, he changes tracks completely and actually goes and does a churchillian turnaround. That however is highly unlikely based on his almost perfect record of doing nothing on the diplomatic front throughout his previous three terms of office. So it appears that Israel will continue to march slowly but relentlessly towards a South Africa like reality (mainly in the territories but not only) with all the international implications that this path carries with it. Israel’s moral standing will continue to erode and that will have an impact on the economic reality soon enough. Whoever is following what is brewing in the European Parliament will have enough reason to be worried. And the US ? We will have to deal with an unfriendly US administration and a huge problem with the Jewish community in America which, by and large, does not subscribe to Netanyahu’s jingoistic policies and his not so subtle racism.
And the opposition ? The opposition will have to come up with a better plan than the two state solution. Herzog’s campaign, other than being overly negative and based on “get Bibi” was very much geared to blur the issues and create a virtual reality making Herzog into a tough guy and his positions into something the average right winger in Israel can live with. Well, that didn’t work and people are sensitive enough to recognize a scam when they see it. Labor will have to reinvent itself and pretty quickly as well. I don’t think anybody really expects elections to be 4 years ahead because no right wing government is even remotely in a position to commit itself to policies that Israel must pursue to end the occupation and withdraw from the territories. And if we don’t soon enough, there will be a lot more to pay than the Israeli public cares for.