The Israeli elections produced what most Israeli elections have done: the need for a coalition government that will either be one of ‘unity’ or one of ideology. That point is for another post. The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been reelected and Likud did better in the final results against the private wishes of President Obama indicates the predictable analysis but also a very personal dilemma for both men. In short, there is no champaign in the White House today.
For President Obama, the hope had been for a winner, preferably Yitzhak Herzog who would in the White House’s estimation be more agreeable to President Obama’s broader foreign policy plans in the Middle East from an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal to a nuclear agreement with Iran. Undoubtedly Obama hoped for a poor showing by Netanyahu. It is alleged, not surprising that Obama had sent campaign aides to Yitzhak Herzog’s party to try to help him win. Direct meddling in the elections of a sovereign nation-state, but Netanyahu did the same for his friend Mitt Romney in 2012.
The Israeli’s are not Irish, but there was something about the pre-election polls, voting day analysis, and exit polling with final posted percentages that led to an aura of stunning victory of Likud. A St. Patrick’s Day Miracle in Israel.
The Obama administration and Israeli mainstream media, typically construed as ‘liberal’, had pushed the idea that economic issues were more important than security issues. For the Americans this was a a nod to Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign message “it’s the economy, stupid” and with rising housing prices and costs of living, etc. there is truth to this belief in Israel.
However, the Israeli media is in the business of analyzing while the American president as related to Israel is in the business of wishing. Mr. Netanyahu though is closer to the Israeli mind. As I have written in previous pre-election posts, the Israeli citizen may not like their prime minister, but they know that he has kept them safe. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran are greater threats to them than a lack of housing or the cost of milk. Mr. Herzog, Netanyahu’s main rival was an unknown on the security issue. So, human nature kicked it. In essence, go with the guy that you know rather than the guy you don’t.
The biggest loser in the Israeli election is President Obama. He really wanted the guy he didn’t know. Any Israeli politician was preferable to Mr. Netanyahu. That did not happen. Obama lost the Israeli election and now will have more two years of Bibi.
Mr. Netanyahu has been reelected. The domestic issues still loom large, though the personal relationship with the American president can be argued looms larger due to the dislike both men hold for each other. In the final two years of Mr. Obama’s term, how best to salvage a working relationship? That is a dilemma for both men.