Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud party has won Israel’s 20th Knesset election and almost certainly he will soon begin his fourth term as prime minister. Many questioned Bibi’s judgement late last year when he dissolved the 19th Knesset after only 18 months. His reasoning was that the coalition was unworkable due to disagreements between himself and Yair Lapid, head of the left of center Yesh Atid party.
I thank President Obama for helping to propel the Likud to a landslide victory over its main opponent, Labor, which adopted the name Zionist Union for this election. While the notoriously unreliable Israeli polls had Zionist Union and its head, Isaac Herzog, leading Likud by a tally of 24 to 21, in the end ZU remained stable while Likud soared to 30 mandates (Knesset seats), a difference of 43% from the forecasts!
The American president did his utmost to thwart Bibi’s election chances. Most Israelis believe that towards Bibi, Obama has been discourteous and undiplomatic numerous times since his landmark election victory in 2008. But the president outdid himself when he overreacted following Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner’s announcement in February: Bibi would address Congress yet again about Iran’s nuclear duplicity. The speech was scheduled just two weeks before the Israeli election and four weeks before Obama hoped to announced a momentous agreement between Iran and the West.
Many Israelis, myself included, reacted adversely to the Obama administration’s hyperactivity against Bibi and by extension, Israel. While the president has accused Bibi of interfering in the 2012 presidential campaign by favoring Romney, Obama left no stone unturned in supporting the “Just Not Bibi” campaign here.
Note: Currently, a non-partisan Congressional probe is looking into “funding” of $350,000 in recent State Department grants to the OneVoice Movement. The Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, which seeks to “replace the government” of Israel, is a subsidiary of OneVoice and is guided by top operatives from Obama’s White House team. (foxnews.com)
In the last week before the election, Bibi persuaded many voters to switch their votes to Likud, to ensure that his party would be the one to form the coalition running the next government. So, thank you Mr. President, for helping to galvanize support for Prime Minister Netanyahu to retain his premiership, which almost certainly will last even longer than that of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s “George Washington.”
Down to brass tacks: Within the week, President Rivlin will fulfill his presidential duty and designate the head of one party, almost certainly Likud, to attempt to form a ruling coalition. Bibi should have no problem doing just that, because Likud is joined on the right by two other parties who can add 14 mandates to Likud’s 30. In addition, the two religious parties, which usually partner with Likud, will add another 14. Finally, a new centrist party, led by former Likudnik and rising star Moshe Kahlon, will almost certainly add his 10 mandates to the list, hopefully enabling reforms in the economy, particularly to alleviate the housing crisis and the very high cost of living. In total, Bibi’s coalition could amount to 68 Knesset seats, well over the required minimum of 61. Most importantly, none of the coalition members will be totally out of sync with the others, which was the downfall of the previous government.
As I have said in previous articles, all is not lost when an American president disagrees with the policies of an Israeli government. In fact, it has happened many times before, under the leadership of several prime ministers and presidents. The bonds between America and Israel are numerous and strong, and can withstand the personal animosities that may crop up between egotistic premiers. In this case, Bibi will almost certainly be in office well after President Obama is out of office and busying himself with important matters, much like former President Jimmy Carter does.
At that time, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be making fateful decisions about Israel’s future, which may or may not please America’s next president.