Did Bibi Really Win?

In our last newsletter, we suggested that there might be surprises in the Israeli election results. We did indeed get a surprise, but not one of the surprises that we explored. The big surprise was Likud getting 30 seats in the Knesset which was 9 more than the polls predicted.

Did Bibi really win? His votes came by cannibalizing the Bayit HaYehudi vote and picking up Yisrael Beiteinu voters who were disgusted by corruption in their party. In 2013, Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Bayit Yehudi combined for 42 MK’s. In 2015, they got 44, a pickup of only 2 MK’s. The other linchpin of a 2015 coalition is presumed to be the haredi bloc – Shas and UTJ. In 2013, they had 17 MK’s, but only 13 in 2015. Adding the right wing bloc and the haredi bloc, gives only 57 MK’s for the 2015 coalition. But it takes 61 to govern.

That arithmetic puts Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), with 10 MK’s, in the the catbird seat. Kahlon has stated his conditions for entering the coalition are: the Finance Ministry, the chair of the Knesset Finance Committee and control of housing and construction. Bibi needs Kahlon more than Kahlon needs Bibi. Even with Kahlon’s 10 MK’s, a coalition government of 67 MK’s is not very stable as either Kulanu or Bayit Yehudi could bring it down. In any event, Kahlon – not Bibi – is the big winner of the election.

Looking at the election from a broader perspective, Bibi poisoned the well by saying and doing anything to win the election. He made big winners of the Palestinians, Iran, J-Street and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. He made big losers out of US bipartisan support for Israel, AIPAC and those of us who oppose BDS. AIPAC’s wounds are largely self-inflicted.

Describing Richard Nixon, President Harry Truman noted, ‘Nixon is a shifty-eyed goddamn liar….He’s one of the few in the history of this country to run for high office talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time and lying out of both sides.’ Bibi certainly gives Nixon a run for his money.

Bibi’s decision to speak to the joint session of Congress seriously damaged the long standing US bipartisan support for Israel. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s admission, that he went behind the backs of President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership in extending an invitation to Netanyahu, gave Bibi a chance to gracefully withdraw from speaking. Unfortunately, Bibi passed up this golden opportunity.

Our Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein gave Bibi another opportunity to depoliticize the situation by inviting him to to a closed door meeting with Democratic senators. If PM Netanyahu had been sincere in stating, ‘my sole intention in accepting {the invitation to speak} it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country”, he would have leaped at the invitation and depoliticized the issue. Being Bibi, he turned down the invitation claiming, ‘it might “compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding the trip.’ He must think that we are idiots.

At the very least, AIPAC should have deplored (condemned) Boehner’s behavior. Instead, Howard Kohr the CEO of  AIPAC stated, “We hope and urge members of Congress to be there to hear what he {Bibi} has to say.” AIPAC, rather than carrying out its stated purpose of encouraging bipartisan support for Israel, has become a shill for the Republican Party.

Bibi, through Ambassador Ron Dermer, and Boehner played hardball with the Obama administration. The speech was an attempt to win votes for Bibi and to move Jewish voters to the Republican party. Bibi introduced zero new facts in his speech. Now that the administration is responding in kind, right wing Jewish leaders are whining. As my favorite President used to say, ‘If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen’. Replacing Dermer would be a good first step toward improving relations with the Obama administration.

How did Bibi poison the well just before the election? In stating that there would be no Palestinian State on his watch, Bibi reversed Israeli policy. That cannibalized the Bayit HaYehudi vote. After the election, Bibi reversed himself again.

According to the pro- Bibi website,, the interview went: NETANYAHU: I think anyone who is going to build a Palestinian state today will be freeing up space to give an attack area to radical Islam against Israel. This is the reality created here in recent years. Anyone who ignores this sticks his head in the sand. The left does this, burying its head in the sand again and again. We are realistic and understand…

NRG: If you are elected head of state, no Palestinian state will come to fruition? – NETANYAHU: Indeed.

Instead of responding ‘indeed’,(Watching the video, I heard ‘ken’ (yes) as the response.) Bibi should have said, ‘That depends on conditions’. But that response would not have won him any votes from the far right. He certainly didn’t worry about strengthening the BDS movement or Palestinian appeals to the UN.

The Jerusalem Post quotes Bibi as saying on election day, ‘“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. ”. That sounds offensively racist to me. If it doesn’t bother you, imagine the wording. ”The Republicans are in danger. Jewish voters are going en masse to the polls.’ Would that offend you? Bibi has since reversed himself and apologized for his racist statements.

Bibi gives Nixon a run for the money and wins – by a nose!

AIPAC’s behavior is reprehensible, but J Street is truly immoral. J Street is now campaigning to have the UN Security Council impose a two state solution on Israel. Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and South Lebanon have provided a base for Hamas and Hezbollah and led to Israeli deaths. The specifics of any agreement are truly matters of life and death for Israelis. Only the democratically elected government of Israel should negotiate those specifics. American Jews, who are willing to put Israeli Jewish lives at risk, are beneath contempt. If they want a say, let them make aliyah, put their own lives and their childrens’ lives on the line and vote in Israel.

Bibi aside, Iran’s development of a nuclear capability is a real threat to the Gulf States, to Israel and to the rest of the world. In a thoughtful interview (Times of Israel, March 13), Dennis Ross makes the point that the major powers should decide in advance on how to treat violations of any agreement with Iran. One condition should be that Iran provide a list all sites that are being used for developing its nuclear capabilities. A clause in the putative agreement should specify that any unlisted sites will be destroyed immediately.

Chag Kasher v’Sameach!

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.
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