When the elections were first announced back in December, my immediate reaction was excitement, that as a new Israeli citizen I would get to be a part of something so important for Israel as a democratic State.
The excitement kind of wore off though. At first I assumed Netanyahu would win no matter what, and I didn’t really want him to. I wanted what we all wanted: Change. More honesty, decency, respect, unity. Lower cost of living of course, stability – and security.
Netanyahu has consistently both delivered and disappointed. But none of the other candidates seemed in a better position to provide those things any more than Bibi. I wanted change, but change wouldn’t necessarily be better than the status quo. And as the polls were showing that it really was between Likud or Machane Zioni, it seemed that if there was going to be a change, it could very likely be for the worse. Because whatever way Netanyahu has been quoted or interpreted in the last few weeks – or even poorly phrased his own policies, there is no arguing with his point that a Palestinian state is currently not an option, as “anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel.” That doesn’t mean he is ruling it out altogether, and even though he hasn’t offered any other suggestions for now, I doubt that means that he has forgotten about our Palestinian neighbours.
Yes, he appeared desperate to win. But as I have asked previously, why would anyone even want to be Prime Minister of Israel? Slated by the Israeli media, left wing Israeli and Diaspora Jews, and facing hostility and outright vitriol from the international community, media, and world leaders, he has got to be one of the most unpopular men on the planet. He is held responsible for everything that happens in this country, and even outside of it; and Diaspora Jews alternate between wanting him to represent them and be responsible for them, and saying they have nothing to do with him. He is too traditional for the secular, too secular for the religious, too right for the left, too left for the right.
And yet he got the most votes in the elections, and Machane Zioni didn’t even come close. I would like to think that he wanted to win for the right reasons, because he does actually care about our country and people.
For all the hysterical fear that a Likud win means Israel has suddenly become more extremist, the results say otherwise. The blocs have stayed of a similar size to the last coalition, if anything with Kahlon’s Kulanu party there is an even larger centre. Meanwhile all the seats that Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi lost went to Likud – likely only because Bennett’s supporters wanted to make absolutely sure that the right would defeat the left, but still – the fact is they voted in more Likud MKs in place of the Bayit Yehudi ones. Likud won in 8 out of Israel’s 10 largest cities, and as expected it is mainly Tel Aviv who are out of touch with the rest of the country, but then there is a reason it’s called the ‘bubble’.
Netanyahu’s victory was more a relief than a cause for celebration. I’m still hoping for change – the right kind of change. There are different MKs in better positions to have more of an impact, and maybe Netanyahu’s near-defeat will have shocked him into realising he’s been too complacent and should do more. Maybe it won’t.
Half of the voters were divided over a range of issues, the other half were united in voting right wing. Israelis understandably tend to prioritise security above other issues, and the world interprets that as being anti-peace and extremist. People accuse Netanyahu of scaremongering and mock him for his dramatic speeches about Iran, the Holocaust and Jewish history – but Israel faces real dangers and even with our long history of persecution people still disregard what history has taught us. Netanyahu doesn’t, and that’s why Israelis voted for him despite his disappointments.