Not the right-wing, not Bibi Netanyahu, but the State of Israel.
I watched and tracked, as the ballot count was announced, in stages, through the day on Wednesday. I was hopeful, so hopeful, but cautious – to be certain that I did not respond prematurely.
I am no longer feeling that caution. Instead a sense of jubilation is replacing it. For even though the count is not yet official, it’s sufficiently close to final that we can celebrate.
And we must celebrate big!!
We were in a great deal of trouble, my friends, with Yair Lapid at the helm. He diminished our deterrence against terrorists by caving to Hezbollah’s threats and subverted the rule of law in pushing through the Lebanon deal. Within the governing coalition, established first with Naftali Bennett, was Ra’am, the anti-Zionist political arm of the Islamic Movement. In our government! The shame of it. Also in that government were many who sought a “two-state solution.” And pushing against us were those who were eager to change Israel’s nature, making her less Jewish and more a “nation of all its citizens.”
A terrifying time, truly.
Thus must we rejoice – that we are headed in a new direction now.
I would be the last one to say that all will be perfect. There is no such thing as perfect in politics (if indeed anywhere). But we should see now a reversal of a great deal that was going wrong.
Bibi Netanyahu is sometimes referred to as King Bibi by those who admire him (which, as we know full well, is definitely not everyone). Already the longest serving prime minister in our nation’s history (15 years: 1996-1999 and from 2009 to 2021) he will return now once again to that role.
He heads Likud, by far the largest party in Israel; at this point in our history, there is no one else who could have pulled off these election results. He brings with him multiple strengths – including a positive international reputation and considerable economic expertise. He also has an ability to face down demands from the likes of a Joe Biden, an ability that Lapid clearly lacked, or chose not to demonstrate.
Even though nothing is official yet, he has begun outreach to the parties that will be in his coalition. He has 28 days to form a government but says he hopes to do it within two weeks. Much depends on whom he selects for various positions.
There are reports that he wants to bring in Ron Dermer, who served as ambassador to the US when he was prime minister; a good man, solidly right-wing, with a close relationship with Bibi. What we will then see are Likud MKs vying for a defined number of positions – this is pretty much the norm.
The most significant outcome of the election – and for me, as for many others, the most exciting – is the stunning rise of the Religious Zionist Party of Bezalel Smotrich (right, in the picture below) and Itamar Ben Gvir, who chairs Otzma Yehudit, which joined with Religious Zionists for the election.
They are expected to come in with 15 mandates. This is not only double what they had in the last election, it is the strongest showing ever of a religious Zionist party.
Folks, this tells us what the people of Israel want!! Many, many were tired of left-wing shenanigans that weakened the country.
Without a doubt, Ben Gvir is man of the hour. His popularity has soared enormously. Young people in particular – but also many not so young, such as myself – are taken with his straight-forward, no-nonsense approach. With Ben Gvir, what you see is what you get.
The way in which he is attacked, both by media sources and the left, is an outrage. He is called an extremist, a fascist and a racist, although he is none of these. What puts my back up about these fallacious claims is that many making them chose to remain oblivious to the dangerous positions espoused by Ra’am, which sat in the government. The hypocrisy and the far-left bias take the breath away.
Modern Israel was founded as the Jewish Nation-State, and has rights both via national heritage and law to all of the Land of the Mandate for Palestine.
When did espousing this basic reality, as Ben Gvir and Smotrich do, become a radical position?
Leftists and progressives – both here in Israel and elsewhere – look askance at a proud nationalist position. They are uncomfortable with a system structured with civil rights for all but providing certain protections and benefits for Jews. We fly a flag with a Jewish star and sing a national anthem that speaks of the Jewish soul. Hey! We are a Jewish state, the only Jewish state, though some object to this.
Progressives believe we should share our Land with Palestinian Arabs who do not wish us well and remain accepting of those Israeli Arabs in our midst who are overtly hostile to the Jewish State.
How can it be all right, that Aida Touma-Sliman, an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset with Hadash-Ta’al, refers to terrorists who were killed in an action by the IDF as “martyrs”? How far does one stretch the concept of “democracy” and when does it become important that those serving in the Knesset be required to demonstrate an essential loyalty to our nation and not to our enemy?
Thank Heaven for the Religious Zionist party, which will stand on the principles of religious Zionism and play an important role in keeping our new government focused properly.
Ben Gvir is not anti-Arab. He welcomes those who function as loyal Israeli citizens. But he has scant patience with those who would undermine us, and believes that terror is best defeated by standing against it strong and unafraid, not by making concessions.
Bezalel Smotrich is a lawyer with a razor sharp mind. Before entering the Knesset, he founded Regavim, the NGO that works to defend Israel’s rights in the land. Now he is concerned with judicial reform that will enhance democracy.
Particularly reprehensible is the inclination of leftist politicians in the US to meddle in our political affairs. At the present time, they will be pressuring Bibi to form a centrist government. The stand against this must be strong.
Here I quote Jonathan Tobin, editor of JNS, who has just written on this issue (emphasis added):
“The ‘defending democracy’ rhetoric of those Americans inclined to meddle in Israeli politics in the coming weeks is a smokescreen for something less admirable. The main problem that both Israeli leftists and their American sympathizers have with Israeli democracy is that their side doesn’t win the country’s free and fair democratic elections.
“Israel’s people don’t need to be saved from themselves. Their governments are supposed to represent the needs and concerns of the citizens, not the sensibilities of the country’s foreign friends, be they of the faithful or—as is the case with many of Netanyahu’s and Ben Gvir’s most bitter opponents—the fair-weather variety.
“It will be a bitter pill for American liberals to swallow, but if they truly support the Jewish state, they will accept the verdict of the voters. If not, they should stop posing as defenders of democracy.”
An ironic, and yes, sad, part of this picture is that fact that many of the progressives who are now hysterical about Ben Gvir are represented by Jewish organizations such the Reform Movement, the American Jewish Committee and JStreet (only nominally Jewish). But I never noticed a particular support for Israel exhibited by these organizations, so it seems to me of little import now.
In the coming days defined procedure for establishing the government will unfold. President Yitzhak Herzog will consult with heads of all parties who passed the threshold and will then ask Netanyahu to form a government. I will be tracking this closely.
At the moment, it is close Netanyahu ally in Likud, attorney Yariv Levin, who is conducting preliminary discussions with Religious Zionists, Shas (which also had a fantastic showing), and UTJ.
As I write, more than 95% of the votes have been counted and the right-wing bloc is showing 64 mandates, a comfortable margin, as 61 are required. What is being counted now are the “double-envelope” ballots, cast in places away from the voter’s registered residence: diplomats and soldiers.
The good news has just broken that Meretz is so far below the threshold in the counting that it is officially out.
The left-wing is furious with Lapid, who, they say, ran a campaign that focused on success for his party, Yesh Atid, and not for the entire bloc. They blame him for their electoral failure. This resonates with me, as Lapid put the possibility to enhance his reputation via the Lebanon deal ahead of the damage it did to the country.
The anger directed at him is much deserved. He will now head the opposition, but I would gladly see him disappear into political oblivion.
Gantz is getting his fair share of criticism as well.
Since I last wrote about a terror attack there have been a few more. It is this, among other problems, which hopefully can be approached with vigor with the new government. What I mention here is the most recent attack.
Three police officers were wounded in a stabbing attack in the Old City this morning. The terrorist, from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, was shot dead on the scene.
Continue to pray, my friends, for better days coming.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.