Netanyahu, a clear mandate has been given. Opinion: October 2022

1 – Benjamin Netanyahu has made a stunning career-saving return to the prime ministership.

2 – The outstanding performer of the election campaign was Itamar Ben Gvir

3 – The decisive factor in the election has been the very high voter turnout (despite predictions and expectations) and its effect on the 3.25% threshold. The high number of people who voted meant that smaller parties, now requiring more votes to pass the threshold, had even greater trouble achieving the minimum votes needed.

Whilst Netanyahu masterminded the political unions in the right camp to ensure mergers and therefore the almost zero wastage of votes, other than the meagre numbers of Ayelet Shaked’s, Lapid was unable to do so on the left.

Ironically, the two parties in the ideological camps most opposed to Netanyahu, and even more so to Ben Gvir, seem to have been instrumental in delivering them government.

At time of writing both Meretz and Balad are below the threshold and have therefore lost the left camp approximately 6% of their vote – or the equivalent of about 6 to 7 seats.

Had Meretz merged with Labor as Lapid tried to push for and/or had the Israeli Arab party Balad remained with its erstwhile Arab partners Hadash-Ta’al, the election results could well have been very different.

4 – Labor, meanwhile, has reaffirmed that it is a mere shadow of its former self and is struggling for relevance and to survive. This is despite its youthful list of next generation members running for the Knesset – aside from its leader Michaeli who is now under attack from within, for a series of perceived missteps.

5 – The centre/centre left/centre right in Israel has held strong and remains the most representative of the Israeli body politic in overall numbers.

Likud, Yesh Atid, National Unity and Yisrael Beytenu with approximately 73 seats all told between them, are however unable to join in coalition together, not because of ideology, but personality.

Moreover, when it comes to foreign policy and external relations, if you add in the Haredim with a further 19, so one gets to about 92 seats (out of 120) that are more or less in and around the centre on these matters.

6 – Netanyahu now finds himself on the left of his coalition, when he is usually happier being in the middle, from where he is generally able to blame either his left or right partners for why he essentially continues on with the status quo. Risking neither moves to the left nor the right.

7 – Ben Gvir and Smotrich’s campaign was essentially that Netanyahu was the only viable candidate for prime minister but that he could not be trusted, once elected, to stay true to right wing policies and that only they could keep him in check.

The electorate bought their argument, confirming that a sufficient number of voters doubted Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials – as has always been understood in Israel herself, but less so outside.

This, probably in part, explains some/much of their success and why people who would not necessarily support a Ben Gvir for instance, did so not wanting to see another Bennett type ‘sell out’ being done again.

Their embrace of Netanyahu will be a two-edged sword for him.

How he deals with Smotrich and Ben Gvir will probably define his term.

8 – The only Israeli Arab party to declare its understanding that Israel is and will remain a Jewish democratic state, Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am, increased its vote by one seat.

9 – Parties that oppose or question the validity or viability of Israel as a Jewish State, lost significant electoral support.

10 – External relations may be tested, both with Israel’s allies and with large segments of diaspora Jewry, depending again on how Netanyahu deals with Smotrich and Ben Gvir in terms of cabinet posts and any policies they attempt to impose on a reluctant Netanyahu.

11 – Israel is a full democracy, the people voted, a clear mandate has been given.

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Ron Weiser is the Honorary Life Member ZFA Executive and Honorary Life President, State Zionist Council of NSW

 

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