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Op-Ed: Israel Without Real Winners - Back To Square One

Where will the new governing coalition, when formed, start from? and where can it go?
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 2:53 PM


Sent by the writer in translation from Il Giornale

The entire punditry got it wrong, television, press, and politicians from all over the world who were warning against the incumbent victory of Benjamin Netanyahu, “King Bibi” as he had been dubbed by Time Magazine, featuring his "unsettling" image as its front cover. He will get a crushing majority, they said, flanked by a growing right.

Let it be clear, they insisted in countless columns (see for instance Jodi Rudoren’s article in the Herald Tribune the day before the elections) that Israel is lurching to the right, to the radical right, into the depths of black holes of the currents ethical mainstream, against Obama, against Europe, against the UN - so they maintained.

This implied an ideological drift, commentators stating and predicting that Bibi would be the powerful mastermind with young Naftali Bennett, leader of Habayt Hayehudi, the Jewish Home, apparatchik and settler (he lives in Raanana, hardly a "settlement".)

But the preemptive blaming notes crashed against the great surprise of these Israeli elections: 19 seats to the charming fifty year old Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, translated as “There is a future”. Until two years ago he was a famous journalist and a television presenter, born to a father who conveyed to him an excellent education and intolerance to the religious hareidi sector who refuse to serve in the army and are a "burden to society".

Yair led a poised campaign against Netanyahu, unlike anyone else's. He did not display the frenzy he had been hysterically accused of because Abu Mazen does not want to make peace or because Obama does not love him. Poised, conservative, advocate of the intellectual middle class, the man born in 1963 broke the bank. Netanyahu now unexpectedly has to bargain with him, if he wishes to rejig a minimally stable government. Otherwise the next elections are already incumbent.

If on the one hand, Bibi together with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel Beytenu, "Israel Our Home" got 31 seats -  which makes him once again the candidate to form the government -  on the other hand, Bennett doubled his party's votes,  reaching 12 seats, the rightist-conservative front  along with Shas, which has 11 seats, plus other small right-wing parties attains 60 seats (keep in mind that the Knesset only has 120) and one or two are always to be raked up, perhaps from poor Kadima reduced to almost zero (two seats). (

But there is also the other center-left front, if Yair would have agreed, that can get to exactly the same number, whereas it had attained 55 in the previous elections, even though this means including Arab parties).

It is therefore evident why Bibi dedicated his first phone call in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday to Yair: congratulations, courtesies, then a statement made public: “We can do great things for the State of Israel”. Later,  press statements on the need to form a government as wide as possible. Bibi is worried, many hope to see him drown, Netanyahu-hating is a widespread sport - also abroad.

Left-wing parties did their outmost to try and form a coalition, although their votes are much more splintered and they don’t have a leader as Bibi is for the moderate front.

After Lapid’s “Yesh Atid,” there is the Labor Party led by former journalist Shelley Yakimovitch with only 15 seats, who even in this poor performance was able to find the energy to shout “never ever with Bibi”.

The same, in even more furious terms was stated by Tzipi Livni, who founded “Tnua”, movement, but only got 6 seats. Tzipi, however. perceives herself, based on her past as a Foreign Minister and who-knows-what-else, as the natural leader of a left coalition, and her campaign embarrassingly stirred up international anti-Israeli public opinion.

Her lack of patriotism was outstanding:  Bibi is not friends with Obama, he’s isolating us, he’s compromising us … so let’s get rid of him. His enemies don’t care that Netanyahu reiterated the tenet “Two States for Two Peoples”; that he had invited Abu Mazen to sit down to negotiate without preconditions a thousand times; that he had reacted with the construction in the "West Bank" only after Palestinians went up to the UN for a unilateral statehood bid.

Bibi has even been blamed for strongly denouncing Iran’s threat, as if it was peanuts.

The left hates Bibi, but Lapid does not, and he is not likely to form a coalition with the three Arab anti-Zionist parties and their 10-11 seats. If we are to understand why Lapid got so many votes both from right and left, the answer lies once again in Israel’s dream, moving and delusional, to be a democratic, Western, quiet country, where economic interests peculiar to a struggling middle class are voiced as everywhereelse.  Not screamed, unlike the way Yachimovich attacked them, while strategy issues are raised with all due respect for the army, the threat of Iran, and the Muslim brotherhood, unlike Livni.

Yair had, during this election campaign, the advantage of not having that wrinkle of deep concern crossing Bibi’s face, that tough - even if reasonable - attitude that pushes the average Israeli away from the pipe dream of being normal. Yair would be a good Foreign Minister, polished and educated...

Will Bibi manage to enroll and engaqge him in the government? This is the big question this very hour. The stumbling block is the engagement of the religious, who if measured according to the nationalist component, like Bennett, make the best soldiers, but whose other members - the hareidi element - think the Bible alone is a better weapon than the army.